2020 New Zealand Local Hero of the Year Semi-Finalists

14 Dec 2019

Local Hero of the Year
Local Hero of the Year

This award honours a person or group whose selflessness and determination have made a difference in the community. Meet our 10 semi-finalists.

Kenneth (Ken) Clearwater

Ken Clearwater

Ken Clearwater has worked relentlessly and tirelessly for over the last 23 years advocating for male survivors of sexual abuse. Ken is the human door that men open to the path of healing; he is there at the end of the phone or for a cuppa and a chat, or to invite them to a support group.

Ken was instrumental in establishing support centres in the North Island and the lower South Island. As well as healing New Zealand men he has also made international connections with male survivor organisations around the world, including Africa with the United Nations.

Ken was the key advisor to ACC, challenging the organisation, and was a key factor in ACC changing their services for sensitive claims clients which has made sure that more survivors, women, men and children are accessing the help they need.

He remembers what it was like for him in the beginning when there was no help nor funding available. This drives him to fight for the underdog and battle to "fix" the system so that other survivors can seek the help they need and move forward to heal their wounds.

Ken is respected by many in his field and is an inspiration to many. He has saved many lives, too many to count and is always there for "his guys". He always responds when men are reaching out saying they are not OK.

Helen Jackson

Helen Jackson

Fifteen years ago, Helen Jackson set up the Guardian Angel Trust to address poverty in Paediatric Palliative Care in New Zealand. This small charity has become instrumental in providing support and dignity during the last weeks, months and sometimes years of a child’s life.

Helen raises awareness and money, through word of mouth, meets all costs and gives all the donated money to the families they support.

Due to the sensitive nature of the work, this charitable work is done quietly and discreetly in the homes of New Zealand children and their families who have been referred to the Paediatric Palliative Care Team at Starship Children’s Hospital.

With the amazing advances in medical care having been made over the past several decades, dying and death in childhood is thankfully becoming rarer. Sadly, it has become more hidden in our communities and there is little community understanding of the needs of whanau whose children transition to palliative care.

When faced with this situation often the “second income” must be given up to care for the sick child, as well as the rest of the family, through this very stressful time. This period of whanau life has been described as a “gentle slide into poverty.” It becomes even more so if the primary income must also be suspended. Government benefit support is often unavailable, and many whanau must rely on extended family, loans or charitable support. The Guardian Angel Trust addresses the practical needs of whanau during this highly sensitive time: supporting with food; help with household bills (especially telephone bills to keep families connected to vital support and to each other); warm bedding; clothing and help with school costs; as well as the many incidental costs that arise through this period and immediately after the death of a child.

Helen, with her fellow trustee Leanne Hegan, have been doing this work for the past 15 years with little public profile, no public fundraising and little awareness of their work and yet, so many children and their whanau have benefited from the support they have had from Guardian Angels. In supporting these children and their whanau on and through a journey that no parent or whanau would choose to walk, the work these two women do is immeasurable.

Nick Loosley

Nick Loosley

It was while studying in England that Nick Loosley began to think and learn of alternate ways to reduce food waste. Nick who owns The Gables Restaurant and Hone's Garden in Russell, came up with the concept of Everybody Eats while researching his Masters in Economics for Transition.

Since returning to NZ over two years ago, Nick has saved over 30 tonnes of good food from going into landfills and provided more than 30,000 restaurant-quality meals to people, most of whom could not afford to pay. Thousands more have paid, some vey generously, to help cover those that cannot. Everybody Eats is a registered charity but aims to cover most costs through the pay-as-you-feel model, rather than with grants and agency funding. Their latest restaurant raised $120K last year through a crowdfunding campaign.

Everybody Eats’ aim is feeding the whole community with food that would otherwise be destined to be thrown out as waste. Collected from the food rescue charity Kiwi Harvest or a local supermarkets and various other businesses, almost all of the food on the menu has been rescued. It might be day old bread, tins of food close to their use-by date or fruit and vegies just past their shop best that Nick and his team, mainly volunteers, creatively use to put together three-course meals, sometimes fed to more than 300 people.

