Look for the helpers.

Last night I had the extraordinary privilege of being one of 61 people from Auckland to recieve a medal for the Kiwibank Local Hero awards. Basically, there were 750 people from all over NZ nominated to recieve the Local Hero award, 350 people got chosen as semifinalists, and were presented with medals all over the nation. Out of we 350 people, 10 will then be chosen as finalists at the end of December, and the winner will be announced at a grand affair in February.

I don’t expect to win, by the way. Because some of the people who are local heroes, have been so for a very very long time. And deserve more recognition than I, that’s for sure.

But there’s a rub. The people I stood on a stage with, last night, are all very unassuming, humble people. They don’t really like the limelight. When we were all up there, for a group photo, most of them were trying to stand at the back or to the sides. (Including me).

It’s not considered to polite or the done thing to make a fuss about your volunteer work, and most of the people there last night wouldn’t want to do it even if it were the done thing, it seems to me. There were people who saved lives, started charities and social enterprises at 17, had been working in their communities for upwards of 30 years. Good buggers, you know? The Bird Lady of Torbay, for heavens sake! She’s been an absolute legend for forever!

It’s a pretty uncomfortable thing, standing in a spotlight. But still, how is anyone ever going to know about your work – your really important work – unless you do from time to time?

That’s the bit none of us like, really. We need people to know about the work, but we really wish we didn’t have to make a song and a dance about it for it to be noticed.

So there we all were. Watching as one by one all these amazing people went up on the stage – 59 of them, there were – and it just blew me away. Not that there were so many kind people in the world, because I already knew that, but how absolutely dedicated and committed, how driven, they all were. And as I said, many had been doing their do for decades. And most had been doing it all by themselves. While holding down fulltime jobs. What.

And that’s why I felt like a fraud. Yes, I’ve had to push hard to do this work, but all the way along I’ve had the most incredible support. I couldn’t, literally, have even done the first thing I did without baby clothes and stuff for A. I couldn’t ever have done any of it without the people who turned up at my door with stuff, and other people who embraced the first givealittle we had. This is what the Aunties has always been about. People connecting with other people, and my work is separate to that, nowadays, in a way. You guys do the getting of stuff, and the giving of money, and I get to distribute all of that to the people I work with, which is the super easy bit,  and when I’m done doing that, the next part of my work begins. But, I couldn’t even do that bit without all of you. You see? So we’re all mixed up in this glorious sort of mess of humanity together.

So no, I don’t expect to be winning any grand prizes. And I don’t really care to be honest. Because my reward is getting to do this. It’s enough. It’s more than enough. It’s everything.

 

 

The Aunties Xmas Present Bonanza 2017

It’s that time of year again.

Yes!

For the last four years, The Aunties have supplied xmas presents for the kids in a number of women’s refuges, and luxury gift baskets for their mums.

This year, we’re doing things a little differently. Still presents, still luxury gift baskets, but for considerably more people. As you’re aware, we had our comedy fundraiser, and that raised us money to fill the luxury gift baskets, and to pay for some fun stuff for the Te Whānau Rangimariē Xmas party. We are going to need a bit more, I think, but I’ll let you know about that later.

For now, we need presents. Lots and lots and lots of them.  600 is what I’m aiming for. 400 for the kids of Te Whānau Rangimariê (at least 2 each) and a car load for the City Mission.

For all ages. All brand new, please. Nothing that’s preloved. These kids deserve the absolute best we can give them. Some of them are likely to have never recieved a xmas pressie in their lives, so we want to make it as special as we can. TWR caters for kids from birth, right up to kids in their late teens (I usually buy the big kids gift vouchers). So think 0-2, 3-6, 7-10, 11-13. Use that as your guidelines. Last year, we supplied 85 kids with 3 pressies each. This year, it’s likely to be more, so I need your help!!!! We will also supply kids of women I work with in the community. Their ages range from 4 – 16. If we have a huge amount extra I’d like us to take a whole carload down to the City Mission.

Please bear in mind that I don’t know the kids from TWR. I have never met them, and I don’t know their names. (Presents will be wrapped with age/gender labels). The only kids I do know this year are the ones that I work with in the community. So I can’t tell you about preferences or likes and dislikes. It’s a present, something they’ll appreciate and love, so don’t worry too much about whether they will. They will. I assure you.

When you have bought your pressie (s) – and you are very welcome to buy as many as you like, though also bear in mind we have set a price limit of $20 or it becomes unfair – send those unwrapped, or wrapped in GOOD quality wrapping paper with age/gender label attached (cheap wrapping paper rips easily, and the presents have to be handled a number of times) please to:

The Aunties

PO Box 76638

Manukau

Auckland 2241

OR you can drop them in the box that’s been put there especially for us at Ponsonby Central, on the corner of Ponsonby and Richmond Rd.

 

Those will need to be in our hot little hands by December 10th.

