Daughter issues challenge to support those in need

This week my wife and I went and watched the film Dark Horse. I can see what the fuss was about. For someone like myself who has worked with many bipolar and schizophrenic Maori men it was almost unbearable watching Cliff Curtis' portrayal of a man trapped within his illness.

But what also challenged me was the selfless commitment to those kids.

Giving because they can and they believe in creating an opportunity amidst despair and struggle. Recently our kids have been taught about fairness at school. It has been particularly enlightening for our daughter who has been prompted to ask lots of questions which is usually the domain of the boys.

Our eldest boy gave me the third degree about watching the news the other day. He particularly wanted to know why there were always pictures of policemen hitting people with sticks. Considering that our local cop is a community friend such things are hard to explain.

In contrast our girl generally struggles to pull her gaze away from her loom band creations or her mind off the next tap dancing routine. But she has recently become aware of poverty and disparity.

Her mother taped Nigel Latta's recent documentary about the haves and have nots and early one morning they watched it together. This raised even further questions about what was going on in our own backyard.

She learnt that many families struggle to treat their kids to an ice cream or that going to the movies was out of reach for some people.

Even sports and out-of-school activities are inaccessible for many so she learnt that she was quite privileged to be able to get dancing lessons and enter competitions.

It has led her to challenge us about finding a way to support those in need. We do a fair bit of voluntary work but it is generally within the communities we already have an interest in.

When we were kids ourselves we did plenty of fundraising notably participating in big events like the Forty Hour Famine and Telethon. They were associated with a bit of mass hysteria from kids and families.

The Forty Hour Famine usually meant a gathering at someone's house for sleepovers and plenty of barley sugars. We were only supposed to eat one every four hours but we generally polished a couple of packets off during the 40 hours.

Of course the money was meant to go to starving Africans after all the administrative overheads were covered but we never really followed up.

Telethon was another marathon affair and we all grew very excited about it as parents let us stay up late, sleep in the lounge, head into the town hall and watch your name come up on the screen recognising your donation. I have no idea what the hit rate was for phone pledges actually being collected but there must have been a fair bit of leakage.

There were other ways to raise a bit of money like bob-a-job. We had our own special cards with pledges from locals and we would mow lawns, trim hedges and paint fences for a few cents. But I think this was to just raise money for cubs itself as opposed to any greater good.

That was like a good old-fashioned bottle drive. We would ride/run up the street while a car followed along with a trailer. The bottles could all be cashed in for reasonable money. In those days we could tell who the big drinkers were because of the enormous stacks of full size beer bottles or peters that were around the back of certain houses.

As an adult I have been involved in several initiatives that give money away but that is not my money. We have supported family and friends just as anyone else would depending on their circumstances but our girl wants us to actually support a family that falls into the have-not category that Latta discussed.

She was clear that it had to be a New Zealand family, preferably Maori. So we are now seriously considering doing something to support a family. It is difficult to know how best to do this and make sure the donations or sponsorship get to the right families to make a reasonable difference so we will work through all of that first.

I have wondered whether we are being a bit indulgent of our daughter's whim and there is probably some truth in that but for ourselves it is important for two reasons.

By doing this there is something that our kids will have to sacrifice which is a good lesson to learn.

But most significantly this is a reminder of my earlier personal convictions. Those that can and those that have should do as much as they can for their community and that a rising tide lifts all boats.

The Press