Diners come from a wide spectrum of the community, each of whom donate if they can afford it, towards the cost of the meal. Nick is then able to use some of these donations the following week to purchase additional items needed to turn the meals into something a little special – things like cream for the soup, eggs to make desserts and herbs to add extra flavour.

Nick has also been able to involve a diverse volunteer base to support the restaurants. These volunteers include chefs and those with restaurant experience through to home cooks and those who are just excited by and want to support his vision. They have also worked with most of Auckland’s top chefs including Josh Emett, Dariush Lolairy, Javier Carmona, Ben Bayley, Nick Honeyman, Jo Pearson and Des Harris.

The point of difference at Everybody Eats is that this is not a regular soup kitchen. While its main reason for being is to feed those who are struggling financially, the restaurant is open to anyone. Here people of all backgrounds come together, sitting at communal tables and served by the volunteer wait staff. The volunteer-run restaurant promotes connection by using communal tables and breaks down social barriers with people from all walks of life, and different cultures all enjoying a meal together.

Hannah Noble

Hannah Noble

From the outside, Hannah Noble is “just a mum” living in the Chatham Islands, but her passion for seeing Kiwis connected and motivated over a shared interest has led her to create multiple online Facebook groups since 2012 which are now a safe and inspiring place to connect for over 220,000 Kiwis.

We have traditionally thought of communities as being physical things, but times are changing, and more and more people are making meaningful and life-changing connections through online communities of interest. These communities can be led from locations quite distant from where their members live and are available to members 24/7, 365 days a year.

Hannah has created the biggest New Zealand online communities around topics such as cheaper living, keto [high fat, low carb], organising the home and doing renovations cheaply. Hannah has founded Cheaper Living NZ, Organised Chaos, Frugal Kitchen NZ, Frugal Renovations & DIY NZ, and Keto NZ.

Through the Keto New Zealand group, 62,000 people are now connecting in ways that are improving their physical, emotional and social health. Recently, 1868 members shared that they lost 25,058kg - averaging 13.4kg per person. Hannah strongly leads the group and the teams that administrate them in a way that allows people to feel safe sharing what are often very vulnerable moments. One of the key principles in the groups is to always show kindness.

Hannah knew what it was like to struggle, so she actively reached out to those who were struggling to help them connect with others in similar situations through the Facebook Groups, providing a supportive, constructive environment, which she has managed with grace.

Hilary Price

Hilary Price

Hilary Price is a teacher, mother, granny, social worker, play therapist and a fearless fighter for children’s rights. She has always been passionate about children.

As founder of Homes of Hope (HofH) in the Bay of Plenty, Hilary holds a long-term vision and aspiration for each child who comes into her care and is committed to providing a care service which results in a life-long journey of supportive relationships with them wherever possible.

Over the past 16 years, with the backing of her team and an army of volunteers, Hilary has supported and nurtured more than 250 broken young lives towards becoming happy, confident, well-adjusted people who go on to contribute to the world in meaningful ways.

Hilary is a strong advocate for and is committed to the children placed in the care of HofH who are historically, by far, the most marginalised and poorly resourced in the social service sector. The children belong to an invisible tribe of 254 children (of the total 6000 children nationwide in foster care) cared for by Hilary and HofH since 2003. She believes this service is ‘top of the cliff’ for each young life, breaking the cycle and ensuring each child’s life is integrated into society, contributing meaningfully and positively as their authentic selves.

Children are always front of mind in every decision made by her. She leads from the front and her strong values trickle down throughout the team around her. She is highly respected and loved by not only the children but also her team.

At HofH, Hilary is passionate about protecting, caring for and assisting the healing recovery of children, age 0 to 12, in our community who have been traumatised due to significant and sustained abuse and neglect. This is done by providing homes in which trauma-experienced children can stay together as brothers and sisters for as long as they need to (which has been up to seven years). They don't get moved from pillar to post whilst in away-from-home care, and they receive consistent wrap-around care and therapeutic support to assist their road to recovery and to see them flourish. Broken children transform under her leadership and that of their House Parents, in homes full of niceties and comfort. Their life experiences are enriched through successful participation in team sports and cultural pursuits.

Forty-two per cent of funding for HofH comes from the government with the remaining funds (approximately $500,000 per annum) raised through fundraising activities for which task Hilary is always front and centre.

