This article originally appeared as a Sponsored Content Story on stuff.co.nz.
This festive season, the pīwakawaka has assumed a starring role in the Kiwi Kid Sponsorship (KKS) programme delivered by Variety - the Children's Charity.
Through KKS, children in need are matched with an individual sponsor whose funding helps provide the child with clothing, stationery, school uniform and warm bedding, as well as extracurricular activities. This gives sponsored children the opportunity to fully participate in school life.
As part of Variety's Christmas Appeal, sponsored children have decorated a pīwakawaka for their sponsor and in return, sponsors have decorated a pīwakawaka Christmas card.
"We want to celebrate the children's creativity, we're totally blown away by their incredible effort," says Variety's fundraising manager, Parminder Morgan.
"They have glittered, coloured, painted, stickered, sequined and feathered their pīwakawaka decorations. It has been a tough year for caregivers and their children so we wanted to give them something fun to do and they have surpassed our expectations. Not to be outdone, sponsors have dipped into their craft boxes to decorate the Christmas cards."
KKS is the only one-to-one sponsorship programme of its kind in New Zealand, through which caring citizens can sponsor a child. Sponsors and children are encouraged to correspond anonymously with one another. This exchange of correspondence strengthens the relationship beyond simple financial assistance, showing the child and their family that their sponsor genuinely cares.
Now in its seventh year, 5516 children are sponsored through the KKS programme.
At least one in five Kiwi kids is going without life's basic necessities. This impacts their health, education and self-esteem. Variety believes every child in New Zealand deserves the same opportunity to reach their full potential.
"Despite the doom and gloom of this year, we wanted to share and celebrate this story with the rest of New Zealand," says Morgan. "This has been an uplifting end to the year."
Variety's next challenge is to find new sponsors for the 400 children currently on the waitlist through its Back to School Campaign starting in January. The campaign aims to give kids the essentials and support they need to start school with confidence.
These are a few words from the children to their sponsors:
"Merry Christmas. Thank you for all the memories and good times you have created and the clothes you have provided for me. Thank you."
"I really, really, really am grateful for your help. My mum sometimes can't afford everything, so THANK YOU VERY MUCH & Merry Christmas."
Find out more about Kiwi Kid Sponsorship at https://www.variety.org.nz/donate/sponsor-a-child/