Happy memories

22:03, Feb 24 2013

A "double whammy of goodness" is how journalist Melissa Mebus describes her new book, My Happy Place.

Inspiration for it came one cold, bleak Wellington day when Melissa put herself in a better mood by remembering a happier (sunnier) day. The exercise worked and the foundations laid for a book she hopes can ease life's stresses for others. Profits from sales are being donated to the KidsCan Charitable Trust.

It was launched in 2005 to meet the physical and nutritional needs of Kiwi kids less fortunate than others. Studies show children who are engaged in their education have a better chance of reaching their potential in life so the trust works with low decile schools around New Zealand, encouraging disadvantaged children to attend school and be ready to learn by providing food, raincoats and shoes.

Melissa, a mother to Nienke, 4, and Willem, nearly 2, worries about the growing discrepancy between rich and poor in New Zealand. And so do the people who agreed to write something in the book. None will be paid but nearly everybody approached agreed to share a happy memory.

"I chose people I found inspiring, I asked friends and family members who they found inspiring. Some of them are not conventional. We had a blind woman, a member of the deaf community, New Zealand's oldest person, a refugee . . ."

Contributor Alex Pledger has the closest link to Marlborough. The New Zealand basketballer was born in Blenheim and his entry relives the final seconds before an end-of-game hooter finalises the Breakers' win in the 2010/11 Australian National Basketball League. Team members hold their trophy in a picture drawn by 12-year-old Fa'a-Niusila Muliagatele from Glenavan School, Auckland.


Other happy memories are illustrated by young artists from other KidsCan schools. Melissa says some teachers turned the project into a class literacy exercise, some taught pupils to use their own happy memories as a way of dealing with tough times they might face.

Adult contributors reported positively on the exercise, too, she says. "It's almost meditative, to sit down and think: ‘What is my happiest thought?"'

Impatient to have the book quickly printed, Melissa threw caution to the wind, she borrowed money and published it herself. She also resisted advice to have it printed more cheaply off-shore.

"So many [books] are printed in China. One person advised me to do that, to cut the costs in half, and as soon as she said that I knew I had to print it in New Zealand. If I send work overseas, what's it doing for New Zealand children?"

My Happy Place, a book of joy, aroha and generosity, is available from book stores for $29.99

● In 2012 KidsCan helped 237 schools.

It dstributed more than 1.8 million food items, 15,620 raincoats, 7165 pairs of shoes, 14,330 pairs of socks and more than 17,000 hand-knitted beanies.

The Marlborough Express