Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Kindness of strangers fills mum's flat

Lilly McDonald with some of the items she had been given from the Facebook group called 'Pay It Forward'. Photo / Dean Purcell
Lilly McDonald with some of the items she had been given from the Facebook group called 'Pay It Forward'. Photo / Dean Purcell

When Lilly McDonald first heard about an online group offering stuff for nothing, she didn't believe it.

"I thought, 'Nah, you can't get free things,'" she said.

But a friend who had joined up with Pay It Forward started passing on baby gear she had requested through the website for Ms McDonald's baby girl, who is due to be born next month.

"She went online for me because I didn't know how to add the page [join up] and then I started going on myself, I added myself in there and started getting beds and stuff."

A few weeks later, she has almost fully furnished the Papakura unit she moved into two months ago with donated furniture and baby gear from Pay It Forward's 7752 South Auckland members.

Nationally, at least 74,000 people have signed up to at least 57 Pay It Forward groups on Facebook, including a chain of 12 "koha sheds" from Auckland to Wanganui, all inspired by a worldwide movement that began with a Hollywood movie of the same name in 2000.

An administrator of the South Auckland group, Tania Harvey, said the movement was voluntary and monetary transactions were banned.

Eileen Joy, who helps run the West Auckland group, said about 70 per cent of the posts on her site were from people offering to donate something, and about 30 per cent were from people asking for things they needed.

"We get things like someone saying, 'I'd really like to go and see my newborn nephew, can someone gift me some petrol vouchers to go and see them?'" she said.

Ms McDonald, 28, came south from Kaitaia to be close to the father of her 4-year-old son, Jordan.

She found a three-bedroom private rental for herself, Jordan, her 11-year-old son who is also moving down soon, and the imminent baby. But she had no furniture at all.

Pay It Forward members have donated a fridge, beds, TV, cot, pram, baby bath, bouncy seat, baby clothes, toys and other things worth a total of about $1500. "I wouldn't have had as much stuff if I had to get it myself," Ms McDonald said. "Being on a benefit, it's financially hard."

- NZ Herald

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