Grate­ful for post-quake aid

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By LAUREN PRI­EST­LEY

PAUL SEX­TON and his 5-year-old daugh­ter Sap­phire have been leading a gypsy life for three years.

The lit­tle fam­ily was up­rooted af­ter the de­struc­tive Fe­bru­ary 22 Christchurch earthquake in 2011.

The shake dev­as­tated the Sex­tons’ Aranui home, ru­in­ing most of their pos­ses­sions and leav­ing them with­out wa­ter, power or a work­ing sewage sys­tem.

They came to Auck­land in 2013 with just one suit­case be­tween them.

But they have now set­tled into a new life in Mt Roskill and are thriv­ing. It couldn’t have hap­pened with­out a huge amount of help, Mr Sex­ton says. ‘‘We just had ab­so­lutely noth­ing when we got up here.

‘‘It just knocked Christchurch for six. I’ve got no fam­ily sup­port or any­thing here. The help we’ve been get­ting has saved us.’’

They ini­tially stayed with friends and rel­a­tives in Christchurch, sleep­ing on mat­tresses and in garages.

There was nowhere to stay when they first ar­rived in Auck­land so they moved into a board­ing house in Avon­dale.

But there were some un­savoury ten­ants and it wasn’t a great en­vi­ron­ment for a lit­tle girl to be in, so they moved to emer­gency hous­ing in Man­gere.

‘‘There’s so many places that are un­suit­able for kids in that sit­u­a­tion.

‘‘When we got to the new place it was amaz­ing. There were other kids and a play­ground for her. It was ev­ery­thing.’’

They were then moved to a Mt Roskill state house and have im­mersed them­selves in the com­mu­nity. Mr Sex­ton helps out at the com­mu­nity cen­tre and Sap­phire is in her first year at school.

Va­ri­ety – The Chil­dren’s Char­ity stepped in to help with the tran­si­tion.

Sap­phire was given a new school uni­form, books, shoes, cloth­ing and toys as part of the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s Kiwi Kids Spon­sor­ship pro­gramme.

She’s par­tic­u­larly pleased with the sparkly new pink glasses she re­ceived.

Sap­phire is also go­ing through coun­selling to help with the trauma of the earthquake, Mr Sex­ton says.

‘‘If we stand near a rail­way track or any kind of rum­bling, she’ll still grab hold of me be­cause of the earthquakes. It stays with them for so long.’’

He says other fam­i­lies in need should look into the Va­ri­ety ini­tiat- ive and see if they are el­i­gi­ble.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion has been a life­line in such a des­per­ate sit­u­a­tion, he says.

‘‘There’ll def­i­nitely be other fam­i­lies out there who don’t know about Va­ri­ety but I know for a fact that it could help them.

‘‘We’ve been some of the lucky ones.’’

Va­ri­ety chief ex­ec­u­tive Lor­raine Tay­lor says there has been a sharp rise in ur­gent re­quests for help this month.

The ini­tia­tive was born out of 2012 com­mu­nity re­search show­ing a grow­ing di­vide be­tween the ‘‘haves’’ and the ‘‘have nots’’, she says.

It tied in with the 2012 re­port from the Chil­dren’s Com­mis­sioner stat­ing 280,000 New Zealand chil­dren were liv­ing in poverty.

‘‘It’s not just chil­dren over­seas. It’s ac­tu­ally chil­dren in our own com­mu­ni­ties that are strug­gling.

‘‘This was one way people can help a child in their own back­yard.’’

Spon­sors are linked up with in­di­vid­ual chil­dren to help out with their spe­cific needs, she says. There are nearly 200 chil­dren cur­rently on the wait­ing list.

‘‘Spon­sors are one thing we’re al­ways need­ing. These lit­tle things can re­ally trans­form a child’s life.’’

Photo: LAUREN PRI­EST­LEY

Stick­ing to­gether: Paul Sex­ton and his daugh­ter Sap­phire are thank­ful for the help they got to get back on their feet.

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