Wellingtonian Pera Barrett has been voted this year's TSB Good Stuff People's Choice winner.
He's one of nine New Zealanders awarded a grant of up to $30,000 from the TSB Good Stuff $250,000 kickstarter fund, to help get their innovative ideas that solve problems and help New Zealand communities off the ground.
Barrett will use his $30,000 TSB Good Stuff grant to expand the reach of his charity Shoebox Christmas, while also enabling work opportunities and better futures for rangatahi (younger generation), through a coaching and mentoring programme.
Shoebox Christmas connects members of the community with education providers and community groups to give presents to kids who could do with an extra smile on Christmas Day. Last year, over 15,000 koha (gifts) wrapped in a shoebox were given.
Barrett says Shoebox Christmas started in New Zealand at a Porirua school in 2014 - with just a spreadsheet and Facebook Messenger. It's now available in 14 regions from Invercargill to the top of the North Island. In Wellington alone, he works with over 65 different partner organisations including schools, pre-schools, Kōhanga reo and other partner organisations such as Women's Refuge and Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.
"It's been easy to grow because we've had to grow," Barrett says.
"The need is definitely there with one in five children in New Zealand living in poverty and a lot of tamariki facing challenges they shouldn't have to. While the scale of need can be heartbreaking, the number of Kiwis who want to help fills me with hope and inspiration.
"People genuinely want to help, they just don't know how to, and it's connecting these two things and making the process easy for people. The end result is a smile, positive experience and a day full of happiness for our tamariki," he says.
So what is the rangatahi training programme TSB is funding?
The $30,000 TSB Good Stuff grant will support the development of their online platform to enable multiple coordinators and leaders to set up their own community initiatives.
Every year more people are putting their hands up to help and with two young children himself, there's a limit to Barrett's time and capacity. That's why he's training younger people to get their own Shoebox Christmas programmes up and running, and this is where TSB's funding will make a huge difference.
"It's important for the kaukapa (cause)," Barrett explains.
"It provides an opportunity to open doors in a bunch of different contexts. It's important for me to share my own learning and development, and my friends helping out believe the same. We can remind our rangatahi they have the capacity to affect change within themselves and their own communities. My parents showed me that growing up, but I was lucky. Not all our young people have that.
"The aim is to coach the rangatahi to lead their own programmes, then get out of their way. We'll also wrap around some life-skills which we know are useful in this kind of mahi (work). Things like resilience, goal setting and effective communication.
"They can then take these skills and apply them in other real life projects with real life benefits. We're equipping them to remember their potential and future possibilities.
"It's a no-brainer really, the goal is to get more projects up and running. It's fulfilling, rewarding and is also a tested and proven framework that directly helps local communities."
TSB using profit for purpose
The People's Choice Award is part of the TSB Good Stuff $250,000 kickstarter fund offered by the New Zealand-owned bank to support Kiwis to make a difference in their community. Following a robust judging process, nine recipients have been awarded grants, including an innovative water conservation device, a community parenting hub and a clever kiwi tracking conservation drone.
TSB CEO Donna Cooper says for the second year in a row hundreds of amazing ideas were submitted, and the team were impressed by the creativity and community spirit shown by the entrants.
"As a New Zealand bank, we’re proud to use our profit for purpose to support our community. Getting behind Pera and the mentoring and leadership development of rangatahi through Shoebox Christmas is really exciting. It’s wonderful to see the expansion of this hugely successful initiative which will make a real difference to whānau in our communities."
Next year the plan for Barrett is to take the rangitahi training into more areas, with more young people leading the way.
"These are beautiful communities with unique challenges, and it's great to remind schools and kids their community has their back," he says.
You can learn more about the other TSB Good Stuff grant winners here.
This article was created for TSB