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Once homeless, now keen to help others

TAO LIN
Last updated 05:00 06/08/2014
Chanelle Haffenden
BRAVE BID: Chanelle Haffenden is raising money and awareness for a charity close to her heart by auctioning off a space on her arm for a tattoo of the winner’s choice.

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Chanelle Haffenden was homeless and down to her last $2 when she decided to take her fate into her own hands.

She bought a piece of blue cardboard, wrote "please give me a job" on it and stood on a busy intersection in South Auckland.

Her courage and creativity paid off when the owner of Nice Blocks, a Fairtrade certified ice block company, saw her and offered her a position.

Now the Papakura woman is using the same qualities that got her off the streets to raise money for charity.

The 22-year-old is auctioning an 8cm by 3cm space on her forearm on Trade Me for any tattoo the winner wants, whether that is a marriage proposal or a business advertisement.

The goal is $1000 and all proceeds will go towards the Key to Life Charitable Trust, which was set up by comedian Mike King to encourage change around suicide prevention and awareness.

Haffenden said the type of tattoo she ends up getting is the last thing on her mind.

"Saving someone's life is more important than a bit of ink on my skin," she said.

Her devotion to the cause is fuelled by her personal experiences, which have included extensive self-harm and mental illness.

She said she's seen shocking domestic violence, and, as a teenager, turned to sex work and drugs after being admitted to a psychiatric ward and then foster care.

She floated for a time between detox centres, homeless shelters and the streets but it was after an abusive situation working in a brothel that the reality of the situation hit her.

"If I don't have a job and if I can't pull myself out of this, I'm going to end up dead," Haffenden said.

Once she pulled herself on to her feet, she began devoting her time to helping out others in similar situations.

She took part in the Lifewise Big Sleepout, an annual fundraising event where volunteers sleep rough for a night in Auckland city, and raised more than $2000 towards the organisation's goal to end homelessness.

Haffenden said her latest efforts are also about raising more awareness for the Key to Life trust's work.

"I know the work they do could help so many people," she said.

"If I'd had someone like them for me in my dark times it might have helped me out a lot."

Go to trademe.co.nz/760523146 to view the auction. It closes on Friday.

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- Papakura Courier

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