What poverty looks like: 100 Kiwi children no longer sidelined after public step up video

IAIN MCGREGOR/Stuff.co.nz

The Sikaleti boys are back playing rugby after members of the public were moved by their story of hardship.

Public generosity means Canterbury's Sikaleti brothers – and 100 other Kiwi kids – have had the financial pressure on their families reduced.

Ellesmere College students Tulaniu Sikaleti​, 11, and Sikaleti Sikaleti, 13, faced a season of no club rugby because of their mother's financial situation.

Their story struck a chord with New Zealanders.

Lufilufi Sitagata thanks the community for "caring and being positive" for her sons, Tulanui, 11, and Sikaleti Sikaleti, 13.
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

Lufilufi Sitagata thanks the community for "caring and being positive" for her sons, Tulanui, 11, and Sikaleti Sikaleti, 13.

It sparked outpouring of support for the brothers and their mother, Lufilufi Sitagata.

READ MORE: What poverty looks like: Meet the Sikaleti brothers

Variety chief executive Lorraine Taylor thanked everyone who emailed or called the children's charity to support the Sikaleti boys.

IAIN MCGREGOR/Stuff.co.nz

The cost of playing rugby is too much for Lufilufi Sitagata and her two boys. So Kiwis stepped up.

"We're delighted to say that both are now sponsored, along with more than 90 other Kiwi kids. We have also received generous donations, and we couldn't be more grateful.

"New Zealanders clearly care about children in need and want to help, especially when it comes to sports and giving kids opportunities to have a happy, healthy Kiwi childhood."

The work is not done. More than 400 children, like the Sikaleti boys, still need sponsoring. 

Tulaniu Sikaleti, 11, and his brother can now play club rugby as donations came in after mum Lufilufi Sitagata shared ...
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

Tulaniu Sikaleti, 11, and his brother can now play club rugby as donations came in after mum Lufilufi Sitagata shared their story of hardship.

Variety's programme gave children access to essential healthcare and education-related items and recreation.

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"I just want to say thanks for caring and being positive for the boys," Lufilufi Sitagata said. 

Countless offers of support arrived via email, social media and over the phone from people who wanted to pay the boys' subs. 

Some people wanted to give football boots. Others offered donations and food vouchers. A Southland farmer offered to deliver the family frozen lamb.

She said many people tried to contact her to offer cash, but she did not want it.

"Thanks, but no thanks. I was only aiming for my kids and their sports."

Sikaleti Sikaleti, 13, and his family were offered football boots, donations and food vouchers after their story of ...
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

Sikaleti Sikaleti, 13, and his family were offered football boots, donations and food vouchers after their story of hardship was publicised.

In a statement on Facebook, Leeston Rugby Football Club said: "As a club we do not turn away any players and we have policies in place to assist with financial issues. We are a community club and, as such, we support the community and all those in it."

Ellesmere College principal Gavin Kidd said the school supported families like the Sikaletis in difficult times and would continue to do so.

"All schools do have students and families who do need extra support and our school, like any school does, has a system in place to provide confidential assistance through our guidance team."

Brothers Tulaniu Sikaleti, 11, and Sikaleti Sikaleti, 13, could not play club rugby this season - but that changed overnight.
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

Brothers Tulaniu Sikaleti, 11, and Sikaleti Sikaleti, 13, could not play club rugby this season - but that changed overnight.

iSPORT FOUNDATION manager Ness Rogers said there were thousands of children across the country who could not afford sports club fees.

"Our challenge is identifying the kids who simply aren't participating."

The organisation, founded by Ali Williams, Daniel Carter and Richie McCaw, was granted $44,000 from Sport and Recreation Minister Jonathan Coleman, which would go towards helping children in low socio-economic areas into club sport this year. 

After their story featured on Stuff, Kiwis have sponsored them and 100 other Kiwi children.
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

After their story featured on Stuff, Kiwis have sponsored them and 100 other Kiwi children.

 - Stuff

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