Donations sought as Kindness Collective hopes to provide 20,000 kids in need with pyjamas for winter

As New Zealanders gear up for the chilly months ahead, the harsh reality is that many of the country's 144,000 children living in poverty or hardship won't have what they need to stay warm through winter without a helping hand.

The Kindness Collective is ramping up its annual PJ Project initiative and this year intends to distribute 20,000 snug sets of pyjamas to children nationwide who otherwise wouldn't get them.

From May 1 to July 31, the charity is rallying the public for donations to equip children in need across Aotearoa with winter essentials. For every $10 contribution, the Kindness Collective will give a brand new set of toasty pyjamas to a child lacking warmth.

Kiwis are also encouraged to spearhead collections for new pyjamas at their workplaces, schools, clubs or teams.

Sarah Page, founder and chief executive of the Kindness Collective, said every winter is cruel to people living in poverty but this year there is a larger amount of Kiwi families doing it tough.

"We are definitely seeing a dramatic increase in the level of referrals from agencies and social services reaching out for support for these families than we have ever before," Page told Newshub.

"The difference this year is we've got a lot of families who were doing okay last year but the cost of living has really affected their ability to make ends meet. Many of these families have been affected by one big life event and that has tipped them over the edge - they went from being okay to now being unable to put food on the table.

"Winter is an especially tough time for a lot of people, especially when you're living in a home that doesn't have adequate heating."

In addition to providing pyjamas to Kiwi kids, the PJ Project will also provide blankets, cost-effective heating options and other items like thermals and hot water bottles for those families in need.

Recently Page went on AM to discuss the increased demand and referrals from government agencies despite having no government funding. Later on the show, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon responded, saying he would be happy to meet with the Kindness Collective to discuss the issues.

Later that day, Page said she was contacted by Luxon's office expressing a desire for him to come out to the charity's headquarters in Auckland. While that has not happened yet, Page said she met Luxon briefly at the New Zealander of the Year event.

"We had a good chat about what we're seeing in the community and how the government really does need to help more with the problem of poverty," she said.

"We live in a country where there is so much prosperity. Hearing these families' stories, hearing about what they are experiencing and the way they have to live is truly, truly heartbreaking.

"It shouldn't be this way. We shouldn't have this level of poverty in a country with so much prosperity.

"What I would say to Kiwis who aren't experiencing this is: it could be you. It could be your family who needs help - there really is no difference between you and your family and these people with these heartbreaking stories. It's just one set of circumstances that has meant they're not able to provide for their family."

Donating a cosy pair of pyjamas is a simple act of generosity that can significantly impact those in need.

"We know that the PJ Project really, truly makes a difference. There are so many stories I could tell about the people it helps - like a single dad of two little girls in Taupō who was finding it really hard to make ends meet," Page said.

"A nurse popped around to his house to check up on the wellness of the children and brought PJs for them. The father had not been able to afford any new clothes that winter, and the kids were just so excited putting their brand new pyjamas on. It was like Christmas for them and they were cheering and carrying on; but the dad was really silent. He didn't say anything.

"When he saw the health worker a couple of days later in the supermarket, he went up to her and said he was silent because he was trying extremely hard not to cry. He was so overwhelmed to see his daughters so happy about the pyjamas.

"When he thought about it afterwards, it wasn't so much about the pyjamas themselves, it was realising someone out there had thought of him and his family. It was the kindness of strangers, it made him feel supported and realise that people do actually care."

Last year the Kindness Collective distributed over 14,500 pairs of pyjamas to children throughout the country, but plans to go bigger this winter, in part due to help from The Warehouse Group.

People can drop off new pairs of pyjamas at any of The Warehouse stores nationwide. Throughout May, in-store fundraisers will also be held at The Warehouse, Noel Leeming and Warehouse Stationary stores nationwide.

"Every Kiwi kid deserves to snuggle up in warm PJs, especially as the months get colder," said Anna Shipley, chief corporate affairs officer at The Warehouse Group.

"The Kindness Collective is doing amazing work, helping families in need stay warm this winter, and we're proud to support them in any way we can."

How you can make a difference:

  • Donate: Contribute directly to the Kindness Collective and they'll transform your donation into new winter pyjamas for a child in need (from May 1 to July 31). Alternatively, visit any of The Warehouse Group stores throughout May to donate funds towards the Kindness Collective.
  • Collect and donate pyjamas: Encourage your business, school or club to collect PJs anytime between April and June. Register your business on the Kindness Collective website. 
  • Drop off: Buy a pair of pyjamas and drop them off at any of The Warehouse stores nationwide from May 1 to June 30.