A baby means a different path

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 07/03/2014
Oscar and Hugh Calder and Emily and Alyahna Sanson-Rejouis
WENDY DE GROOT
HAPPY TOGETHER: A new chapter has started in the life of Purple Cake Day founder Emily Sanson-Rejouis. This family portrait shows new arrival Oscar Calder, dad Hugh Calder, Emily and daughter Alyahna Sanson-Rejouis.

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Today's Purple Cake Day marks a change in direction for its founder Emily Sanson-Rejouis and the Nelson-based charity created to support educational opportunities for children in poverty and hardship.

The four years since losing her husband and two of their three daughters in the Haiti quake have been a time of enormous and swift change, including creation of a new future with partner Hugh Calder, their baby son Oscar and 5-year-old daughter Alyahna Sanson-Rejouis.

Each year that passes creates a physical distance from that day in January 2010, but the loss will always remain.

The Kenbe La Foundation Charitable Trust, set up to help rebuild schools in Haiti, and in remembrance of Emmanuel Rejouis and young daughters, Kofie-Jade and Zenzie, who died along with hundreds of thousands of others, spawned Purple Cake Day.

The charity continues to evolve but Mrs Sanson-Rejouis is now at a stage where she is ready to move forward.

"It's very hard for me to constantly re-tell my story. I want Purple Cake Day to be recognised and supported for the good we bring to children worldwide. My story will always be a part of it, but I'd prefer it was in the background."

Oscar Calder was born on August 27 last year. Mr Calder has known Mrs Sanson-Rejouis for about 20 years after first meeting through family connections.

They took divergent paths, then met up again at a festival in Nelson a couple of years ago.

Mrs Sanson-Rejouis said re-kindling her connection with Mr Calder came at the right time for her, for Alyahna and extended family who had shared the journey through the grief of Haiti.

"Oscar is a new beginning, he is hope, and someone that Hugh and I will grow with together. He's a ray of sunshine in everyone's lives - this has been so hard on everyone."

Alyahna was besotted with her baby brother.

"It's magical to see Oscar's eyes light up when she comes in with her big crop of hair. She's so loving of him. She's got a lot of feeling, emotion and compassion. She makes up songs and sings to him. It's just beautiful to see. We have a really happy home and there's a lot of laughter and celebration and those are things I never thought I'd be ready to have in my life."

Mr Calder shares Mrs Sanson-Rejouis' love of the outdoors and is a keen mountainbiker and cycle tourer.

He has also worked as a sea kayak guide in the Abel Tasman National Park, a mountain bike guide, and as a Department of Conservation ranger.

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He is also a qualified licensed builder.

Mrs Sanson-Rejouis said family was the most important thing to her and it had taken her by surprise finding someone so right, and capable of understanding.

"Hugh is open to sharing this journey with me - he was willing to take it on and I think that's a big thing - that ability to have an understanding that my family will always be a big part of me."

Mrs Sanson-Rejouis is proud of what the [Kenbe La] foundation and Purple Cake Day had achieved.

Fundraising in the past three years had provided educational opportunities to more than 700 children in Haiti, Nepal and Kenya as well as supporting children in Canterbury affected by

the Christchurch earthquake. Fundraising had paid for education materials, school furniture, books, student scholarships, literacy programmes, psychosocial programmes, mentoring and leadership training, libraries and teacher training and the renovation and building of clean, safe child-friendly classrooms.It had also provided the intangible benefits of creating opportunities and hope for a better future, Mrs Sanson-Rejouis said.

"These things are immeasurable but fuel these children to strive hard at school, to get the most of the education opportunities we provide to them.

"It's their chance to create a pathway for themselves out of poverty, and they seize it."

Highlights last year included Purple Cake Day becoming a charity partner with the World of WearableArt whose founder, Dame Suzie Moncrieff, is the Purple Cake Day patron.

Mrs Sanson-Rejouis said it was hugely rewarding knowing that the things she was passionate about, humanitarian and social rights, had been infused into the consciousness of young people who would lead the ideas forward.

Alyahna was shaping up to be a strong ambassador for the charity, and at age 5, had already arranged to stage and take part in her first fundraising triathlon on March 23. A big difference this year is that today's Purple Cake Day Global Day of Action was only the beginning of a year of events.

"Our big message is get on board any day it suits - go purple any time."

The other change this year is the decision not to expand to a new country, but to sustain the projects and children the charity was supporting already.

Mrs Sanson-Rejouis said the success of Purple Cake Day did not belong to her alone, but to all who supported it.

"I couldn't have done this anywhere but Nelson.

"Many in the community got involved to help me, but what's changed is that people have got on board for what it is.

"I'm now just the connection between a world a lot of people think about but don't know how to help."

She said adversity often propelled people to do something they believed in, but might not have had the courage to take on.

"I'm thankful for the enormous amount of love and support that's helped me through this tragedy, and which has helped me see this vision through.

"It's been a conscious decision for me, to move the focus away from my story.

"I want Purple Cake Day to be about the children, their right to an education, and our humanitarian responsibility."

- The Nelson Mail

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