Kimbra backing teenagers in need
The meteoric rise to stardom for Hamilton-born and raised singer-songwriter Kimbra has been closely watched by a special group of Waikato fans.
The Grammy Award-winning singer is a "friend and supporter" of Rainbow Place - a facility that provides specialised support for children and young people experiencing change, loss and grief around serious illness or the death of a family member.
Late last year Kimbra officially opened a new teenage space at the facility.
"It is a place that actually nurtures long-term support for families and children dealing with death and illness," she said. "They are focused on creating real relationships and trust - a place where people can open up with proper networks and support.
"It's a need I hadn't thought of much until I visited Rainbow Place, but I now see it to be a really important part of development for young people especially."
Last week Kimbra took time out from recording her second album in Los Angeles to speak with the Waikato Times about the past few months that culminated in her Grammy success.
"I have to remind myself that it's only been a few days since I was up on stage being acknowledged by Prince - it feels like some kind of strange dream you think up and tell a friend as a joke."
But it wasn't a joke. It was the kind of success that has seen the Waikato girl recognised as an international star - and the kind of mentor that young people battling life-threatening conditions can draw inspiration from, according to Rainbow Place chief executive Craig Tamblyn.
"The teenagers who were able to come and meet Kimbra at Rainbow Place were blown away that someone as famous as Kimbra would take the time to visit them," he said. "It gave them a tremendous morale boost and made their day."
For Kimbra, spending time with the teens was equally rewarding.
"The Waikato has been a big part of my life and I feel passionate about supporting the community they have created [at Rainbow Place].
"I have known people facing terminal illnesses myself and also people who have lost a parent or child to such causes and it is a situation that affects so many and calls for great support."
She said her visit revealed an amazing environment that was not just about short-term solutions.
"It feels like a place where you can nest and feel safe," she said.
At the end of January, Rainbow Place had 291 clients, including 18 sick children and young people and 233 grieving children and young people aged from babies to 19, along with 40 parents and caregivers.
Mr Tamblyn said there were many misconceptions about the services it provides. "Rainbow Place is not just there to support around a cancer diagnosis," he said. "We support children, young people and their families who are affected by any serious illness or health condition."
As for their next visit from Kimbra, they may have to wait till the end of the year when she hopes to return home ahead of the release of her second album.