What the Aunties did. May Edition

An update, and an apology from Auntie Michele.

Part of my job as Aunties Chair is to keep you all updated with what has been achieved each month but I’ve been swanning about on the other side of the world for a bit and have missed officially reporting back for a few weeks. Auntie Jackie, who is made of superhero stuff, has done a grand job of keeping in touch with everyone and just generally “doing the do” but she doesn’t sufficiently blow her own trumpet so here’s a list of the good things accomplished. And please – after you’ve read this have a look at Jackie’s post of the goals we have as we look forward into June. That’s here


The biggest thing was that Jackie had her birthday in May, but it was everyone else who got the presents! Jackie made it her birthday wish to raise money for a car for one of the women who has been in long term contact with the Aunties and, thanks to you all, $5000 was raised which is incredible. In fact, we raised more money than was needed so we asked some of the donors if they would mind us using the leftover money on other things, and they said yes. When you earmark a donation for something specific, we will always make sure that it gets spent on that thing, or else ask for your personal permission to put it towards another need.


A woman and her two teenagers were spirited away from a violent home and arrived at refuge with nothing but the clothes they were wearing, so we put an urgent call out for clothes and people responded enthusiastically – Jackie took eight large bags of good quality clothing to the refuge for them, and some of the other women were also able to get things they needed. Pickups were done by the teenage son of one of our Aunties – he’d got himself into a minor bit of bother and needed to do some community service so we were thrilled to be able to help his whanau by getting him to help Jackie.

One of the women who has moved to another city recently has gotten involved in the local community gardens so we are paying her yearly membership fee so that she always has heaps of fresh veggies to hand.

Auntie Mel has organised our big storage unit so it is almost like a shop – women visit and choose the things they need for themselves and their kids. Some of them find this overwhelming – the idea that they Have What They Need is a new experience for many. It often makes them emotional and, to be honest, we all get a bit emotional at board meetings with Auntie Jackie tells us these stories.


One of the women who has left the refuge some time ago has moved to another city so we sent her off with bedding and linen, and also put her in touch with good people who will support her there. We’ve also found good contacts for another long time Auntie’s friend in a different city – some help with school runs, friendship, and suggestions for a church she can go to.


We’ve connected with a woman who, as well as raising six sons and doing her Master’s degree also has breast cancer. She still deals with abuse from her ex-husband who recently broke into her house and stole money. We helped out with food, petrol and phone credit vouchers to tide her over. We plan to stay in touch with her and will offer her meals after her breast reconstruction surgery. A couple of Aunties have already given her lingerie vouchers so she can buy new bras when the time comes.


Auntie Jackie attended a CYFS meeting with one of the women and advocated for her and her kids with really positive results. And there were cooking classes at the refuge – another way of helping women feel good about their ability to take care of themselves and their families.


We’re about roses as well as bread – so in the “roses” category, Auntie Jackie took one of the women to the Auckland Writers Festival – she loved it, and we’re keen to keep taking women to see cultural events that inspire them and make them feel part of the world again after they leave refuge.


And more roses  – literally – we’ve found someone who is keen to help Dorothy with the garden at the refuge so once all the necessary safety checks are done, there should be some more pruning and planting on the way so there’s something beautiful to look at out the window.


That was May – now go have a look at what we hope to do in June. And thank you, as always, for helping us meet needs with aroha.


How you can help us help the women at the refuge in June.

Happy Queens Birthday weekend, everyone.  What a busy and productive month May was. We raised enough money to buy one of the refuge staff members a car! (Roll on Women On Wheels, so that bit is taken care of).

If you want to help us help the women at the refuge this month, you can do that in this one very important way. I need your money. I always need your money but this month, we have to make what’s in the bank account last until July. Because we got our May payout early – so that R could buy her car – it means that we won’t get a pay out this month. All money raised through givealittle each month is paid out the following month. So our next lot doesn’t come, now, until July. A bit of a long wait when you have ongoing supermarket cards to buy, and car repairs to pay for, and all the other random expenses that pop their heads up in this completely unpredictable business we call Auntying. We operate on a very limited amount of money, all provided by YOU and you know what? That’s okay! But it’s a big ask for everyone, me included. We do it, though, don’t we?

So this month, what do we have to pay for?

  1. Car repairs. The same woman whose car windows we paid to fix needs her lamp on her jeep fixed too. I wasn’t aware that her ex had damaged that as well when she left. The quote for that is $586. Another woman has let me know that her car needs a bit of panel beating – thanks to her ex. We don’t have a quote for that but she’ll let me know.
  2. Supermarket gift cards and KMart gift cards. When the women arrive at the refuge, along with everything else they’re given, they get $100 supermarket gift cards to tide them over. And when they leave they get $150 KMart gift cards so that they can bits and pieces for their new homes.
  3. Mileage. A couple of months ago, the Board decided that the thing to do would be to pay me mileage. I don’t currently get paid for full time Auntying, and it is a fulltime job, and so this is the one way I get recompensed. I drive around 800-900 kilometres a month, which works out at about $500-$600 a month. When there’s only ever around $2000 in the bank account at the beginning of each month – sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less – some months I just have to wait to get it paid. The women come first. Always. This is an ongoing expense.
  4. Ongoing refuge expenses.  Every month, there’s stuff the refuge pays for – ID cards, licences etc. Instead of using their MSD funding on these, Kris asks for the amount needed and I just put it in the refuge account. This amounts to about $600 a month.

So those are the things your money is needed for this month. You can put that on the givealittle but I would prefer you use the bank account.



Thank you all so much. You keep this ship afloat in more ways than one.