The work Hilary has dedicated her life to has changed the course of many, many children’s lives and broken the cycle of abuse.

Irene Joy Rama

Irene Rama

Irene Rama is a quiet, hardworking woman committed to making a difference. She has the love and respect of those who know her and is one of those people who has the gift to enable people to be their best.

A mother of seven, two of whom she buried, and five others living with mental illness, Irene is an eternal optimist who believes the answer is just to love more and give more. This is an approach to life she shares with her own whanau, her 48 mokopuna, and to most of Auckland's homeless and their children.

Irene was a teen mum and had her first baby at 17. She has worked in many roles from night cleaner to caregiver and was one of the original street social workers in the 70s, providing an unofficial unfunded youth night shelter in a double garage of her home.

After her kids grew up, Irene went back to school, continuing to work full time while studying. When she missed out on her choice to go nursing, she applied for and was accepted on the social work course. On graduating she got a job working for the Auckland City Mission at social detox, starting in 1999. Irene is now the team leader, a role she has had for many years. Retirement will come when her dream of a new social detox unit, currently being built in Hobson Street, Auckland is completed.

The Auckland streeties (homeless people) love her. She is firm, but fair, and has helped many of the street whanau turn their lives around, get off drugs and get their children back. If they relapse, she does not judge them, she just enables them to get back into recovery.

Irene makes special ongoing connections with the people she has worked with. Colleagues talk of the way that people are always calling in or phoning to catch up with her, letting her know that they are still in recovery, when they have babies, or if they lose loved ones, because they know that she cares.

Karla Sanders

Karla Sanders

Karla Sanders is the CEO and co-founder of New Zealands’s multi award winning youth-led bullying prevention charity Sticks 'n Stones. One in three young Kiwis in the Otago region experience bullying. It has massive negative implications and there are no quick fixes.

From a small town in Central Otago, Karla has made it her mission since 2013 to empower young people to create positive social change. What started with 30 teenagers and five high schools has expanded to more than 13 schools and hundreds of students in Central Otago; and the programme now has a national reach. Under her leadership, Sticks 'n Stones has presented at national and international conferences, undertaken and presented research, appeared on television and in multiple media articles and taken part in working groups with government and external organisations.

Since its founding, Sticks ‘n Stones has developed a strong reputation in the youth development and bullying prevention spaces. Karla has developed partnerships with Google, Facebook, the Vodafone Foundation and Netsafe which have led to significant growth and opportunities.

With Karla’s mentoring, one Sticks 'n Stones team successfully gained funding to develop an online support tool for teens experiencing online harm or negativity (www.icon.org.nz) which is now used by hundreds of teens nationwide. She also co-designed two Social and Emotional learning Programmes that students take part in across a year, one for Year 5-6 students and one for Year 7-8 students. In 2019, with funding support from Facebook, she is extending the work of Sticks 'n Stones nationwide, supporting 40 schools and hundreds of teens with the Online Advocate Training programme.

Karla is a phenomenal leader volunteering thousands of hours of her time to build the organisation. She has most definitely gone above and beyond what could have ever been expected of her. She attends every fundraising event, she can often be found laminating and cutting resources, she supports other organisations by sharing her experience (and her failures) generously and openly. She really cares about the work that she does and the young people who put their hand up to be involved. She has genuinely changed the lives of many young people, as evidenced by recent stats that the bullying rate has decreased to one in four young Kiwis in the Central Otago region.

John Sumich

John Sumich

John Sumich is a tireless and tenacious supporter and contributor to the natural environment and has been a prime motivator, agitator and initiator of various projects to support, restore and re-introduce native flora and fauna in West Auckland.

A GP in West Auckland, John has pursued an in-depth interest in the natural environment, encompassing much contribution and involvement with a variety of environmental groups and NGOs.

John has devoted countless hours to standing on committees, representing groups and their interests at meetings and conferences, and applying for funding and pursuing any commercial or private opportunities for financial or practical support of environmental projects. He has liaised with a broad range of government and private entities and individuals in the pursuit of shared environmental goals; initiated new projects and overseen their evolvement and on-going management. John has provided untiring and ceaseless practical work building tracks through reserves, supervising and working alongside volunteers performing predator control and monitoring bird populations and pest levels.

