Pride of NZ: Social work a labour of love

By Nicki Harper

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Karen Bothmer Klein says it is the community that deserves the most recognition. Photo/Nicki Harper
Karen Bothmer Klein says it is the community that deserves the most recognition. Photo/Nicki Harper

Karen Bothmer Klein is a reluctant nominee in the community spirit category of this year's Pride of New Zealand awards.

The Waipawa-based social worker works in Central Hawke's Bay for the Social Workers in Schools programme, and her name was put forward by daughter Rosan Bothmer.

"Many people will know her as someone who is kind and cares for everyone and will never turn a blind eye to anyone in need," Miss Bothmer said.

"It always brings a smile to my face when a child approaches me to tell me how much my mum has done for them, or just to tell me how lovely she is."

On learning of her nomination, Mrs Bothmer Klein said she initially intended to decline being put up for the award.

"But then I thought okay, if I'm going to go ahead and I can represent Social Workers in Schools that would be all right."

Social Workers in Schools is funded by the Ministry of Social Development and delivered by Family Works as a service of Presbyterian Support East Coast.

The goal of the programme is to support children to overcome issues and become better engaged with their education, and Mrs Bothmer Klein currently divides her time between Waipukurau, Waipawa, The Terrace and Otane schools.

She works with teachers, children and their families and said it's very rewarding.

"It's not really a job, I feel very fortunate to get paid for what I love doing."

Children play an important part in the lives of the Bothmer Klein family.

After Mrs Bothmer Klein, husband Henri, and their children Rosan and Josarn moved to Waipawa from a small town in the Netherlands in 2006, they immediately began taking in foster children. Today, their family has expanded with the addition of two children who they are fostering for life - Tom, aged 5 and Bindi, 6.

In her work, she said she sees herself as a middle person, that it's the community that deserves the most recognition.

"When people donate the likes of school shoes, bedding and clothing, I am able to identify children that could use them and pass them on.

"Waipawa New World also donates food for families in need within Waipawa school. One of their workers has even lent a freezer to the school so frozen food can be donated. I set this up and take food from place to place but without the donations it would not be happening.

"I think Central Hawke's Bay is quite unique - there are a lot of volunteers doing all kinds of things to care for the younger members of the community.

"A Pride of New Zealand award should go to the whole community which is contributing to people in need."

The Pride of New Zealand Awards is a joint venture with The Hits radio station and TSB Bank, supported by the New Zealand Herald and APN regional newspapers.

There are six categories honouring bravery and heroism, community spirit, lifetime achievement, emergency services, top fundraisers and those making a difference for the environment. Nominations are open until June 15.

For more information and to nominate, visit prideofnzawards.co.nz

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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