A Community Action of Kindness Brings Warmth to Many
A community activated action of kindness will again bring much needed warmth to thousands of children and families across Auckland this winter. ‘Give A Kid A Blanket’ was established in 2015 by social practice artists Bernie Harfleet and Donna Turtle Sarten. The initiative provides vulnerable children and their with blankets
and other warmth for winter.
These donations come from across the wider Auckland area and beyond. While providing practical support for those in need, the project does not focus on recipients, which can be victimising, but rather the actions of kindness from donors which the project joins together to form a community action of kindness.
“We hope items will be either new or in excellent pre-loved condition” says Sarten. “We want recipients not only to feel warmer, but importantly valued by the community”.
“The donated items are requested for families through public health nurses, and social workers and community workers. Once orders are made up they are gifted to children and their families through these professionals. “We don’t meet the families” says Harfleet. “These ‘hands on’ workers are the experts, gifting through them means families get what they need for better outcomes”.
“The idea started as a response to a coroner’s report on a three-year-old girl who died, in part because of her families cold and damp living conditions. This winter, kids and families face a harsh winter living in cars, sleep-outs, garages and damp, cold houses. Our aim is to keep more families warm.”
In their first winter, Give a Kid a Blanket gifted 1200 blankets, and the number has doubled every winter since. In 2018, Give A Kid A Blanket donated 17,500 blankets and over 5000 other warm items like beanies, coats, hats, new hot water bottles and jackets to families in West Auckland and the wider Auckland area.
They say they lucky to be offered a free space to store and sort all of the donated goods by The Trusts.
“This is a community action, and The Trusts are part of the West Auckland community. Having a base like this from The Trusts is fantastic – it’s hard to get short-term leases for projects like ours, but it’s badly needed in the community,” Harfleet says. “We get feedback telling us what a difference it’s made to the children’s’ health and school results simply because they are getting a full night’s sleep, and the cold isn’t waking them up any more. We run the project for a short time over winter, but the reality is that people need what we do permanently.”
The Trusts chief executive Simon Wickham says his team were pleased to be able to help with logistics and support such a worthy charity.
“As we enter the peak of the winter season, a warm bed at night becomes a fundamental health need for our tamariki. Our work with local charity groups has helped us to see the critical need for us to play our part in helping those living in challenging circumstances provide for their families. “We are happy to be able to offer Give a Kid A Blanket support with their logistics and warehousing so they could mobilise their efforts and ensure that these blankets are kept in great condition and get to the children who need them most,” says Wickham.
Both Sarten and Harfleet have each twice been nominated for New Zealander of the Year for their work, say they would love to see the concept adopted nationwide. They have provided other communities with a written model and advice, which last winter saw five other community blanket collections begin. They are thrilled to see both Waikato and Rotorua are back for a second winter collecting and gifting within their communities.
Give A Kid A Blanket are collecting new and excellent quality blankets, duvets and other warm items from 1st June until 21st July 2019. For more information on how you can help visit their Facebook page.