Making difference on a budget

By Nicola Young

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Laura Dickson with some of the products from her burgeoning Petit Voyage business.
Laura Dickson with some of the products from her burgeoning Petit Voyage business.

My mother likes my column (I know, she's meant to say that!) but she also thinks I've been squeezing in too many of Whanganui's fantastic features too quickly and won't be able to keep up the pace.

I'm not worried as yet another surprise discovery this week came when I was writing for the Plunket newsletter and found out about Petit Voyage - one more fabulous Whanganui mum working from home and creating a career built on sustainability principles.

Laura Dickson employs two local woodturners who craft children's rattles, teethers and puzzles from native timbers to her design, which are then packaged up in stunning keepsake boxes.

She's stocked by 15 companies from Dunedin to Auckland including Country Lane Originals on Victoria Ave and she's hoping her next break is into the Asian market - another wonderful buy local option for Whanganui people.

But let's not forget the other ways to support our region, even if you're on a budget: garage sales, charity shops and school galas. My kids and I are looking forward to supporting our friends at the St Marcellin School gala next Saturday.

Given the widespread community involvement in Whanganui, I was pretty surprised at the second council candidates' evening last Friday when a few of the candidates said they felt the council's debt issues justified cuts to community group funding. One candidate even said community groups and volunteers should work harder.

I felt that was completely out of touch - volunteers in this city work incredibly hard to make a difference in many areas of great need. And fundraising is a tough battle as I found when supporting Plunket with annual appeals over the past two years (although I must add that I found the Pak'N Save shoppers the most generous givers out of anyone!).

Philanthropy New Zealand's 2011 report estimates that more than a million Kiwis donated nearly $1.5 billion that year. That's a lot of giving, which ranks New Zealand up with Australia as one of the most generous countries in per capita terms as tracked by the World Giving Index.

As the glass festival finishes and the literary festival kicks off, there is much evidence of the volunteers in our community supporting successful events that showcase our city for the right reasons. And as well as volunteers, we have local businesses supporting these positive profile-raising activities.

Paige's Book Gallery is a sponsor of the Whanganui Literary Festival - another local business giving back to the community. These events wouldn't happen without volunteers and I believe council contributions are an investment in this district and growing our positive reputation.

Our communities simply would not function without the many unpaid hours people put into making this city a generous and kind place.

There are so many examples of pay it forward happening with the latest I've seen being a small example of an older woman overhearing a young mum tell her son she couldn't afford to buy him a pencil case this week.

The woman slipped the mum enough money to buy a pencil case for him, but it was on sale, so the mum and son gave the extra money to a busker on the street - pay it forward in action. These little things give Whanganui its personality and are something to be proud of.

This week I'm volunteering to help organise a function to mark the 120th anniversary of suffrage - New Zealand was the first country in the world where women won the right to vote. We've come a long way since 1893 but looking at the mostly male faces standing for election to the council this cycle, we still have a way to go. Nationally it's reported that only 30 per cent of candidates are women.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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