What a year it’s been eh? A really big year for The Aunties, and for me personally. Everything has changed, and nothing. I no longer work with women in any refuge, but with my community whānau, and the people who are there to support women through their organisations. But I still have my girls – a group that grows – and I still do what I do. The who has simply changed.
I’ve taken teenagers shopping, and put my arms around them when they were feeling like they weren’t loved. I’ve sat with women and smoked, laughed, cried as we talked about our lives, and admitted how tired we were. I’ve spent time in the company of the people I call my whānau, now. Women who are strong, and so vulnerable. Clever, and so self doubting. Hurting, and full of joy. Intensely interested in the world around them, and looking to delve deeper into themselves.
I’ve been to award ceremonies and read about myself in the paper, online and in a magazine. I’ve heard myself on the radio, and seen myself on telly. I’ve connected with humans in all sorts of situations, all sorts of ages, and all sorts of states of being.
And I’m now regularly doing professional supervision. Which is important, because it means my work gets reflected back to me, in ways that are really meaningful to me. And it’s led to all sorts of moments of clarity, and boosts of energy to do what needs doing.
But none of this, not a bit of it, gets done without you. Not one cent of money, not one ounce of love, not one thread of connection, occurs without you. You who enable me to do what I do. Who put money in our coffers so that when it’s needed, I can use it on what it’s meant for. Who cheerlead, and send me messages of love and support. Who offer stuff at all times of day or night, even when I don’t want you to, because you can’t stand people not having something they should have. And most of all, for getting it. For buying into this kaupapa of giving with love. Embracing and embodying it.
All of it, all of this, every single bit of it, happens thanks to you.
So here it is, my annual list of thank yous. I have tried my best to look back over the last year, but I may have missed some diamonds. I think this is most of you….
- All thanks, and love, to Kris. Who started this whole thing in the first place, encouraging me to connect with the women in her care, so that they could more effectively get what they needed whilst they were in a strange place, in straitened circumstances. She encouraged me to love them, share my life with them, and be one of their whānau. When she left that place, where it all began, I followed her, as she opened up more doors to me, and introduced me to more people to share my work with, so that I could add value to their work, as they got their clients what was needed.
- Thank you to my girls: Connie, Kimi, Hine, Rox, Moeroa, Mathilda, Dotti, Horiana, Pania, Dianne, Rachel, Kayla, Leila, Noreen, Sapphire, Jamie, Sativa, Eliza and La. For teaching me so much about myself this year, and what I was capable of. For loving me, and respecting my boundaries. For the frank conversations, and the laughter, as well as the tears. For being honest with me, and never lying to me, and for trusting me with your hearts. I don’t think you’ll ever know how healing your presence in my life has been, and I thank you for it. You are co-creators of this thing, now. Aunties, yourselves, some of you. Always seeking to give back, and pay it forward. Remember: we name ourselves, we cast aside the shadow and we own our pain. We are not victims, and though we have survived, that doesn’t define us. What makes us is our shine. We are stars.
- So many thanks to my Board: Phil, Elaine, Michele, Jackson, Julie, Paul and Kerry. Who have put up with my frustrations around structure, and who are completely behind me in everything I do. Who call me on it when I’m being a dick, and work to make sure we are a sustainable charitable organisation. Who find solutions when I can’t see any, and are just sterling loving people who do the do alongside me.
- Thank you so much to Jay, and his mum Donna, who spend every weekend picking up your donations, and who mean so much more to me than can be expressed via the written word.
- Thank you to Mel and Ginny for keeping the storage unit in order when it gets really drastic, and to Shona, Sativa, Sue, and Lou who help me to keep it in some sort of order, weekly.
- Thank you to my Aunties who’ve been there from the beginning: To Tove, Abbey, Atarea, Miche, Dita, Hilary, Allison, Lisette, Alison, Ed , Nellie, Lee, Liz, Rachel, Pauline, Helene, Rosie, Stasi, and Siobhan, Karen, Mereana, for your support, financial and moral. Thank you to Dita, Tina, and Alison in particular who run around, going above and beyond. Thanks Mum, and Virgina, my Greenhithe contingent, who are both so blimmin invested in this thing. Thank you Danuscia and James, who gifted your wedding to us. You have many very generous friends. I appreciate you so much, and I know that you will always have our backs. And thank you to our regular financial supporters: Jackson, Julie, Sacha, Rachel and Dan, Nigel, Lee, Michaela, Dion, Anne and Hamish, Amanda, Pukumahi Productions, Ceara, Alison, Atarea, Adrian and Sue, Vanessa, Sarah, Rosie, Jo, Metiria, Robyn, Allison, Jenni, Anastasia, Susan, Michelle, Karen, Carolyn, Meaghan, Hillary, Eric, Sonia, Dotti, Mel, Jose and Bronwyn, AM Ewins, Janet, Dept of The Aunties (a genius anon donation – I’m usually able to figure out who anonymous donors are, but this one has me stumped), the Warner – Blacks, Nellie, Hilary, Nat, Edmund, Stephanie, Margie, Beck, Rochelle, the Curry whanau, AJ, the Haywards, and Sue.
