Real Life

Sarah Page’s fight against poverty

From collecting cans to winning awards, the charity queen remains humble

After founding The Kindness Collective and changing thousands of lives across Aotearoa, West Aucklander Sarah Page has received the recognition she deserves, with the charity winning the New Zealand Community of the Year Award.

“I didn’t expect we would win,” Sarah humbly admits. “One of the charities we were up against is so incredible and I just expected they would win. Then halfway through the night, I thought, ‘What if it’s us?’ and started jotting notes down on my phone in case I had to give a speech. It turned out I did!”

For onlookers, the accolade comes as no surprise.

“The last two-and-a-half years have been insane,” tells Sarah. “We now have six regional coordinators around the country and a community hub in Auckland’s Mount Eden. We’ve also contributed more than $7 million worth of money and resources to people in need across Aotearoa since 2020. It’s just been nuts.”

PM Chris Hipkins with some of 2023 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards winners (from left) Emily Blythe, Sarah, Shaneel Lal and Camden Howitt.

Adding to her busyness was the Auckland floods and February’s Cyclone Gabrielle, which kicked The Kindness Collective’s urgency up a gear.

“The floods hit Auckland on the night of Friday, January 27, and the next day we immediately opened the hub and sprang into action,” Sarah recalls. “Since then, we’ve put about $1.4 million worth of money, food, toiletries, bedding and new resources into the community, and have also had trucks of second-hand items distributed as well.

“We’ve also been really active in Hawke’s Bay, focusing our efforts on the families and communities that don’t have insurance, or the ability to just go out and buy a new washing machine,” the 41-year-old tells.

“It’s always heavy on my mind that the communities you want to hurt the least, get hit the hardest. So many families are already living in poverty and then something like this happens. It really isn’t fair.”

Reflecting on how far the charity has come, she says, “Some of the things that have happened are beyond my wildest dreams.”

Of those early days, Sarah explains, “This all started as just a behind-the-scenes passion project back in 2014 after a bit of a challenging time. After my son Max [now 10] was born, I had postnatal depression. He was diagnosed with autism very young.

“My husband and I started rallying friends and family to empty cans out of their cupboards and donate them to the local Women’s Refuge. I learned it’s really hard for your brain to be depressed when you’re so focused on gratitude, giving back and doing things for other people.”

Realising the potential of the project, Sarah began expanding her donation inventory from food and toiletries to children’s Christmas presents and other staple household items.

“Our first Christmas drive in 2015 gave 57 children presents,” she recalls. “Last year, we helped 10,370 children, so it’s growing quite a bit!”

Sarah is quick to add that the success of The Kindness Collective is due to a large number of supporters, including husband Dave, 50, who left his job last year to come aboard the charity full-time, after spending the last eight years helping out during the weekends, evenings and on his days off.

“It’s great we now get to work together,” Sarah enthuses. “Our entire family is incredibly supportive and everyone has been involved. My stepchildren [Helena, 28, and Gabby, 25] volunteer a lot.

“We work seven days a week, 365 days a year, so it’s definitely a community effort. The most special thing about our recent win is it acknowledges everybody involved, not just me. Our social workers, teachers and people we work with on an everyday basis.”

When asked how they celebrated the win, Sarah exclaims, “Oh, my goodness, we haven’t! We literally went right back to work at eight o’clock on Friday morning,” although she agrees some Champagne

may be in order.

Winning team: Sarah with Lorren Hawkins (left) and Ellie Roberts.

The Kindness Collective has recently wrapped up a PJ Project, in collaboration with Postie, providing 11,000 pairs of warm winter pyjamas to children in need. And it is now partnering with The Warehouse for a Mega Toy Sale, with $50,000 worth of toys being donated to children across Aotearoa.

“It just makes me feel so proud,” Sarah says.

“My greatest joy is being able to provide for so many people who work so hard, and parents who are working two jobs just to try and make ends meet, and yet still have to choose between putting

food on the table, taking their child to the doctors or paying rent.

“Those families drive me to work harder and increase The Kindness Collective’s community so we can give even more.”

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