'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

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National MPs vote unanimously to expel Jami-Lee Ross from caucus, Simon Bridges calls allegations baseless

National Party MPs have voted to expel Jami-Lee Ross from caucus. 

Leader Simon Bridges said the National MPs voted unanimously. 

Jami-Lee Ross, Paula Bennett and Simon Bridges.
Jami-Lee Ross, Paula Bennett and Simon Bridges. Source: 1 NEWS

"It's the strongest possible action the caucus could take. We are not going to tolerate the kind of appalling behaviour of Jami-Lee Ross."

"The lies, the leaks and other matters as well are entirely unacceptable."

Read more: MP Jami-Lee Ross to make official police complaint against National leader Simon Bridges, will resign from Parliament

Mr Bridges said the allegations were "baseless", "entirely false", and he invited the police to investigate.

Mr Ross had made allegations of electoral fraud against Mr Bridges, over donations made by a Chinese businessman. 

1 NEWS’s Benedict Collins unpicks a morning of high drama surrounding the National MP. Source: 1 NEWS

Mr Ross made a number of claims about the National Party leader in relation to donations. Mr Bridges has denied any wrongdoing. Source: 1 NEWS

Latest developments:

National MP for Botany, Jami-Lee Ross, will be laying an official police complaint against National Party leader Simon Bridges tomorrow, in which he'll allege electoral fraud.

Mr Ross also told media this morning he would resign as a member of Parliament on Friday, sparking a by-election for the Botany seat.

Mr Ross said he would run as an independent.

Earlier:

The investigation into who leaked details of National Party leader Simon Bridges' expenses pointed to MP Jami-Lee Ross leaking the information. 

The PWC report said it had not identified the leaker with certainty, however, "the evidence we have points to Mr Ross". 

“It's the strongest possible action the caucus could take,” says Simon Bridges. Source: 1 NEWS

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Teenage boy, 14, charged with murder outside Flaxmere pub

A 14-year-old boy charged with the murder of a Hawke's Bay man can now be identified as Haami Hanara.

The teenager was one of five youths charged in relation to the death of Mr Donner outside a Flaxmere pub on March 4.

Mr Donner, 40, was found injured outside the Flax Bar and Eatery and died of his injuries shortly afterwards.

Haami was arrested a month later and charged with stabbing Mr Donner with a weapon.

Four other teenagers aged between 14 and 16 are facing charges of grevious bodily harm in relation to Mr Donner's death.

Haami has pleaded not guilty to the charge and a trial date has been set for November 19.

Mr Donner was described by many in the Flaxmere community as humble, well-liked, and quiet.

He worked at a local packaging business, but could often be found returning trolleys in the New World car park just to help out.

He died less than 100m from that car park, on a patch of grass outside the Flaxmere tavern.

A memorial garden for Mr Donner has been planted by the community.

rnz.co.nz

Source: 1 NEWS

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Police probe racist emails sent to Māori academic that claimed te reo was an 'ugly' language

A Māori language lecturer at Victoria University has complained to police after receiving a string of racist emails.

Vini Olsen-Reeder publicly threw his support behind Wellington City Council's bid to make Te Reo Māori more visible around the city in May.

But within days he started receiving angry emails from complete strangers.

One sender told him Te Reo Māori was an ugly language used by tribal, tattooed, former cannibals and not needed or wanted by anglophones.

Two emails have been sent to his account since then from multiple senders - one of whom used a fake identity.

The emails were also sent to Otago University and to colleagues of Mr Olsen-Reeder at Victoria.

Mr Olsen-Reeder was told by colleagues to ignore them, but after the third email he decided to call the police.

They have since opened a case file for him, where his emails will be monitored. Police will only act on them under the Harmful Digital Communications Act if they are found to pose a direct threat.

"A lot of my colleagues, as academics, we are open to critique. But people tend to think that means they get to be horrible human beings and say whatever they like and that they can be terrifically racist and mean.

"My worry is that, because this is through email, my colleagues will think there's nothing they can do. Well that's actually not true. I want everyone to know that there are avenues you can pursue so emails like this can be monitored."

Twenty-four people have been imprisoned under the Act since its inception in 2015 and others have been charged with home detention or community service.

However, Internet Safety Detective, Damian Rapira, said emails must reach a certain threshold before a criminal charge can be laid.