- Thank you, Catriona for thinking long and hard over many years about how to get vehicles for women coming out of family/intimate partner violence. For sticking with it, and bringing the idea to me, and for dealing with all the details.
- Thank you Sacha, and Shona for having the guts to support two very vulnerable women whose needs are complex, and lives are complicated. For not faltering, and for having boundaries.
- Thank you to Heather for taking the ball and running with it, and being much smarter about setting up the Christchurch Aunties than I ever was at the beginning of this whole thing.
- Thank you to Pinky for designing our logo and for totally getting my vision.
- Thank you to Sue Orr for taking up the wero and sitting with women in a tiny safe house in South Auckland, and bringing out the writers and artists in them.
- Thank you to Ana for using your column to get us much needed undies. The response was huge, but the women were just blown away by all the lovely undies recieved, and they’ve become an integral part of any visit to the storage unit.
- Thank you to my Xmas Aunties: Theresa, Abbey, Meriana, Donna, Sacha, Dita, Allison, Leonie, Jane, Alison, Marina, Lee, Liz, Delaney, Rachel, Helene, Rose, Jenni, Karen, Siobhan, Mel, and Diana for really upping the ante, and providing such gifts of love to some very special women and kids.
- Thank you to the kind and loving people who volunteered to fill the food tubs for the TWR whānau: Luisa, Molly, Alexandra, Sandy, and Robyn G.
- Thank you to the Food Drive fairies: to Tove, Nicole, Carolyn, Carolina, Robyn T, Timo, Trish, and Sophie for driving around taking the food to the places it needed to go to. Thanks to Hannah, Tina, LifeCare Pharmacy, and the lovely lady out West whose name I have completely lost.
- Thank you to my/our detractors – the people who snipe from the sidelines and have mocked us, and talked smack about us. Because I used to worry about your opinions, and now I do not. Thank you for making me question myself to the point that somebody had to remind me to listen, instead, to the voices of those that believe in me. That was a valuable lesson. So much so, that when I get hate mail now, I just laugh. You have no understanding of what I do, nor would you be able to do it. That’s your learning, not mine.
- Thank you to Balmoral School, St Cuthberts, and the Lions Club of Hillcrest for allowing me the opportunity to speak to you. I’m now a much more confident public speaker!
- Thank you to Helene for constantly providing women with perfume, beauty products and cosmetics. Stuff they gave up because it enraged their abusers, and now they have freedom, they are revelling in their more femme side.
- Thank you to Lara for coming to me with the stunning idea of running an Aunties Shop. You’re a genius. And you’re a very sweet person, to boot.
- Thank you to Tracey who basically keeps the home fires burning, and my house organised and tidy, and is a really great friend, better than I likely deserve. I love you.
- Thank you to my Queens: To Kathy, and Sally, and Ange, for loving me the longest. Vicky, Selina and Becs. Isabel, Leilani, Danae, Mary, Deborah, Julie, Michele, Sara, Kim, Karen H, Karen, Sonia, Emma, Helen, Demelza. Who have seen me at my worst, and loved me to my best. You are so proud of me, I know, and I feel this, all the time.
- Thank you to the organisations that have trusted me with their clients, and let me into their personal spaces. To Trish, and KerryAnne, we’ll get those women what they need, come hell or high water! To Aneta, big dreamer and schemer, Annetta, Christine, Karaina, Rima, Patience and Matala from TWR, thank you for getting it. To Annah, Sharon, Kim, Kellie, Angel and Mark from the NZPC: Tuesdays are my favourite day of the week. To Hope, Rosanna, and Sefa, thanks for having me onboard and letting Kris bring me into your work. The best is yet to come, I promise. And to Patsy and Kiri, thank you for your belief in me and your dedication to your girls. We’ll get it done.
- Thank you to Ian, who has been one of my biggest teachers in the last 27 years. Who is so proud of me, and so respects this work, and who has enabled this whole thing to become as big as it has. I couldn’t have done any of this without him.
When I’m talking to people, I often emphasise that nobody every does anything alone. Without support, we invariably stumble and fall. And so, you see, it really isn’t possible to do any of what I do without you standing behind me, and beside me. I hope you know, and understand, that. We’re only going to get bigger, and we’re going to change how the world understands “charity” and what it means to give.
He rau ringa e oti ai.
Many hands make light work, nei?
Love your work.