For 14 years, a Cancer Navigator for Te Whānau o Waipareira, Wendy Hayward-Morey, has been delivering Christmas food boxes to whānau in need.
The boxes come from Christmas Box, a grassroots initiative by not-for-profit organisation Life Community. The initiative delivers gift-wrapped food boxes that cater for a family of four to six, helping supplement breakfast, lunch and dinner for over a week.
Both the initiative and the involvement of Waipareira has grown hugely over the years. Christmas Box’s target for 2019 is 22,000 food boxes distributed by over 350 organisations, while Wendy has been joined by kaimahi across Waipareira to deliver the food boxes to hundreds of families.
“We started with just five boxes for a year or two, then 10 boxes, then 50. For the last couple of years we’ve been delivering 350 boxes, in addition to our usual services,” says Wendy. “Sometimes we are delivering into the evenings or on weekends.”
This growth is reflected in the evolution of delivery vehicles. At first the boxes were delivered in a ute, then a truck. Now a former kaimahi at Waipareira, Sandy Tamainu, comes back every year to help with the delivery because she has a heavy vehicle licence. The boxes this year will be delivered in a five-tonne truck, as their weight will total 4.6 tonnes.
Waipareira also makes a financial support contribution to Life Community, as the not-for-profit organisation spends $30 for each box. The rest of the food comes through sponsors, including food companies Sanitarium, AB Foods and Nestlé.
The boxes include chocolates and baking supplies, as well as staples such as rice, pasta, tea and coffee.
Whānau accessing Waipareira services are then assessed to see who is eligible for a box. Wendy explains that many of the boxes go to solo parent or solo earner families that are financially stretched and struggling to meet their rent or the cost of food. Many of the whānau also have a family member with physical or mental health issues who is undergoing palliative or curative treatment.
Whānau are very grateful to receive the boxes at this often stressful time. “They are just really appreciative, some get quite emotional, and the kids are excited,” says Wendy.
One example given by her is of one man last year who was living with his mother, had severe mental health issues and was struggling financially. He was feeling desperate about not being able to give his mum and children gifts. Then several days before Christmas, his kaimahi from Waipareira showed up with a Christmas box.
The kaimahi reported that the man was deeply appreciative of the food and pulled out some goodies that he could give as a gift to his children and mum. While the rest of the food was also appreciated, the most overwhelming part for him was that it alleviated the financial stress he was feeling from being unable to afford to give Christmas presents.
The delivery of these boxes to whānau requires a concerted effort from across our frontline kaimahi. This way Waipareira can be assured a large portion of whānau we work with are better equipped for Christmas.