Love, me x

A birthday gift.

Yesterday I was 53. And birthdays, at this age, for me, aren’t a big deal. Every year, since Carol died, I’ve had a party to celebrate life, and so I focus on that instead. How to celebrate life, and getting one year older when Carol doesn’t get to do that.

This year, I wasn’t having a big party. I’m going to spend time in Dunedin, instead, with people I have loved for a long time, and some I’ve loved for a short time. And to be loved, I think, is enough of a celebration isn’t it? But no, I had to up the ante……

Let’s go back a few days. I was contacted by a woman whose car had broken down. She’s a woman who’s integral to the running of the refuge, and she’s also a single mum, and let’s face it, social workers aren’t paid what they’re worth. Working in a refuge with women who’ve lived in violence means you save lives, metaphorically and literally, on a daily basis – but you’re doing it for love, not the money. Let’s be honest.

Part of her being able to do her job is having a car. Carting women and kids to and fro, whipping women away from volatile situations, picking up women from the police, or hospitals….you get my drift. She was enormously reluctant to ask, I could tell. And I could also tell that she was asking but she didn’t think we could help her in a huge way. But she was also asking because she knows that The Aunties can make miracles happen.

So she asked. And I thought, quickly, as I’ve learned to do when processing a request: is it doable? How? And how much help can we provide realistically? So I gave her a figure, and said that’s about as much as we can do. And that was ok with her.

On further discussion, it transpired that actually, the car wasn’t worth fixing. And so, maybe, we could help get her a decent deposit on a car. I knew just the person who would sell her one. A woman of worth and integrity, who knows cars very well, who’s  lived in violence herself,  been a single mum, and she knows the score. I hooked them up, and I hatched a plan. If we could get $800, then that was going to be a really good start. I wasn’t terribly sure that that would happen, but I thought I’d give it a good go.

A couple of days before my birthday, I just thought it was worth using the fact that it was my birthday to give this fundraising a really good bloody go. I passed it by some besties, who told me to go for it. I thought it was cheeky, and perhaps may look a bit disingenous, but you don’t get anything unless you try. So I did.

I tweeted that instead of birthday wishes, or maybe alongside, people pop $5 in the givealittle. I also put a post on my personal FB page, and The Aunties one.  I think a few people caught onto it, and I RTed myself a couple of times. As you do.

And off it went. By 10am there was $2000. By 2pm, there was over $4000, and by this morning, there was $5000.

Yesterday, I did alot of crying, and gasping and saying to myself: YOU ARE KIDDING ME. I said thank you one thousand times over.

And today? Today I am 53 years and one day old, and my heart is like a 21 year olds.

I’ve been pretty lucky in this job. I’ve had a bit of recognition, I’ve got a lot of support, and there’s a really rock solid group of core Aunties who hold me up. But I’ve never seen anything like what happened yesterday.

So: I say this, and mean it.

The Aunties core values are about sustained support, and bringing joy and dignity to all people, but particularly those who have lived in violence. We meet need, with love, where it arises. There are many and varied ways this happens. But none of it happens without the use of social media, and none of it happens without you – the people who heed the requests I make on behalf of other people. and you give. You give. With love. That’s the bottom line. If you give anything in this world, for it to be meaningful, and purposeful, it has to be given with love.

And I am enormously grateful for all the love you gave yesterday.

Once again, I thank you. On behalf of a woman who needed a bit of help with a car, and now she’s getting a new one. On behalf of the women who staff the refuge, and all need to be mobile so they can do their job. On behalf of the women who live in the refuge, and need the staff to be mobile so that they can be safe.

Meeting needs with aroha. Getting it done.

Thank you.





What the Aunties Did: Jan, Feb 2017


School bags, blue hair, swimming lessons, food, phones and new collaborations – so much has happened in the last couple of months in the life of the Aunties we haven’t even officially reported in. Aunty Jackie has done a fine job of staying in touch with everyone, but here’s the official summary of what the Aunties did so far this year.

Let’s go back to Christmas when the Aunties pulled out all the stops to give women and kids in refuge as much seasonal glee as we could. There were presents for 86 kids (they were given three gifts each and the look of wonder in their eyes would warm your heart till Easter) and we also gave 20 luxury food hampers to women to make their Christmas special, too.

Since then we’ve also tried to give 2017 the best possible start. The Aunties paid for swimming lessons, and for a parenting course at the refuge. We bought 120 schoolbags, some clothes for a woman and her three children, and socks for another woman and her kids, and ordered some food online for two women. We also paid a phone bill, fixed a woman’s car, and moved furniture into a woman’s new house.

We got some very specific requests – a 13 year old wanted more than anything else to have her hair dyed blue, so we made that happen for her birthday. We provided sewing machines for two women, and we bought cakes for other women having birthdays.

The Aunties are very excited about a couple of new relationships. We are now working with the NZ Prostitutes Collective and we’ve bought toiletries, sanitary products, wipes, undies and food for them. Aunty Jackie goes to visit them once a week to take clothes and hotel toiletries which they make up into packs for street workers – so if you are travelling, grab those little bottles and pass them on to us. Aunty Jackie marched proudly with the NZPC in the Pride Parade in February. (They did her makeup, and she looked hot.)

We’ve also started a relationship with Rainbow Youth – we’ve bought them $400 worth of undies so far.

We’ve also bought mobile phones for the women in refuge – such an important part of keeping them safe – and paid for a woman to have her house valued so she is able to arrange the sale safely while her abuser is still living there.

And we know we’ve filled a lot of people’s hearts with joy – including our own, and yours we hope, too.

So thank you for being part of this, and let’s do some more!