Remarkable deeds of daughter leave mother amazed.

She's only eight, but schoolgirl Maiyah Martin already stands out from the crowd.

For three years the young Christchurch student has used her school holidays to help make life for the city's homeless just that little bit easier.

At a time when most eight-year-olds are out playing with friends or dabbling with electronic devices, Maiyah is in the kitchen baking cupcakes and cookies to sell at a local market.

The money she makes she uses to buy an array of personal essentials - like soap and shampoo - which she packages and gives away to the Christchurch City Mission to distribute to people living on the streets.

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These efforts - which began not long after she started at Gilberthorpe School at five - are remarkable for one of her age and have surprised even her mother Donna Lavea-Martin.

"It started when I was trying to think of something for her to do in the holidays," Lavea-Martin says. "I suggested she make cupcakes and sell them at the market to teach her about working to earn money.

"I asked her what she wanted to spend the money on and without thinking she said she wanted to help the homeless. That was amazing – I didn't know she knew what homeless meant."

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Maiyah has been recognised by the ASB who have named her as an ASB Good as Gold recipient. The bank has given her a Kenwood Chef XL mixer, $4000 to use in her baking project (she calls it Girl with Cakes) and $6000 for her, her mum and five-year-old brother Malaefou to have a holiday together.

"This kind of empathy and selfishness would be impressive from anyone, but for an 8-year-old to be so focused on giving back to others and helping those less fortunate, is incredible," says ASB South Island regional manager Martin Gay. "Her dedication and commitment really illustrates the kind of person she is. We could all learn a thing or two from Maiyah."

Lavea-Martin says her daughter inspires her: "I'm a single mum and don't have a lot to give, but what Maiyah is doing is quite special."

Using old family recipes, Maiyah makes cupcakes and cookies in a whole range of flavours including carrot, banana, chocolate and double chocolate. While Lavea-Martin supervises (and is always on hand to put the mixture into the hot oven) Maiyah takes the goodies to the market once they are ready.

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Her best sellers are the carrot and banana cupcakes and with the money raised Maiyah makes up personal hygiene packs with items such as toothpaste, soap, shampoo, conditioner, cotton buds and face-cloths.

"We haven't kept count of her totals but I would say she's cooked close to a thousand cupcakes and cookies and probably made up around 300 hygiene packs," says Lavea-Martin. "She normally makes about $400 each time she goes to the market, the last few times she's completely run out of cakes."

"My mother (Maiyah's grandmother) is the taste tester and if she doesn't approve Maiyah won't sell them."

Even when away from Christchurch Maiyah has kept up her charity work. In Auckland with her mother during the recent school holidays visiting family and friends, Maiyah handed out about 20 hygiene packs to homeless in the city's CBD: "We were on holiday, but she still wanted to do something," says Lavea-Martin.

Maiyah was nominated for the award by Penny Osborne who works in the office at Gilberthorpe School as an executive officer.

"She is an amazing, kind-spirited young lady who has a genuine heart and desire to help those less fortunate," she says. "Our school values are from the FISH philosophy (this is Choose Your Attitude, Be There, Make Someone's Day and Play) and Maiyah has taken massive steps in taking on these values."

A technique developed in the US in the 1990s, the philosophy is designed to create happy people in workplaces but is also used by educators to build supportive relationships with students and to help them practise personal responsibility.

Maiyah Martin (packing one of her Hygiene Packs for the Homeless) Photo / Supplied
Maiyah Martin (packing one of her Hygiene Packs for the Homeless) Photo / Supplied

Maiyah still has much of the typical eight-year-old about her. She's sports mad like her mum (who in her younger days won a scholarship to play college basketball in the United States). "We are a basketball family, but Maiyah is also into athletics, touch and rugby league which she loves. She's been playing that for about two years and is one of two girls in a team at the Hornby Panthers club."

Lavea-Martin says Maiyah was speechless when presented with the Good as Gold award: "She's quite shy but when she got home she got really excited. I think she was more excited about getting the mixer than the money; she'd seen one in a shop about a month ago but I couldn't afford to buy it for her."

Although the family has yet to decide where they will go on holiday, Lavea-Martin says Maiyah and her brother are already thinking Disneyland would be a good place.