The Care Collective: Clothed in Love charity 'hugely honoured' with recognition of work for Christchurch

Louisa Stewart and Kim Steetskamp.
Louisa Stewart and Kim Steetskamp. Photo credit: Facebook: Clothed in Love - Christchurch

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 Louisa Stewart and Kim Steetskamp, co-founders of Clothed in Love, a Christchurch-based clothing bank for children.

"We provide quality pre-loved clothing donated from families in Christchurch to children who need a little bit of help, free of charge," Stewart told Newshub.

"What is very important to us is this: Our packs are always a gift and never a handout. That's the heart of Clothed in Love."

One aspect of Clothed in Love that makes it special is that families in need provide a little information about the child, then that child receives a package that is tailor-made for them.

"Every single pack we prepare is individualised - we don't pre-pack anything," said Stewart.

"Every child also gets a free book and bookmark. But we ask for the gender, the size and the age so we can make them an appropriate pack. Some people add little notes, like one said 'Hey, this is the youngest girl who has only ever had hand-me-downs from her older brothers and she's a real girly girl'. So we put in some pretty dresses for her, for example." 

The charity was established in December 2020 when Stewart and Steetskamp decided to do something about the need for accessible clothing for children. They "utilised the power of social media for good", Stewart said, to put out the call for donations.

There are now 20 drop-off points across Christchurch where people can donate. 

"98 - 99 percent of the clothing we get comes from families who live in the city and we're basically the middleman passing it on. A small percentage of the items we give we purchase with money from grants and donations, but most of it is pre-loved, secondhand, good quality clothes - and that's what we should be doing, recycling and reusing things."

Some kids are so excited with the packs they tear them open and perform impromptu fashion shows with what's inside for their whanau.

Other times, it's little things most of us don't consider extraordinarily special that can make a huge difference for a family.

"Kim was doing a pack for two boys one time and she just got this feeling that she needed to put some gumboots in. So she did. The mum messaged us later and said: 'Oh my goodness, I can't believe you put gumboots in there. I've never been able to afford them and my son is so excited to have his first pair'. That was amazing!"

Clothed in Love has grown dramatically in a short space of time and now has over 80 volunteers involved. In less than two years, they've sent out more than 2000 packs to children across Christchurch, as well as touching the hearts of many volunteers and donors.  

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. 

The person who nominated Stewart and Steetskamp described them as "extraordinary women who give so much to their community without the need for recognition or reward".

Stewart said they are "so humbled" to have been recognised.

"During this whole journey, I've found out what other charities are doing around Christchurch so I can make sure we're working with them. That means we know very well that there are amazing people doing incredible things out there," she said.

"To be nominated was special and then to win, it's really quite humbling, because we know that there are so many other people that rightly deserve this too. We are hugely honoured and very appreciative."

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 can help is by donating to Clothed in Love.

Anything you can contribute will help us be able to give back a little more care to the community of Christchurch 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.