A Day Spent Auntying With The Aunty-In-Charge

Yesterday was a big donations pick up day. I asked a friend, Blair, if he would come and help me. And then I asked him if he’d write about it, in an effort to make other people maybe think about doing it too. These are his words (and I didn’t pay him, I promise).

Jackie Clark is technically the liaison, advocate and founder of The Aunties but really, she is just a force of nature with a mind like a steel trap, a huge heart and the irrepressible gift of the gab. She is also great company so when she indicated she was doing a charity goods pickup, I offered to help. Not out of a sense of obligation but because I knew we’d have fun.

Jackie has a little car and I have a larger wagon so I became the driver. My first pick up was Jackie, and then we were off! Eight pickups across greater Auckland. Jackie had another prized possession firmly in her left hand, a new phone, and she immediately put it to good use activating the GPS navigator. The car was filled with banter as the three of us chatted, organised and directed. Two human voices were competing for airspace with a bossy electronic third that repeatedly ordered us to; ‘Take the first exit at the roundabout’. Jackie soothed and gently mollified the digital harridan as you would a toddler having a tantrum while she simultaneously provided firm directional hand signals to the other, slightly flustered, human occupant. We reach our first destination.

It was clear from the onset that Jackie had prepared the groundwork. Precise instructions on what was acceptable had been delivered and received. Bags were waiting at doors, neatly organised and their contents labelled. These specific instructions were reiterated along with hugs and kisses with the donor. I was offered a welcome coffee and so began a pattern for the day; The items were quickly and efficiently packed into the car within a minute, a beverage offered and a conversation started.

I listened with fascination as interesting people talked on a variety of topics with passion and flair. Jackie can talk and does so but she is also a wonderful listener and responded ably and knowledgeably to whatever topic was under discussion. A wide scope of topics was covered and the way of things dissected with gusto. I listened and learned. I drank my coffee. There was always time before leaving for Jackie to engage with the children, admire a treasured pet/home/piece of art/panoramic view and cuddle a child, pet or both. Less than an hour at each stop would have just been rude!

The playful driving conversational tri-play would then continue as we entered unexplored parts of West Auckland. More pick ups were completed, more lovely people met for the first time. More hugs from Jackie as we left and hand shakes proffered to me. The wagon was filling and so was my bladder after the diuretic effects of multiple cups of coffee. Jackie showed her experience at each stage by declining the offer. Still, tummies were grumbling and it was time to eat.

Three more pickups in the afternoon and we were done. There was no more space in the wagon. It was time to head for home.

The wagon was unpacked into a storage locker. Jackie thanked me again and impressed on me that she wouldn’t have been able to do it without me. I doubt that, having had some insight into her determination and resourcefulness, but I was happy to help and quite honestly, I got more out of helping than she would know. It really was a fun day and it flew by.

People were extraordinarily generous with their donations, time and company. They, for the most part, assiduously followed packing instructions and we were always welcomed in. While we shared plenty of laughs, like when we almost packed a donor’s refuse into the car or when a peacock was spotted posing like a weather-vain on a neighbour’s roof, what left the biggest impression of the day was the love on display. Love from the donors for the people of Auckland in need and love for Jackie and what she does. I was very proud to have helped today and so I’ve decided to help out again whenever Jackie needs me to… or did Jackie decide that… I’m slightly unclear. Anyway, it was great fun and such a rewarding experience.

Thank you Jackie, all the Aunties and the generous donors of Auckland. I had a blast.

Blair Mckinnon



It’s that time of year. A time to give thanks to everyone who helped make 85 kids Xmas a bit brighter.

For those of you unfamiliar with #refugexmas, it goes a bit like this. 3 years ago, a group of us decided we would give all the kids living in the refuge a bit of Xmas. It was all a bit overwhelming for everyone involved. I seem to remember 200 people bought presents for 40 or so kids. Some bought more than one, so we were inundated. Logistically, I was a bit out of my depth.  I matched up each person with a child, we had a huge wrapping party, and we made up banana box food parcels for the women, I went to my first refuge xmas party and this is what that looked like.  Things have changed somewhat. I now coordinate a larger group of Aunties, I think I’m a bit better at the SM stuff, and we are doing Xmas for more kids than ever, this year from 4 refuges and a whānau house that cares for families in crisis. This year, I tried a different tack. I asked people to send in gifts, so that there would be enough for heaps of kids, and also for birthdays throughout the next year. I had no idea if this would work or not, but it seemed to, as most things do in their own way. There were groups of people having buying sprees and people popping gift cards in the post. The pressies were stored in the storage unit – another new development – and we had a gathering of eight of us to wrap them all a couple of days before the refuge xmas party. The rest were delivered to their respective refuges, and it was done for another year.

Now, to be honest, it’s a logistical challenge. I’m learning all the time about what works best, and what not to do. For example: the willy nilly sending of presents works extremely well. For four years, I’ve been relying on people’s good will and generosity and none of you have let me down yet. What didn’t work so much was my disorganisation. Next year, bigger storage bins so I can sort age groups as I go, more effectively. And maybe start a little earlier. Provide presents for teenaged boys, who are notoriously difficult to get pressies for and who are easily forgotten in all the fuss. I’m also convinced I should coordinate people to send as many pressies as possible so that we have enough to take a good big load down to the City Mission.

So that’s next year. Be warned! I’ll be asking for pressies from October!

And back to this year. So many people to thank. Xmas has become, effectively, the only time when Aunties actually get to do stuff together, if in small groups. The shopping for the womens xmas baskets, and the wrapping. And that’s it. Other than that, Aunties don’t get to volunteer, really. I just ask for money and stuff, and it arrives and then I do the stuff that needs doing. So it’s a bit of a special thing, this Xmas malarkey. A lovely lovely thing.

