26 Jun 2018

This article was written by journalist Amy Baker and was published in the North Shore Times, North Harbour News and Rodney Times, as well as on

They look like most other families in their neighbourhood. They live in their own home, have their own car, and their children attend the local school.

But this North Shore family is struggling to survive, reliant on a multitude of income sources and assistance just to make ends meet.

One of those is the Variety Kiwi Kid Sponsorship programme.

In easier times, the family sponsored a child for three years through another charity themselves, not thinking they would one day be the recipients of another stranger's kindness.

However, life got difficult when *Paul lost his job in supply chain management around four years ago.

With the family's main breadwinner out of work, and his wife, *Grace, only working 20 hours a week and caring for a young baby, their finances "didn't add up".

The stand-down period for Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) support was three months at the time.

Having four children to support and mortgage payments to meet, they went to see a budgeter, who recommended applying to Variety for sponsorship. 

The annual $400-500 Variety donation for each of their children meant they were able to meet expenses such as clothing, medical costs, school uniforms, stationery and camp. 

"Our biggest thing was to not to change anything for the children," Paul said. 

"That's where Variety have enabled us to do that."

After working as a teacher aide last year, Paul is now studying to qualify as a primary school teacher and will graduate in six months.

They're keeping afloat with Grace's two jobs at 35 hours a week, Paul fitting in casual work when he can around study, and several Government entitlements.

The family is financially savvy, keeping in advance of their bills to give them early payment discounts. They also run a charitable trust, often linking people in their community with free goods and services.

However, life is still a struggle. This year, a miscommunication between WINZ and StudyLink led to the family's benefit being cut for several months. 

Things got so tight they couldn't meet a mortgage payment - a situation they haven't ever faced, even after Paul lost his job. 

Grace said during that period, without Variety's assistance for school stationery, there was "no way" they would have been able to afford it. 

While now receiving Paul's student allowance, until he graduates, ensuring they have enough is still a juggling act.  

"Often on the North Shore, we don't realise people can be in that situation," Grace said.

"If you live in a nice house, people don't realise that's all you probably have, and you're trying to keep it."

Variety Kiwi Kids Sponsorship programme helps more than 3100 children. There are 250 on the waitlist.

*Names have been changed to protect identities

This article was first published on 08 June 2018. You can read the original article, here.

To make a life-changing difference, sponsor a Kiwi kid today.