In 2009, John had a vision of reintroducing pateke (brown teal) to the Bethells/Te Henga wetland and, with the support of Forest & Bird Waitakere Branch, went on to create Habitat Te Henga, the largest remaining wetland in Auckland. His latest endeavour is as one of four trustees of Matuku Reserve Trust, which, with the help of grants, donations and crowd-funding appeals, now owns Matuku Link’s 37 hectares of wetland and native bush and links Habitat Te Henga, Matuku Reserve (owned by Forest & Bird) and Ark in the Park of which he is the founder. Matuku Link is working to provide a Sustainable Wetland Education centre and has developed a nursery to provide eco-sourced plants for re-planting /restoring the wetland.

With Philip Solaris, John won a 2016 WWF Conservation Innovation Award for using UAV (drones) for wildlife monitoring.

Jazz Thornton

Jazz Thornton

Jazz co-founded Voices of Hope, an organisation based around mental health, providing hope for those struggling with mental health issues by promoting mental wellbeing, empowerment and recovery. They have created videos that target mental illness issues as well as writing blog posts on different topics. Since the launch of Voices of Hope, their content has received both national and international recognition and has caught the attention of companies wanting to support their vision.

In 2017 Jazz enrolled in South Seas Film and Television School to learn how to tell the stories of young people like her who have suffered from depression and been suicidal. She created a short film called Dear Suicidal Me. It features people, including herself, who have tried to end their life, some multiple times. They were filmed reading their real suicide notes and then - crucially - the reasons they felt lucky to be still alive. This was the start of her directing career as she recognised that she had the ability to share stories that resonated with others and gave them hope.

In 2017, Jazz was named New Zealand’s youngest director to win the annual Doc Edge pitching contest and is now directing her series Jessica’s Tree which aims to shed light on the stories behind our suicide statistics while changing the way we have conversations about it. Jessica’s Tree has since won awards around the world.

Jazz’s unique experience and practical message has gained worldwide recognition, shared through media, international speaking engagements including recently the UN General Assembly, and now through a new feature documentary film, Girl on the Bridge, which summons the conversation about suicide she knows many are scared to have, as well as a book Stop Surviving Start Fighting.

The book tells Jazz’s inspirational story; how she survived 14 suicide attempts then put herself through film school to tell the stories of young people who have experienced depression and been suicidal and to break the silence around mental illness.

Diane Yalden

Diane Yalden

Diane was her community’s ‘local postie’ for 38 years. But that was not all she did. Diane has been involved in a wide range of other voluntary contributions to her local community for a very long time, amassing a phenomenal total of 113 years of voluntary service to organisations that exist to service all the residents of Tāneatua, Ruatoki and Waimana.

Tāneatua is the hub of a large population, predominately Māori who live in Tāneatua, Ruatoki and Waimana. The nearest ‘large’ centre is Whakatāne, some 12 kilometres down the valley and on the coast.

Diane has given 30 years of service on the Tāneatua Community Board and has been Chairperson for the past nine years; 25 years as one of the Eastern Bay of Plenty Justices of the Peace and has been its Registrar for the past 16 years. This contribution extends over the whole of Eastern Bay of Plenty and includes larger centres such as Kawerau, Edgecumbe, Te Teko and Matata. She has given 23 years as Volunteer Support Officer to the Tāneatua Volunteer Fire Brigade and was elected a Life Member in October 2018. She has also been a supporter and caterer for the Tāneatua Lions Club for the past 25 years.

When the Tāneatua Primary School had difficulty filling the position of librarian, Diane worked in a voluntary capacity for four years until a staff appointment was made.

She was treasurer for the Tāneatua Squash Club for six years and volunteered as helper with the Tāneatua Athletic Club and the local Tennis Club until the last two clubs were incorporated into the much larger clubs in Whakatāne.

Diane has recently started to interview local identities and families with long-known connections to Tāneatua to help with the writing of a local history.

Through all her involvements, Diane is an integral part of the Tāneatua community, weaving the many aspects of the communities together.

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