Career

I started a business which enables people to give practical help to those in need

Family and friends are all over the world now and everyone is time poor. So we wanted to make it really simple.

By: Ciara Pratt

Janey Carr has lived all over the world, but in every country she's been in, one thing has remained a constant – everybody needs help and more often than not, people are too afraid to ask for it.

It's something she's seen in her own life through her parents. When she was 18, Janey's mother Roz (69) was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and given two months to live. Luckily, she responded to treatment but what followed for her family was a 30-year battle.

"She's had cancer on and off, which has been quite difficult, especially for my stepfather Stuart," Janey (48) explains from her home in West Auckland.

"All the treatment, it just takes over your life. They've had a really good support network where they live in Australia and, unfortunately, for most of those times when she's had to have treatment, I haven't been in the country."

Janey and her husband Andrew, pictured below with son Laud, have found a way to make a difference with swathe.me.

Janey had been living in London with her husband Andrew and their son Laud (10) during this time. But in February 2015, Roz suffered complications from surgery and Janey flew to be by her side.

"They weren't sure if she would pull through as she'd gone into a coma. And so I took Laud to Australia and we waited at the hospital. But I was able to finally see the impact it was having on Stuart in particular.
It really hit home."

While caring for his wife, Stuart was juggling his jewellery shop and looking after their dog, who also needed care.

"The dog didn't like being at home for hours on end, so Stuart would keep him in the car at the hospital. He would spend so much time on the phone fielding texts and calls from everyone wanting to know what was going on, and he'd go home exhausted every night.

"So even though he had a great group of friends who were supporting him, he didn't actually ask for help. That's when I saw this real disconnect about people who really need the help but don't like to ask for it. And there are people who really want to help but aren't able to ask or don't know how to."

For a few days, Janey brainstormed the different ways she could help, before realising she had the chance to create something that could offer widespread practical help to people across the country. And so the support platform swathe.me was born.

Launched 18 months ago, the swathe.me card can be loaded with funds from friends and family so a person in need can use 100% of the money on practical help such as home needs or babysitting services.

"Family and friends are all over the world now and everyone is time poor. So we wanted to make it really simple. We created the direct support platform and, basically, you make a list of all the things you aren't able to do − like walking the dog, making a meal, picking up a prescription − everyday things because suddenly they become big things when your life is turned upside down.

"And the person in need knows who is offering that help and who they can call on," says Janey.

"My stepfather, he didn't know what help he needed at that time. I was speaking to one lady down on the West Coast of the South Island on a big station farm. She had stage four cancer, which sadly she has now passed away from, but she had five kids and she had to drive herself to hospital, an eight-hour return trip, for treatment. She had no-one to look after the kids, the neighbour was too far away and had kids of their own. What do people do in that situation? It's all about rallying around."

Already, swathe.me has become a full-time endeavour for the pair, on top of Andrew's telecommunications role. But it's worth it, she says, because they can see the difference it is making for those people who may have been struggling on their own.

"An elderly man with multiple sclerosis is having his card loaded with money so he can get a regular taxi to the hospital, and a lady has someone doing her gardening and they're forming quite the friendship! What has amazed me is how many people want to be involved, to make a difference," Janey continues.

"And we think the timing is right for something like this – everyone is feeling the need for connection, and community and to feel valued."