Thank you to Paul and Abbey, Rachel and Chantel, Rosie and Alex who came to do the shopping for the women’s gift baskets. The fastest shopping trip yet, and the baskets turned out beautifully.

Thank you Hillary and Gloria and Alex for the gorgeous soaps and toiletries which were put in the staff gift baskets. They look forward to them every year!

Thanks to my lovely Helene who’s having a really rough time right now, and despite all that, gave me booty for the women – which got waylaid and delivered to the City Mission instead…..

Many thanks to DePaul House in Northcote who donated presents which were given to the City Mission, because we had so many.

Thank you to Mary, Kerry, Alison, Romilly, Susan, Trish and Claudine who sorted and wrapped all the presents and put up with me panicking and flapping my hands with said panic. We got it done though…..

Thanks to Kirsti for delivering a new bike to two very happy kids.

Thank you to Heather who coordinated presents for a couple of refuges in Christchurch, and got Sherry to bring another huge suitcase up for us as well!

Thanks to everyone who sent presents. Really. You went completely over the top, and actually that was just what was needed, and worked beautifully.

Thank you in particular to: Fliss, Penny,  Hariata, Rikki, Kate, Claire, Allison, Siobhan, Victoria, Leonie, Rachel, Jenni, Phil, Julie, Michéle, Jackson, and everyone who sent, or brought me,  presents for the kids. Some of you sent named boxes, some of you didn’t, and that’s likely something I need to do next year. Take a note of everyone’s names so I can thank you effectively!

Many thanks to everyone who put money in the givealittle so that we could fill the womens baskets and buy them PNS gift vouchers. Thank you Sue, Toni, B, Caroline, Sabine, David, Suzi, Tracey, Ceara, Georgie, Heather, and Jen amongst many anonymous others.

Many thanks to everyone who helped to make these women and kids have a better xmas than their last ones. And thanks especially to those of you who gave gifts and stuff for J, who has just had her baby and is feeling a little overwhelmed, and A* who is in a new home, free from pain (she calls her past her book of hurt), and absolutely thrilled with everyone’s kindness to her. Thanks to many of you, she not only has Xmas but also furniture!

Thank you above all to Michéle, Jackson, Elaine, Phil, Paul and Julie who, every day, have sent me gifs to cheer me on, and been such a bloody asset, I cannot be more thankful. They have made all of this so much easier.

Three years ago, all of this, The Aunties, had only just begun. Now, well, so much change has happened. So many good things have happened. So much love from you all to the women. Xmas is a time for kids, traditionally, but in this case, it really makes a difference for their mums, too. Thank you.

Women’s Refuge Appeal Month

July  is Women’s Refuge Appeal month.  All refuges are run independently, and funded independently and they all need your donations. You can either give to the national organisation National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges – this is a national advocacy and lobbying group to which most refuges in NZ are affiliated. They work tirelessly to raise awareness of domestic violence and advocate for women and children escaping family violence in New Zealand.

You can also choose to donate to individual women’s refuges. As I said, all are run independently – most are charitable trusts – and funded independently. All receive funding from the Ministry of Social Development, but all struggle to get by and survive, and only do so through donations and grants applied for. The work I do is fairly unusual in that usually donations are coordinated by refuge staff, and as you can imagine, they have to expend precious time doing this and their other important work as well. They really do need all the help they can get, and money is the biggest way you can help them.

You can either ring them and get their bank account details – most can be found here. There are 54 refuges listed on the Women’s Refuge NZ website, and there are others, in NZ, that are not affiliated to NWCIR and are not on that page. Most women’s refuges  contact details can be found simply by googling or looking in the phone book.

Some women’s refuges have givealittle pages or fundraising links on websites and so I thought it may be useful to have those links for you here. I’ll add more throughout the month. A useful place to start is Healthpages – most refuges are listed here.

Auckland Women’s Refuge Collective

Tauranga Women’s Refuge

The Aunties – raising donations for Te Whare Marama, and to provide sustainable support for marginalised and vulnerable people.

Shakti – Ethnic Women’s Refuges

Kaitaia Women’s Refuge

Whare Manaaki – Porirua Women’s Refuge

Taranaki Women’s Refuge

Hastings Women’s Refuge

AvivaFamilies – Chch Women’s Refuge

West Chch Women’s Refuge


Some big projects – how you can help

I’m a teacher, which means it’s the holidays soon, and what that means for the Aunties is that usually we do a big shop for all the women and their children residing in two refuges. This time, we will be doing that and we are also filling another 20 toilet bags. (We have 125 more to fill out of 135 so we’re doing them in 10’s at a time).

I’d also like the Aunties to do a volunteer day at Te Puea Marae, and excitingly I’ve decided it would be a lovely idea to take the Te Puea whānau on a trip. I’m in discussions currently with some people, as you do, and the idea that we will pay to hire a bus, and buy everyone lunch at the destination (who I’m working with to let the whānau come in for free).

How can you help? We have enough funds to cover trip expenses, and the grocery  and toiletries shopping. If you’d like to contribute financially, however, that’s always appreciated. You can do that here. But the biggest way you can help is by showing up.

The shopping for toiletries and groceries will likely be on Saturday the 16th of  July. I’m going to need at least 12 people to turn up. Some will do the grocery shopping – you will have shopping lists written by the women with their specific requirements. Some will do the toiletries – this bit is easy. We just need 20 items each of around 8 products and the list is always the same.

I also need people willing to volunteer at the Marae, and others who would like to accompany the Te Puea trip.

If any sounds like you, please contact me on whaeapower@aunties.co.nz

Or you can DM me at @whaeapower – my DMs are open.

Many thanks

Jackie Clark