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Real Life

Women of Courage Award winner helping the homeless

Meet the winner of the 2015 Lesley Pearse Women of Courage Award, Amy Burke, in association with New Zealand Woman’s Weekly.

Imagine chucking in your regular job to commit yourself, without any financial reward whatsoever, to the needs of others. That’s what Christchurch mum Amy Burke has done. Nominated by someone who has seen and admired her work, Amy is our 2015 Women of Courage Award winner, and will be flown to Auckland for a day of pampering.
When Amy finished her cleaning job late one night and found people sifting through rubbish bins at the city’s Re-Start Mall, she couldn’t look away. Instead, she began heating up leftover food and bringing it out to them on the streets. And in her New Brighton home, she started raiding her partner and her sons’ wardrobes for warm clothes to give away.
“It would break my heart,” she recalls of seeing the poverty around her, “especially when I’d see all the food that would get wasted at work. I thought, ‘Maybe there’s something I can do about this.'”
Assisted by her family, Amy works seven days a week to assist local homeless people, including running a meal service.
Amy says her partner Spencer (40) has supported her all the way, even though trading in her paid job for voluntary work has put some financial strain on the family. The couple’s children, Neihana (17) Mana (12), William (9) and Nevaeh (7) also pitch in.
“I’ve had Spencer cooking the meals at home, while the kids have been making care packs and I’ve been out doing the rounds. They’re all really proud of what we’re doing. I hope I’ve helped them see there’s more to life than taking.”
Amy’s less willing to talk up her own accomplishments, crediting those who have contributed donations, helped with meal services and raised funds for the charity’s success. Only the other day, a local mother messaged her to say her seven-year-old girl had named her as her hero. Amy says while that title’s pretty cool, the recognition is unnecessary.
“I just do it because it needs to be done,” she says modestly. “In five years’ time, I’d like to not be doing this. I hope there’ll no longer be the need. We’re going to keep plugging away at this problem until we get it solved.”
As she isn’t paid for her work, Amy relies on donations from supporters to keep Help for the Homeless going.
Amy says her partner Spencer (40) has supported her all the way, even though trading in her paid job for voluntary work has put some financial strain on the family. The couple’s children, Neihana (17) Mana (12), William (9) and Nevaeh (7) also pitch in.
“I’ve had Spencer cooking the meals at home, while the kids have been making care packs and I’ve been out doing the rounds. They’re all really proud of what we’re doing. I hope I’ve helped them see there’s more to life than taking.”
Amy’s less willing to talk up her own accomplishments, crediting those who have contributed donations, helped with meal services and raised funds for the charity’s success. Only the other day, a local mother messaged her to say her seven-year-old girl had named her as her hero. Amy says while that title’s pretty cool, the recognition is unnecessary.
“I just do it because it needs to be done,” she says modestly. “In five years’ time, I’d like to not be doing this. I hope there’ll no longer be the need. We’re going to keep plugging away at this problem until we get it solved.”
Amy was spurred on to create Help for the Homeless after seeing people sifting through rubbish bins at Christchurch’s Re-Start Mall. “I thought, ‘Maybe there’s something I can do about this.'”
Lesley Pearse tells:
“I have chosen Amy to be my winner. Those who work tirelessly for others for no personal gain are truly good, courageous people. Amy’s work with the homeless of Christchurch is splendid. I applaud her.”
Words by: Anastasia Hedge

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