Family humbled by generosity of strangers

ASHLEIGH STEWART
Last updated 05:00 16/12/2013
Charlene Kihi
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/FAIRFAX NZ
TRULY GRATEFUL: Charlene Kihi and her children Taonga Tengu, 10, Ataahua Vili, 6, and Koha Whakamoe, 4, have been inundated with offers of help and donations.

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They may have been late, but Koha Whakamoe did get presents for his fourth birthday - thanks to the generosity of Press readers.

Charlene Kihi, her son Koha Whakamoe and her two other children were one of four families who last week featured in The Press' "The Pain of Poverty" series, highlighting the plight of poor people in Christchurch.

The families may be living in poverty, but New Zealanders responded to each of their stories by ensuring their Christmas is a little brighter.

When The Press initially spoke to Kihi, she was grappling with what to do for Koha's birthday the next day.

The family had just moved into a new house after spending time at Women's Refuge, the YWCA, and couch-surfing at friends' houses, but had nothing to furnish the house with.

Koha's birthday came and went without any presents, but all that changed after her plight was recognised by thousands of readers.

Offers of help flooded in from across the country - and from as far afield as Australia.

She now has a furnished home, food to stock the cupboards, shopping vouchers and Christmas presents, toys and clothing for her children.

And most importantly, Koha received a birthday present. He is so taken with his new Superman toy, he has started dressing like his action hero.

"I'm more than grateful," Kihi said.

"Words can't even explain it, I'm so humbled. It's beautiful to see a community come together to help someone."

After sleeping on a mattress on the floor with Koha since they moved into the house, Kihi was given a bed and got "the best rest I'd had in a long time".

She was "constantly breaking down" in disbelief as she was swamped with generosity.

"Everyone just wanted to give everything. My house is a home now," an emotional Kihi said.

Other featured families were also inundated with similar displays of generosity, in the form of food parcels, bedding, furniture, orthodontic treatment and more.

Solo mum Amy Scott was "overwhelmed". "Without this I wouldn't have made my Christmas, so I'm truly grateful.

"They've made it possible for my kids."

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- The Press

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