Thank you so much.

 

 

#StandUpForTheAunties

What a night.

So. What’s Stand Up For The Aunties?

Three years ago, give or take, I met Michèle A’Court – famed comedian, author and raconteur, dontcha know – on Twitter, and we just sort of gravitated toward one another. As our friendship blossomed, she said she wanted to do a comedy gig for the Aunties. I wasn’t sure when that would happen. Anyone who knows Michèle, and has seen that diary of hers (it’s an actual diary book paper thing) knows that she is INCREDIBLY busy. ALL THE TIME.  And she was writing a book, so, you know. UBER busy.

So we knew it was going to happen this year, we just didn’t know when. And then. A date was decided upon by the Board – not too close to the election, but not too close to Xmas either – and Miche and Phil got going on organising comedians and venues,  and ticket selling and all that stuff.

It was Michèle who brought this all together, and she did what she said she would, as she always does. Bringing some comedians together (who all happened to be women), who were doing this for free. Justine Smith, who is just one of the best comedians in the world for my money. Sera Devcich, who I’d seen at another fundraising gig, and said to Michèle, must have. And she flew up to Auckland from Wellington and paid for it herself. The Fan Brigade, Amanda and Livi, who are just breathtakingly lewd and gorgeous and funny. And Urzila Carlson. WHAT. Yes. Her. Who is extraordinarily sought after, and always somewhere exotic overseas, and she wanted to do our little gig. (I just about got on my knees in front of her last night. She is a GODDESS.)  And if you have an opportunity to see any of these comedians live, just do it. Because they are absolutely bloody legends.

So, yesterday, all day, I was very very excited. And both M and I, I know, had a bit of an emotional day because we’d had this in our minds a reasonably long time. Before there was a Board, before there was the charity status. I was also emotional because I was bringing some very important people with me. People who I love and respect greatly, who are symbolic of the work the Aunties do, are indeed the people that the Aunties do the work for.  3 women who have impacted my life, and changed the way I work, and they’ll never understand just how much.

There was Kimi, who I met with her mum in the refuge at the end of 2013. She never spoke to anyone when she came into the refuge, but I noticed she watched me alot. Sussing me out. Then one day, she decided I was her safe person and she started to tell me about her pain. Ever since, I have been Aunty Jackie to her, and a member of her extended whānau.

There was Moe, who is one of the most amazing women I have ever met (and I’ve met a lot of amazing women, let me tell you.) She had left the refuge by the time I started working with the women there, and she was on her way to doing her social work degree. She’s almost finished now, and will be a qualified social worker very soon.

And my Rox, who I met in the refuge at the beginning of this year, and who has the most indomitable spirit. She calls me Mama J, and she’s the daughter I never had.

So these three incredibly special women and I made our way into town last night, and arrived at the Classic, where I was just about to faint from anxiety. It wasn’t about us doing well – the tickets had already sold out. It was that something we had talked about for so long was upon us, and I was so excited. So happy. So full of all this love, and I thought I might explode, there and then. I knew I had to make a wee speech, and I’m doing more of that, but I’m never prepared. I never do notes, I never have it clear in my head what I’m going to say before I say it. And I didn’t want to muck it all up by crying too much, which is something I am prone to do.

None of that happened. What did happen was a glorious glorious night of outrageous comedy, raucous laughter, and raising what seemed like an impossible amount of money – over $5000 – and I’ll tell you why that’s so important in a wee while. The kaupapa of the Aunties is: meeting need with aroha. Giving with love. And my, there was a lot of love in that room last night.

So to the thank yous. From myself, from The Board, from the women I work with and who your stuff and money goes to help their healing.

Thank you to: Michéle for organising this. For, from the moment I met you, getting what I was about, and what I needed to happen for my girls to get their stuff. For doing the do to make this night such a successful one for all involved. I love you.

Thank you to Scott, and the staff at the Classic Comedy Club, who let us use your venue for free, and you were so kind and loving! I wanted to particularly thank the lovely Aimee who was so welcoming, and so efficient in seating everyone, and to lovely Aiken  who let me stand beside him at the door and greet everyone as they came in. I thought I was a pain in the bum, he thought it was lovely, so I guess that balances out. (He also did all the techy stuff, so cheers for that!)

Thank you to: Sera, Justine, Amanda, Livi, and Urzila.  Really. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. For your support for the Aunties, for your love and compassion and heart. For your kindness in doing this for us and for the women. Thank you for being glorious, stroppy, sweary, piss your pants funny, beautiful women, all of you. Thank you for bringing the laughter. I watched my girl’s faces the whole time you were all onstage, and they could hardly breathe from laughing. On the way home, they said you should have a break in the middle of jokes, so people could catch their breaths. I don’t quite know how that would work, but I know they had the best night they’ve ever had, and they didn’t want it to end. And also: thanks you fellas for all the hotel toiletries – like, A HUGE BAG which Rox shouldered like a champion all the way back to the car. They’ll go to the Prostitutes Collective tomorrow.

