The Care Collective: Backpack Outreach in Manawatu given helping hand ahead of Christmas

The Care Collective: Backpack Outreach in Manawatu given helping hand ahead of Christmas
Photo credit: Photo credit: Facebook: Backpack Outreach, He Kete Aroha

Recent research has found that New Zealanders have reprioritised the importance of caring for others, with kindness for each other being more important than ever during these tough times. Following its success in Australia, the Care Collective, brought to you by Panadol, launched in New Zealand to uncover the remarkable stories of Kiwis who give back to their community and pay it forward by giving them something that will make a real difference to their lives, enabling them to better care for themselves and their community.

The Care Collective, brought to you by Panadol, has recognised a number of winners across the motu and is rewarding them with a share in $15,000 worth of care packages.

One of those winners is Teriria Stephenson, creator of Backpack Outreach / He Kete Aroha, a non-profit charity helping disadvantaged kids in Manawatu. They distribute care packages to children who have been removed from their homes through domestic violence, neglect and poverty.

"The children are often down and confused, and they don't really know where they are, why they're there or why they had to leave everything they had," she told Newshub.

"Some are part of families who may not be able to afford what we supply, so they have things like hand-me-downs that are worn through. They get really excited with our packages - when they open the bag and see what's inside is all brand new, they realise it's all for them, all these cool things are just for them. I'm told it feels like Christmas!"

As a child, Stephenson herself experienced the same trauma the kids that He Kete Aroha support have experienced and said she's saddened that it remains an ongoing issue for so many in Aotearoa.

She said she hopes to be very practical with what Backpack Outreach offers, but also prays it delivers some hope and reassurance to each child that they are loved and valued.

Each package includes a brand-new backpack that has cool stuff inside like toys, colouring in books, pencils or pens, a lunchbox and drink bottle, a reading book, toothpaste and toothbrush, washcloth and soap, toys and soft toys.

"They get really excited about having their own lunchbox. Some of the ladies in the refuge say the kids are lining up to make their own lunch first thing in the morning, because they're so proud to have a lunchbox," said Stephenson.

"Getting their own washcloth also seems to be really special. They often think they have to give it back after using it, but they're told, no, this is yours to keep. That makes them very happy.

"These small things, y’know, these are big for them. It really changes how they feel and how excited they are."

The Care Collective, brought to you by Panadol, was an opportunity for New Zealanders to nominate themselves or a deserving individual in their community who has an exceptional story of care. 

Stephenson said when a friend she went to school with nominated her, she was not expecting to win.

"I think I just laughed. You know, you don't take it too seriously, I didn't expect anything to come of it," she said.

Of course, she did end up being recognised as one of the winners and she was stoked. She said the prize from The Care Collective was a huge relief that not only will help her own family with Christmas, but also help the person who ultimately started it all. 

"We can actually support my mum on her 60th birthday - it was mum that got us out of the situation we were in, and that's how we ended up here in Palmerston North," she said.

Panadol recently commissioned research to gain a deeper understanding of what care means to us as a nation.

The study found that New Zealanders have reprioritised the importance of caring for others with nearly 8 in 10 (78 percent) saying they realised the significance of caring for those around them. More than half of those surveyed (51 percent) admitted they would like to give more than they currently do, despite 77 percent claiming to currently proactively provide support to their community.

One way you could help is by giving a hand to He Kete Aroha.

"The best way to help us is to donate. We have a bank account and a Givealittle page set up. We also have drop-off locations around Palmerston North that you'll find on our website if you want to choose your own items to donate," said Stephenson.

Anything you can contribute will help us be able to give back a little more care to the community of Palmerston North and hopefully beyond.

Article created in partnership with Haleon Consumer Healthcare NZ

Use PANADOL for the temporary relief of pain and fever. Always read the label. Use only as directed. If symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional. Incorrect use could be harmful. Haleon Auckland.

*New, independent research commissioned by Haleon Consumer Healthcare NZ, the makers of Panadol.