$1-a-day mum overwhelmed by support

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 10:58 18/12/2012
CARYS MONTEATH
HUMILIATING SITUATION: Bernadette Connell says she has done everything she can to stand on her own two feet but now finds herself in poverty.

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Christmas on the breadline

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A Christchurch woman who spoke publicly of her struggle to live on $1 a day has been overwhelmed by offers of support from the community.

Bernadette Connell, 46, is left with only $7 for the week after rent and Work and Income deductions are taken out of her unemployment benefit.

The mother of two was made redundant from her job as a food court supervisor at the University of Canterbury in November.

Connell said she decided to speak publicly about her struggle to find a new job and living ''way beyond the poverty line'' to get more people talking about poverty in New Zealand.

''Someone has got to pay attention,'' she said.

About 175,000 New Zealanders are looking for work, with 7.3 per cent of the population unemployed, the latest Statistics New Zealand figures show.

In Canterbury, the unemployment rate is lower, at 5.2 per cent, but the number of people employed in the retail, accommodation and food services industries has dropped by about 15,300 in the past two years, from 56,500 in September 2010 to 41,200 in September this year.

Connell said she has applied for more than 70 jobs since being made redundant and was willing to consider anything, although her background was in hospitality and retail.

Since her story was highlighted in The Press on Saturday she had received several offers of support, including money and food hampers.

One reader said Connell's situation ''actually brought a tear to my eye''.

Connell said she was ''humbled'' by the response to her story, and had ''burst into tears in the middle of the mall'' after seeing her bank account on Monday.

''I'm just touched beyond words by the fact people took the time to care and for their generosity. It's taken a lot of pressure off.''

She had received enough donations to pay off a ''horrible'' power bill and top up her bus card so she could attend more job interviews.

She hoped to be able to spend a ''positive'' Christmas Day with her two daughters and planned to save the rest of the donated money to help her keep on top of her bills until she found a job.

''When I go back to work, I will pass on the generosity and I will make donations on behalf of my family [to] pay it forward,'' she said.

To help others in need this Christmas donate to:

- Salvation Army

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- The Press

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