'Blew me away' – Mum behind Christmas cards for lonely elderly overwhelmed with incredible response of Kiwis

It began with a lesson in kindness which grew into a movement where thousands of Kiwis including politicians sent cards to the elderly at Christmas.

Sending Love NZ was an initiative created by Hannah Rodgers which saw over 31,000 Christmas cards sent to rest homes to bring cheer to those alone this past Christmas.

The thoughtful act began with a 100 day challenge Ms Rodgers set for herself and her five-year-old son Jayden following a conversation about kindness.

"One day we were chatting and I said 'what can we do to be kind today?' Ms Rodgers told 1 NEWS.

"He said, 'I don't have any money to be kind'.

"I felt like as a parent I wasn't really comfortable with him feeling like he couldn't do anything kind because of money."

On day 67 of the challenge the pair decided their act of kindness would be to write a Christmas card to someone in a rest home that didn't get many visitors.

"I started calling around the rest homes and realised how much of a need there was," says Ms Rodgers.

What blew me away and others is just watching it grow, - Hannah Rodgers

"In some cases up to 50 per cent plus of the residents were in that situation and that really broke my heart a bit."

Posting for help on her community's Facebook page in the North Shore she soon became overwhelmed with the response from strangers willing to put pen to paper for a good course.

Ms Rodger then created the Facebook page and website Sending Love NZ and the project was born.

With five weeks till Christmas, thousands of cards started streaming in to Ms Rodgers' home.

To deal with the influx, 160 special 'drop boxes' were set up across the country.

Well over 100 volunteers from 33 towns from Invercargill up to Northland collected the cards and delivered them to local rest homes.

"What blew me away and others is just watching it grow," says Ms Rodgers.

"Seeing how many people in New Zealand really want to do something for somebody else and to make them feel cared for."

National Party leader Bill English sending his Christmas card to a rest home resident last Christmas.
National Party leader Bill English sending his Christmas card to a rest home resident last Christmas. Source: Facebook/Bill English

National Party leader Bill English and former National Party leader John Key were among many of the thousands New Zealanders who sent a card.

"You know, every time a new picture came up on Facebook of families doing cards and whole classrooms holding up the cards that they made I'd cry."

Orquidea Montera, The Selwyn Foundation's diversional therapis, heard about Ms Rodgers' Facebook page and asked to join the movement.

Working with the elderly across the country, Ms Montera sees first-hand how lonely and isolated residents can become.

"For them receiving a card through the project it was huge, it was massive," Ms Montera says.

"For them someone who they have never met was thinking about them.

"It was so meaningful."

Ms Montera says some of her residents couldn't believe anyone would think of them at Christmas.

"One of the residents said, 'no you've got it wrong. That card is not for me because I don't have anyone'.

"Then when he got to see his card with his name on it, he kind of just broke down into tears because he was so happy."

Ms Montera says Ms Rodgers is a leader in reaching out to those who are lonely, especially the elderly.

For Selwyn Village resident Mufridah, a card from a 12-year-old boy named Roi made her Christmas that more special.

"To think a boy of 12 to write that is very, very special. I think he is an aware soul and it's wonderful to receive something from him."

Ms Rodgers says she plans to continue writing cards to the elderly and plans on incorporating more organisations next year.

Hannah Rodgers wanted to teach her son about kindness but never imagined it would turn into a movement. Source: 1 NEWS

Dunedin wildlife hospital admits first patients

A South Island wildlife hospital officially opened its doors yesterday and is already treating two patients, with preparations underway for more. 

The newly-opened facility is based at Dunedin's Otago Polytechnic School of Veterinary Nursing and will be able to treat up to 500 sick and injured native animals each year.

Injured yellow eyed penguins.
Injured yellow eyed penguins. Source: Wildlife Hospital - Dunedin

Within 30 minutes of opening on Monday the first two patients were admitted, two adult yellow-eyed penguin that had injuries consistent with barracouta bites, Wildlife Hospital spokesperson, Jordana Whyte told 1 NEWS.

Both birds were found in the Caitlins by a yellow-eyed penguin researcher and will undergo surgery this week to clean and fix the bite wounds.

It's expected the penguins will make a full recovery and will hopefully be able to get back into the wild soon.

This morning Ms Whyte said Dr Lisa Argilla is preparing for another patient in the hospital, a takahe picked up by the Department of Conservation.

The bird's injury or illness is not yet known.

The future of the wildlife hospital is dependent on continuous donations from the public as well as corporate sponsorship.

Once the hospital is well established Ms Whyte hopes they will be able to receive funding to help with operation costs. 


Thousands hit Lake Karapiro for national Waka Ama champs

The national Waka Ama Sprint Champs competition is underway on Lake Karapiro.

Thousands of paddlers from midgets through to masters are competing in what is one of New Zealand's fastest growing water sports.

1300 teams with 3300 paddlers have all registered for the competition.

The 29th annual competition will see six days of action, however organisers say the event could get longer if more teams register in the coming years.

Lara Collins, who is one of organisers, says "there's potential for us to start earlier Monday morning, have the powhiri on Sunday. Those sort of things so we've got a lot of room up our sleeves to allow it to grow more." 

This year also sees teams and paddlers competing to qualify for the 2018 World Champs held in Tahiti.

It's going to be a tough competition for the Waka Ama teams. 

Teams and paddlers are competing on Lake Karapiro to qualify for the 2018 World Champs in Tahiti. Source: Te Karere