Thank you Irene Pink, you beautiful human, for coming to do the auction for us. Thanks to your professional skills, we made over $1300. Which we did NOT expect! I have always loved your work as a comedian, but you also make a superb auctioneer. But you knew that. And particular thanks to the table of drunk ladies to the side of the stage who bought most everything at that auction. We love you. No, I mean it.

Thank you to everyone who bought tickets and made this event sell out in just 2 weeks. What incredible support for our work. What you have done, and why this is so important, is raised enough money for us to provide the most exquisite Christmas party for a community who needs one badly. Who has known enormous hurt, and pain, and need all the magic and joy we can give them. So there’s that. And we will be doing luxury food gift baskets for women, and some men, in that community, and for the women I walk alongside everyday in my work. That’s why this matters. We can bring a lot of joy to a large number of people with this money. And I don’t have to beg and scrape and plead for it. That’s a really big deal. You’re ALL Aunties now, by the way. Cos that’s how we roll.

Apparently all the comedians have decided that we’ll just do this every year. I hope so, I really do. Because it does the mauri good to spend a few hours laughing, and sharing that with a room full of loving strangers, and friends, is even better. Meeting needs with aroha. I think you all did that last night, and I am incredibly proud of you all. And so honoured that you chose our little charity to do it for. Thank you. So much.

I love your work.

Jackie x

 

Companionship in compassion

I’ve been thinking a lot lately – and I think about it a lot in general – about what exactly it is that the Aunties do. And what I do. Not the logistics or the practical everyday stuff, but the exact nature of the spirit of it. What helping is, and is that what we do? Do we make change? What exactly is it that we’re doing here? Lots of words are chucked around – helping, fixing, changemakers……

I guess a lot of people would look at what the Aunties do as helping people. I don’t like that thought. I know that’s odd, but bear with. I’m not really about helping people – you, as an Aunty, might be. That’s your motivation. I know a lot of Aunties like being involved at something at a grassroots level – knowing they’re helping people. That’s a really good motivation.

But it doesn’t really explain the why fully. So you like helping people, and you are. That’s your start. You’re helping me, you’re helping the women, you’re helping the refuges, you’re helping the people who I work with, basically, aren’t you? And that makes you feel good. Because we increasingly live in a world where giving and being a good person isn’t much talked about. Where community is a forgotten concept until a disaster or tragedy occurs.

And we’ve built this community, you and I, haven’t we? The Aunties is a community of people who are ostensibly helping other people. Giving stuff that they need, giving money so I can get them stuff they need, or so that they can pay to get the stuff they need.

You may be doing this because you like the feeling you get when you know you’ve done something good. That’s okay. You may do it because you’ve been there, and you know what it looks like to not have enough of anything. Whatever your motivation, it’s all good with me. Because that’s YOUR motivation and I don’t get to question it. It belongs to you. It’s up to you to examine what your why is.

Are we making change? Here’s my thing. We may be making changes in our own lives, I know I certainly have. Being Aunty In Charge has changed my entire life in almost every aspect of it. But are we changing other people’s lives? I don’t think so. I think what we do is give people stuff/pay bills etc to give them joy, dignity, ease, so that they can focus on the changes they want/need to happen. What we do doesn’t change their lives at all. For many of them, if the kids have enough clothes/shoes or if they get a bill paid, it’s one thing less they have to worry about. For many of them, the stuff represents love. That people care about them. All that love and care is building blocks to reinforce the confidence and the self worth they have lost along life’s way. So no, we aren’t changing lives. What you gain by being an Aunty is important to me – and I’ve heard from many of you what you do gain. And the impact of being an Aunty on you may be large or just very tiny. Either way it’s okay. We are all enabling each other. Enabling. There’s a great word. Maybe we’re enablers? Is that it?

Aunties, in the Oxford Dictionary, are simply described as, apart from the female sibling of a parent, an unrelated adult female friend, especially of a child.

The synonyms are: companion, duenna, protectress, escort, governess, nursemaid, carer, keeper, protector, bodyguard, minder.

Given that these are adult women we’re working with, they don’t need nursemaids. And governess is a really old term that’s not appropriate either. Bodyguard, protector, minder, keeper? Well sometimes, but very rarely. Mostly we are companions, and duenna and unrelated friends. I think those are words I relate to most. Those three words very accurately describe a lot of what I personally do, and what I have become, and you? You help me to do those things.  And you do those things too. By giving of yourselves, you become friends and companions to women you will never meet.

I like standing alongside people. That’s my gig. I like holding people’s hands if that’s what they want, holding them tightly if that’s what they need, or just being there silently (or not so silently) cheering them on. And they do that for me. It’s incredibly selfish, this selflessness. And I’m okay with that. I hope you are too. Because we are all in this together. Companions.