Growing up, most of the children in my class were just ordinary kids, in a small town. None of us were wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, but we all had enough to eat. However two girls stood out - their cheeks were hollowed and they looked unhealthy.
When I spoke to my mother about them, she said: “Their father has died and they don't have much money. You must always be kind to them.”
Right through my schooling, I looked after kids who were struggling or unhappy- I wanted to help and to fix things. It was this drive that led me into social work.
I trained in the UK working with the elderly, the mentally ill, children in need, people with drug and alcohol issues and in a range of settings including hospitals and prisons. I was exposed to the whole gamut of social problems, which could be very rewarding particularly when you could build relationships and improve the quality of life for those with whom I worked.
When I came to New Zealand, one of my first roles was working with Māori and Pasifika social workers. They struck me as incredibly strong people, who were non judgemental, and focused on empowering their clients and giving them a hand up. I saw a community full of generosity.
40 years ago, poverty was not like it is now. At that time, one person could go out to work and earn enough to pay the rent or a mortgage, put food on the table and have a simple camping holiday. Many chose to save the universal child benefit as a deposit on a home. State housing was available to those that needed it but over time the quality has decreased. Today, with limited housing stock, we’re seeing multiple generations living in one household, creating overcrowding and a breeding ground for third world diseases like rheumatic fever.
There’s just simply not enough money for many families to put food on the table and pay the rent.
On the other hand, life for me has, in some ways, been very good. So when I was offered superannuation I knew that the Super would make no difference to my life whatsoever. I live comfortably and I know others in a similar position who don’t need some, or any of it, to live a comfortable life.
Some choose to use their superannuation to look after their grandchildren, which is great. But I believe that we can be grandparents to all New Zealand’s mokopuna and can have a role in helping to raise them.
We’re living in a time of increasing inequality with the divide between the haves and have nots becoming greater. That’s when I started thinking about those in the community that could benefit from my, and other’s, superannuation.
Founding Share My Super provided a platform for those superannuitants, who could give, to redirect their superannuation to causes they cared about. Initially I thought the focus of Share My Super would be quite broad, but then thinking about where the greatest impact could be made, led me to focus on child poverty. If we, as a country, could address child poverty this would lift this generation of tamariki and those that follow.
There are many established, impactful organisations working to address child poverty who are trusted in their communities. Share My Super partners with charities that meet the different needs of children and their families. It’s a diverse group that provides a range of solutions. Some, like KidsCan provide for immediate needs, like food and clothing; others scholarships and educational opportunities; others lobby to change the system.
It is interesting to see that when our charity partners get together they share ideas, information, and skill sets. I didn’t expect to see the richness of collaboration and the difference Share My Super is making to facilitate this collaboration - it’s really great to see.
Share My Super donors can choose to support one or all of our charity partners, including KidsCan. My commitment to help solve child poverty is to fund all Share My Super’s operating expenses so our donors know that 100% of their donation supports their chosen charity or charities.
Our donors are deeply concerned about child poverty; many of whom give to KidsCan. I know that many of the younger generation give to KidsCan, and I would love to see them going home and saying to their parents, “Hey, why don't you look at Share My Super and think about giving when you do get your pension?”
As a Super Community I do think we can change the lives of today’s young people - we invite you, and your parents, to climb aboard our community and create a better New Zealand for all.