Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Disadvantaged boy on the road to fame

Home-grown sponsor, through a child charity, gives youngster chance to excel at sport.

Chirac's mother says he wakes up thinking about league. Photo / Chris Gorman
Chirac's mother says he wakes up thinking about league. Photo / Chris Gorman

A homegrown child sponsorship scheme has helped an 11-year-old Auckland boy on the first steps to becoming a star league player.

Chirac, a Year 6 student, has experienced things that no child of his age should suffer. At the start of this year he refused to go to school, and eventually rejoined his class only after a week's one-to-one tuition with the school principal.

His life turned around when a sponsor paid for him to buy new rugby boots, a mouthguard and other gear. He has become a school league phenomenon, scoring an extraordinary 16 tries in one game to take his team to third place in Auckland.

"Everything is about league and union," said his proud mother, a sole parent. "I think that's the first thing he thinks of in the mornings."

The Kiwi Kid sponsorship scheme, which recruits sponsors to pay $35 a month to help a disadvantaged child, ran into controversy when it was launched by the children's charity Variety in January.

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern said it was shameful that child sponsorship, traditionally aimed at relieving Third World poverty, was now needed in New Zealand.

Green MP Holly Walker said: "It does raise the real question of why we've allowed things to get to the stage where we're relying on charities to fill the gap."

But the scheme has already matched 505 sponsors to children and has 193 more children needing sponsors. Unlike Third World sponsorships, Kiwi Kid sponsors never know more than the first name of the child they sponsor.

"It's a wee bit different sponsoring a child in your own country where you may well be able to walk down the road and see them," said Variety chief executive Lorraine Taylor. "We are very conscious about child protection and ensuring that children are safe. And we want to ensure that the [child's] family doesn't make approaches directly to a sponsor and say they need more money for something."

Lisa Barclay, an Auckland mother-of-three who describes her situation as "comfortable", sponsored a World Vision child in Bangladesh for 10 years before she heard about Kiwi Kid. She has seen a photo of the 6-year-old girl she sponsors, and she knows that she lives in Auckland.

She wants her own children to be aware that there are other children who need help, and even when she committed to World Vision a decade ago she felt there was a need for something similar for Kiwi children.

Kiwi Kid scheme

Sponsor
*Commits to pay $35 a month.
*Can write and send birthday presents if they choose to.
*Can stop if they can't afford it.

Child
*NZ resident aged 3 to 12 in financial need.
*Referred by school social workers, behaviour specialists and agencies.

Variety
*Makes all payments and channels all contact.
*Payments must be for child's direct needs, not to meet other family bills.

How to join
www.variety.org.nz

- NZ Herald

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