Big-hearted Kiwis give it away
25 Aug 2009
Times may be challenging but many New Zealanders are still ready to show their big hearts, and next week they will have an official opportunity to do that as the country celebrates a unique goodwill fest.
On 1 September many kind spontaneous and scheduled acts will happen throughout New Zealand as communities and individuals celebrate Random Acts of Kindness day.
According to its organisers, New Zealand is the only country in the world to celebrate a day of ‘random acts of kindness’ or RAKs.
Schools, churches, businesses and community groups are planning gifts and deeds for the needy on the day.
Other RAKs are likely to include free coffees, shoe cleaning, paying other people’s parking fees, giving flowers, planting trees and collecting toys and books for underprivileged children.
Meanwhile, the generosity of New Zealanders has been highlighted lately in some heart-warming gestures.
A 72-year-old pensioner from Masterton, in the Wairarapa region of the lower North Island, has pledged to give her quarter share of New Zealand’s biggest-ever lottery win to charity.
In Rotorua - New Zealand’s thermal capital - a service station worker has given up his job to help out a complete stranger.
And Kiwi big-heartedness was also behind a Wellington café’s extraordinary opening to raise money for a fire-ravaged rival business.
Lotto win charity plan
A Masterton pensioner, who wants to be known only as Margaret, is set to become one of New Zealand’s most generous philanthropists after pledging to donate most of her NZ$9 million Lotto winnings to charity.
Margaret, her two daughters and a granddaughter, won NZ$36 million in Lotto’s Big Wednesday jackpot.
Apart from intending to redecorate her former state home, Margaret has no big plans for personal luxuries. Instead, she plans to set up a trust that will benefit some of New Zealand’s best-known charities for years to come.
"I've had a lot out of life; it's time to give something back. I don't need the money at my age. Instead of putting it in a bucket with a bottomless hole, I can afford to give a lot more now," Margaret said.
Last week, in another generous act, a Rotorua worker gave up his job for a stranger who’d lost his job in unusual circumstances.
Anthony Shybu found himself without a job three months ago when his service station boss fled the country with nearly NZ$4 million that had been mistakenly credited to his business bank account.
Most of the money is still missing but when the story of Shybu’s plight hit the headlines, Jeffrey Morgan offered up his job pumping petrol at a station on the other side of town.
"When I saw this in the paper about Anthony, I thought well I've worked my life, I've had a heart attack, heart bypass, time for me to hang up my boots and let somebody else have a go," Morgan said.
Shybu, who’d been worried about looking after his family, now has a new job and a new friend.
Café saving Sunday
In Wellington hundreds of locals, who flocked to the city’s iconic Caffe L’affare for its first Sunday opening in 14 years, helped to raise NZ$20,245 for Maranui café, which had been forced to close after a serious fire.
Half of the money was ear-marked for Maranui’s former employees, and the rest towards resurrecting the quirky beachside café in a surf life saving club pavilion at Lyall Bay - a surf beach on Wellington’s southern coast.
Suppliers to Caffe L’affare, in central Wellington, donated bread milk, vegetables and fruit for the special fundraising day.
Maranui’s owners, who hope to reopen their café for Christmas, said they were overwhelmed by the support for their four-year-old business.
"It’s absolutely amazing, it’s fantastic. Everyone just wants us to reopen," said café owner Matthew Wilson.
Philanthropy in NZ
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who addressed this year’s Philanthropy New Zealand annual conference, said the effect of the recession meant the sector was facing a shrinking income and increasing demand.
But, New Zealanders were a very generous people, and often the first to respond in times of crisis, he said.
"Whether it’s donating their time, money, food or effort ... coaching a sports team, or planting trees in a local reserve, organising a fundraiser, giving koha [a gift], or helping troubled teenagers read and write.
"Or, whether it’s digging deep to support a worthy cause when they don’t have much themselves," Mr Key said.
New Zealand was not the world’s wealthiest country yet, as a percentage of its GDP, it gave as much, or almost as much, as Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom - countries that were "much richer" than New Zealand, he said.
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