22 May 2018
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This article was written by journalist Mikaela Collins and featured in the Northern Advocate.

Rapt and jumping for joy.

That's how a Moerewa grandmother describes her grandson's reaction when he was told he was going on a school trip for the very first time.

It's something that some kids take for granted but Kathleen says she has struggled to afford clothes sometimes, so for her mokopuna support from a charity to go on the camp, and other financial help, is "like gold".

"I struggled for a long, long time. I had no support from anyone for a year," she said.

Kathleen has been looking after her four grandchildren for the past five years after their parents were jailed.

They were, 3, 2, 1, and 6 months old when they ended up in her care and they are now 7, 6, 5 and 4. She said it was sudden so she had to take time off work to care for them.

She hasn't been back since.

"I struggled for about a year to even get any finance through WINZ or anyone that would help me so my mortgage was more or less on the back burner. My house was up for mortgagee sale and I was trying to feed four kids plus myself."

Kathleen had to go through various agencies for support including a budgeting service which helped her save her house.

About a year ago a social worker visited Kathleen and told her about Variety - the Children's Charity's Kiwi Kid Sponsorship programme which allows people to sponsor disadvantaged kids in New Zealand.

As a result her eldest grandson has been sponsored for about a year and the second youngest grandchild has recently been sponsored.

She has one other grandchild on a waiting list who is one of 13 Northland children needing sponsorship.

Kathleen said for her, the programme has made a huge difference.

"Clothes, school, uniforms, trips away - I couldn't even afford any of that. But now that Variety has come on board they've got new clothes, blankets, pyjamas, shoes, bags. Without them I'd be still struggling."

Kathleen said sometimes there would be school trips she couldn't pay for.

"It was hard. I had to explain to the children and they understood because they knew where I was coming from. But their peers at school would be like 'you never go on trips, you're always broke' and I would say to them 'one day, we will get there.'"

Last year her eldest grandson was able to go on his first school trip thanks to Variety. He went to Auckland for a week visiting Rainbow's End, and several other attractions in the big city.

"He was rapt ... He was jumping for joy because it's actually the first time he's been on a school trip, and gone away without me and has just been a child, like every other child. He was talking about it for weeks on end."

Kathleen said the children know there are people who help them go on trips and get new clothes. She said they write to them and draw pictures for them as a way of saying thanks.

"I don't know how I would do it without them," she said.

Lorraine Taylor, Variety's chief executive officer, says assistance is required now more than ever. Kathleen wants to encourage others to become sponsors.

"If they could, and they're willing to, I think they're doing a good deed for those who are in need of their help. It's helped me a big deal."

This article was published in the Northern Advocate 19 May 2018 and on You can read the original article, here. 

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