Even as adults, we’re all counting down to Easter and a long weekend, with the promise of chocolate to come. But for families who were already in a vulnerable financial position, the events of 2020 have hit them hard and there are more than ever struggling this year. The Kindness Collective have put together a mission to help out 5,000 kids this easter and they need your help to make it happen! Founder Sarah Page talks to Emma Clifton about the personal journey that led to her starting the charity and why she wants to inspire a new generation of givers.
When your child is diagnosed with autism, not only do you suddenly have to become an expert in a) your child and b) autism, you also have to become an expert in navigating the over-loaded and under-funded world of finding support and resources. The first threads of Sarah Page’s journey in starting up her charity The Kindness Collective were born out of this complex scenario.
“I’m very open about the fact that I started The Kindness Collective as a way to make myself feel better,” Sarah says. “My son had been newly diagnosed with autism, I had post-natal depression… it was not a good time. I started joining all the autism support groups and it just struck me, over and over again, that the only way to get any help or support with child disability in New Zealand was if you have money.”
In a good financial position, Sarah and her family were able to access these resources but she was starkly aware that this was not the case for many New Zealand families and she was struggling to deal with the incredible unfairness of this. One day, she decided she needed to do something to help people who were in need and so she rung up the Mother of Divine Mercy Women’s Refuge in Auckland and asked if she could bring some food round.
“I don’t know why I went there, I’ve never had to seek refuge, but I just turned up with some food. That was the start of a seven-year relationship with them.” She started helping out more and more and then more people in need, and the opportunity to help out on even more projects started coming to her. Sarah was aware from her own experience just how difficult working out how to access help was for people in need. When people are struggling and reach the stage of asking for help, the last thing they need is to jump through a bunch of hoops in order to see results. Sarah wanted to create a way to put people in touch with those who can help, fast.
And so, The Kindness Collective was born in 2014 and in last year, became a registered charity. They now have a membership of 1500 active contributors, donors, volunteers and businesses; as well as an incredibly impassioned group of followers on social media. When The Kindness Collective puts out the call for help, a lot of people are willing to answer.
“We call ourselves a community resource network and I like to think of us as a match-making agency, matching people in need with those who have something to share,” Sarah says. “What I think is really special about us is that we’re able to bridge that gap really quickly… we’re able to resource it fast without having lots of the red tape the bigger guys have.”
This not only benefits those in need but also helps the members feel more invested in the stories that come through The Kindness Collective. “They can see the immediate impact; they like being able to see the stories and the results from what their money has done.”
The Kindness Collective works with 10 main charity partners, community organisation and social services, including Kai Avondale, Give A Kid A Blanket, Taonga Education Trust and Family Works. And one of their strengths is highlighting the individual stories of those in need to help rally the troops, like one mother who arrived at a Refuge safe house with her two babies and nothing else – no phone, no food, no spare clothes – not even socks for her children. Within 12 hours, The Kindness Collective had raised $3k for a new phone, phone credit, clothing vouchers and by the end of the week, had set them up with all the household items they needed to start over.
“My entire goal was to make it easy for people to help because it’s so overwhelming: where do you even start? You want to become a person who is a giver but how do you do that, how do you know your money is going to the right place? And now my goal is to inspire a whole new generation of people to become givers and to give, freely, all the time – without judgement or without conditions.”
After the events of last year – where so many members of society experienced vulnerability through a change in their circumstances for the first time – Sarah can see there is an increased number of people wanting to help out in their community. “I also think my generation – I’m 40, I’m a Gen X-er – are becoming aware, through the internet and through conversations, of social issues and then last year just amplified that by 100. People are understanding privilege in life – your financial privilege, your cultural privilege – and once you understand that notion, once you get it, you can’t un-see it.”
“The experience I had with my son having a disability – he is still autistic and he always will be, but for us as a family, it was so much easier to navigate that challenge because we had privilege,” Sarah says. “People tell me ALL the time not to get too political, because ‘people don’t want to hear that from a charity’ but I think it’s only if you’re privileged, you don’t have to be political. I think it’s really important that people understand the difference between empathy and sympathy. Because once you understand that and you have empathy, you have to do everything in your power, every day, to be a little bit more kind.”
“Being kind is an action and having empathy is an action, and I want to try and encourage people to have these conversations and learn about empathy, because once you start doing that, you want to buy all the kids Easter eggs and jammies, you know? You want to be able to make a difference in people’s lives.”
It’s not just a throwaway line; buying kids Easter eggs and jammies is exactly the focus of The Kindness Collective’s timely new mission: providing Easter for over 1000 kids. When aiming to help with the big goals, Sarah says, it’s important not to let the little details go unchecked as well. “I believe very strongly that at The Kindness Collective we provide the essentials, we provide resources for projects – long-lasting, legacy stuff. But the nice stuff too, because kids deserve joy and every child deserves these wonderful memories. So, the children within the drive are getting a boxed Easter egg and their own pair of warm winter pyjamas; because a lot of the kids we work with have to share pyjamas and share beds.”
When your day job involves working with such massive need, burnout is a very real risk. Especially in Sarah’s case when it’s not even her only job, she still works in marketing because currently, The Kindness Collective is not financially viable enough to be a full-time gig for her. “This is a seven day a week job for me, there is no off-switch. I’m working 14-15 hour days. I don’t sleep a lot. And the physical part of it is huge,” she says.
“But it’s the emotional side of it that is the hardest. The thing that upset me most is when people are so grateful; that really affects me. When you’ve got a mum breaking own and falling on the floor because she’s so grateful to have food for her child… that ruins me for days. Because no-one should have to be grateful for food.”
Whenever she gets overwhelmed – and she says it is quite often a daily thing – Sarah says coming back to the basic reasons of why she started The Kindness Collective helps. “You have to always go back to ‘it’s not about me, it’s about the people we serve.’ That stops the burnout from happening. Having the right people around you, whose hearts and values are the same – that keeps the central kaupapa in place of why you’re doing this.”
The Kindness Collective Easter Drive: How you can help!
The Kindness Collective is providing Easter Eggs and warm Winter PJs for 5,000 children from MDM Women’s Refuge Group, families from I Love Avondale’s, Give a Kid a Blanket and Mummys in Need.