Communities pull together to feed families in need

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Operating in six regions across Aotearoa, the Christmas Box project aims to alleviate some of the pressure felt by families during the holiday season.

 “The aim of this is to help impoverished families as we enter the festive season,” says Bronwyn Hetaraka, (Te Aupouri, Ngāti Kahu, Ngāti Porou).

Recipient whānau are nominated by community workers who are connected to the community and to the local marae.

“Whānau will have enough kai to eat for a day, whether that be Christmas or another day, to share with their whānau [and] spend time together because Christmas isn't just about presents - it's about time,” says Terri Cassidy (Ngāti Maniapoto).

The initiative began in 2001 and 16 years later it's still going strong, with 70 volunteers turning out to lend a helping hand. 

500 boxes will go to families in Whangarei and 500 to families in Hokianga this year.

General Manager of Te Hau Āwhiowhio ō Otangarei Trust, Janine Kaipo, (Ngāti Kauwhata) says, “It's about [having] the opportunity to give back, to socialise, to meet new community and put together a blessing in a box for whānau.”

The initiative is also active in Whangarei, Tāmaki, Tauranga Moana, Kirikiriroa, Otepoti and Otautahi. 

Organiser Janine Kaipo wants to see it branch out into rural communities.

“To get those communities happening and busy and doing the same thing within there.  So if we all do it everywhere, it just takes a lot of pressure off everybody.”

Janine Kaipo says mucking in is the “Kiwi way” and she wants to keep the momentum going.

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