Random acts of kindness: Helping Canterbury families

Natasha Oliver. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Natasha Oliver. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Natasha Oliver. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Natasha Oliver. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Natasha Oliver has been managing donations for struggling families for three years. The Rakaia resident speaks about her work with the Selwyn Kindness Initiatives group and her passion for helping people in need.

How did the idea for the group begin?

Just over three years ago I wanted to have a box made up for everything in it that people could have for Christmas Day. I was thinking roast meat, vegetables, decorations, Christmas trees and presents. I thought about how I could start it and went around to a few local businesses and put the word out. I didn’t have much of anything at that point and it is quite hard to get things started when people don’t know who you are. I managed to get the vegetables from Healthy Harvest, about $5000 worth of Christmas decorations from The Warehouse and we got brand new presents from within the community. My garage was full of stuff and there were plenty of trips to The Warehouse to pick up the decorations. I was thinking well what do I do now? How do we get the word out to those people that don’t have anything? I found that process quite tricky but I decided to ask for nominations of people to give them to. I found that people would nominate people who really didn’t need it and want to use it more of a thank you or sympathy gift and that was hard because I wanted to make sure the boxes went to families who had nothing. It was still really nice and we got some great feedback such as we would drop a box off to a school and it would go to a family who needed it within that school community. My family and I did that off our own backs. We spent two days delivering and it took us quite a while. The following year I knew I was going to need a team and that’s when I started the group. We had about 40 volunteers collecting food for about three months the first year and the second year we had about 30-something. There was a period a couple of years ago where I asked volunteers to come forward who had time to give such as lawn mowing and home cooking, things like that. We had that running for about three months and matched them with people in need.

What community work has the group done most recently?

I had some Easter buckets from New World in the North Island in my possession and I knew there are obviously going to be some children in the community missing out on Easter this year because of their family’s financial situation. I pulled the buckets out, contacted Rainbow Confectionery through a friend of mine who sent down some Easter eggs and then Covid-19 happened and we had to hold off. I thought we would add some colouring and things so the kids would have something to do. We have just been waiting for them to hand out and I dropped them off last week all sanitised and everything. I anonymously dropped off two buckets to a family in Rolleston and found out later that night the kids thought the Easter bunny had been released out of lockdown so he could deliver the eggs for them. I like to jump and run so people don’t know where the goodies have come from because some people didn’t want people to know they had nominated them. We were lucky enough to have all of the boxes for food collections donated by Storage King Rolleston for Christmas last year. We now drop off all of the food to the Ellesmere Food Bank because they cover quite a wide area around the district and they know who does really need it.

The Easter buckets donated to needy families last week. Photo: Supplied
The Easter buckets donated to needy families last week. Photo: Supplied
Why did you choose Rolleston as the base for the initiative?

Rolleston is our go-to in terms of shopping, petrol and everything. We think it is a good metropolitan area for the initiative. I don’t want to get too big and try to cover too much, we are just trying to do what we can.

What is next for the group?

We are always looking for volunteers. I am trying to get a team together to meet up soon, hopefully in the next couple of months. I have only so many ideas, whereas a team would have many more than I. I am wanting to start getting prepared for Christmas this year. I am so thankful for the people who have been a part of these initiatives for the last three years.

The group is heading into its fourth year now, what keeps you going?

 

Knowing there are people out there much worse off than I. I am grateful for what I have, I want to pay it back. I just sort of do what I can. I was a single mum 20 years ago and I know how hard it is for some families. Christmas is my favourite time of the year and I hate the idea of going away, sitting there on Christmas Day and having everything we need knowing there are families out there who have nothing. I just can’t deal with that. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that I have empathy and I absorb all the wrongdoings of the world and I mourn for all of the sad things.

What do you do for work?

At the moment I am working at Little India Restaurant in Rolleston. I have been working there since late last year. I have been in hospitality for eight years. I trained as a teacher and then jumped into hospitality after the February 22, 2011, earthquake and haven’t looked back. Another avenue I am wanting to follow is supporting hospitality businesses. I know a lot of them are closing down now which is sad. I haven’t quite worked out how to follow that path but we will see.

Could you tell me a bit about your family?

I am married to a soldier based at Burnham Military Camp. I have two children and they are 21 and 23.

 

 

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