"We have to take into account things like, Is there a realistic prospect of that threat being carried out? Is there a realistic opportunity for that threat? Is it building? Is there a previous domestic dispute between the two people involved?

"There's so many variables in this particular space."

According to online safety agency, Netsafe, one in 10 adult New Zealanders receive at least one harmful digital communication each year.

Chief executive Martin Cocker said cyber bullies may think they're anonymous but they're not.

"There is in New Zealand an un-masking law. There's the ability to request that someone be identified.

"People use anonymity but they forget that they are not typically anonymous to the platform that they are sending the emails from."

But for Mr Olsen-Reeder speaking out about the emails wasn't just about catching the culprits.

He said people should know the difference between genuine disagreement and unacceptable behaviour.

"Māori are always pitched as politicising issues, so we're always the ones presented as angry and as "the fighters". But we do a lot of disagreeing because there are lots of things happening that genuinely need disagreement.

"One of the things that makes me really sad and angry is that there are other people in society who feel free to be as politically-charged and angry as they like in spaces that are actually just totally inappropriate and unreasonable."

Mr Olsen-Reeder has not replied to any of the emails, and does not intend to.

- By Te Aniwa Hurihanganui
rnz.co.nz

Māori language lecturer Vini Olsen-Reeder with some of the emails he has been sent. Source: RNZ / Te Aniwa Hurihanganui


MP Jami-Lee Ross to make official police complaint against National leader Simon Bridges, will resign from Parliament

National's MP for Botany, Jami-Lee Ross, will be laying an official police complaint against National Party leader Simon Bridges tomorrow, in which he'll allege electoral fraud.

Jami-Lee Ross.
Jami-Lee Ross. Source: 1 NEWS

Mr Ross also told media this morning he would resign as a member of Parliament on Friday, sparking a by-election for the Botany seat.

Mr Ross said he would run as an independent.

Read more: National MPs vote unanimously to expel Jami-Lee Ross from caucus, Simon Bridges calls allegations baseless

“It's the strongest possible action the caucus could take,” says Simon Bridges. Source: 1 NEWS

Today he followed up on allegations of unlawful activity from Simon Bridges over electoral donations. 

In a news conference shortly afterwards, Mr Bridges dismissed the claims as "baseless", and encouraged him to report the matter to the police. 

'I have done absolutely nothing wrong," he said, but would not directly address Mr Ross' allegation. 

He said the party would not tolerate his behaviour, and he would be expelled. 

Mr Ross said: "Simon Bridges knows exactly what Cathedral Club is. It is a name used to hide a donation from a close friend of his. He claims it was a clerical error, I claim BS on that." 

"I believe Simon Bridges is a corrupt politician."

He later added: "On Monday 14th of May this year, I attended a dinner with Simon Bridges at the home of a wealthy Chinese businessman.

"The following week ...Simon called me in the evening he'd been at a fundraiser with Paul Goldsmith.

"He had been offered a donation $100,000 donation from the same wealthy businessman."

Mr Ross alleged Mr Bridges did not want the donation to be public, and asked Mr Ross to ensure it.

"I duly carried out Simon Bridges' wish."

He said it was split into smaller donations.

Mr Ross then said he had a recorded conversation with Mr Bridges about the alleged events.

Mr Bridges' office has previously directed media questions about the Cathedral Club to the party.

A spokesperson told Radio NZ yesterday that the donation error was down to the local Tauranga electoral committee and said the Electoral Commission was contacted to seek advice. The return was then amended and re-submitted.

Mr Ross' remarks this morning came a day after Bridges outed him as the likely leaker of his expenses, following the completion of a PWC report into the leaking.

"I'm standing up for what I believe in. New Zealand deserves better from the National Party," Mr Ross said today.

"I’m now the subject of a smear campaign.

"Simon is a flawed individual without a moral compass."

After taking sick leave earlier this month, Mr Ross said today he had had a mental breakdown but was now in good health.

He claimed the PWC report was inaccurate, and the only time he messaged the journalist who released the National Party expenses was when they texted him to ask how he was.

Mr Bridges yesterday denied all of Mr Ross' accusations and said: "He would say those things, given the situation."

 


Mr Ross made a number of claims about the National Party leader in relation to donations. Mr Bridges has denied any wrongdoing. Source: 1 NEWS