Taranaki mum seeks work to raise enough money for son's third birthday
The days leading up to Kanye Langley's third birthday have been filled with strangers dropping gifts and food at his family's door.
The unexpected donations came after mum Renee Langley posted to social media in search for odd jobs in order to raise a little money to give her son a small birthday celebration on May 10, as she could barely afford enough food for her family.
"I honestly have no money and usually something comes up, but there was nothing we could do for his birthday at all," she said.
"I just wanted enough to put him on a little party and some presents. He doesn't need much."
The mother-of-three, who typically is the one to give to others, has instead found herself at the receiving end of a community give-back campaign.
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As Kanye cuddles a furry elephant pillow and points to a blue second-hand bike sitting outside, both donated earlier Friday afternoon, two more visitors hand over bags of chips and toys.
"I'm going to cry," Langley said as she accepted the offers with a hint of reluctance.
"I feel horrible for accepting it. He's still got heaps of toys from before we were poor," she explained.
"I know that we need the help but I feel like people are worse off.
"I know there are kids that have nothing, no toys, no nothing. It's pretty sad. It's just hard. I'd rather give."
The two-bedroom house her family has lived in for the past four weeks is crowded.
A mattress on the floor of the lounge is Kanye's bed while 13-year-old Bailey sleeps on the couch and partner Jeff Williams, who has tetraplegia - a paralysis that results in partial or total loss of the use of all four limbs and torso - showers at nearby motor camps because his wheelchair does not fit through the toilet door.
But it was a roof over their head and an option they couldn't refuse, or else they'd be homeless, Langley said.
With the sheer number of applicants for accessible properties creating fierce competition and a deadline to move out of their former house, Langley applied for Housing New Zealand, which could place them in a wheelchair accessible home.
However Langley, who acted as Williams' caregiver for a 46-hour minimum wage income, said she was told she "made too much" and would have to be placed on a lengthy waitlist.
"I had to give up my job and then reapply," she said.
The family was displaced for about five days before they were able to move into the two bedroom flat they now occupy.
"We had no option but to take it. Otherwise we would've been in a car."
With about $500 gross ACC income, $120 accommodation aid, and a fortnightly $92 disability fund for Kanye, who has developmental delay and weak muscles, the $335 a week rent has resulted in a tight budget.
"My friend just lent me $100 because for the first time in my whole entire life, we had no meat, no milk, no bread and there's nothing I could do," Langley said.
"But in saying all that, that 'it's bad, it's bad, it's bad', we still got a roof and blankets. I'm not too upset about it because I know it'll get better."
It was just five months ago when Langley reached in her wallet and cupboards to piece together Christmas boxes to families in need.
But in April, she found she no longer had the funds to give her own children chocolate eggs.
"They handled it quite well but I felt a little bad," she said.
"They've always seen me give food away and I said to them, 'we're kind of like in that position'.
"Easter wasn't that big a deal but with Kanye's birthday, I couldn't pretend that wasn't happening."
Desperate to scrape together a few dollars, she turned to Facebook to ask for extra work.
While she's managed to snag a house cleaning job and gardening work, Langley has incidentally sparked an incredible community response with people offering toys, a homemade Peppa Pig themed cake, and even a fully-funded party at Chipmunks Playland and Cafe New Plymouth.
"But the ones that I couldn't believe are like, this one woman in Waikato, who said she doesn't have much, but she'd like my bank details because she's got $4 she'd like to give me," Langley said.
"As much as I appreciate everybody, but to offer $4 means more to me than someone offering me $500. If you can only offer someone $4, you obviously don't have much yourself."
Though Langley has found it difficult to accept the numerous generous offers, she said she would use it as a learning lesson for Kanye.
"I want him to always know that he's had this and maybe in the future, when he's a big boy, something might come up and he might pay it forward. That's what I'm hoping."