A powerful waterfall starts with one drop
Inspired by the 2012 Leadership New Zealand (LNZ) group’s Northridge declaration, Andrew Sharp, (then General Manager of Soanar based in Sydney) felt compelled to act on what he had learnt throughout the year. He focused on his leadership journey and messages from inspiring speakers who came and addressed their group. Having increased his appreciation and understanding of a wider community within NZ, he wanted to give back in some way whilst still living overseas. Andrew decided to take action and with his wife Simone realised that while they didn’t have the resources of Bill Gates, they could still make a difference.
In talking with his LNZ colleagues he wanted to offer support and guidance to a family in need. He understood he would need to be sensitive in his approach, and not be able to dictate the way in which any assistance was to be utilised. He and Simone wanted to help someone in the community, who was already engaged in studies, was involved in the community and also active in helping their children become educated, and was making an effort to better their current circumstances. Connecting with Josephine Bartley, Local Board Member for the Maungakieke Tamaki Ward and another LNZ alumni (2007), Andrew asked for her assistance and advice in terms of identifying some potential families. Both were clear that this was not going to be a hand out, but rather an organic lead process which would be discussed with the potential recipient.
Presented with a few possible options, Andrew considered the potential families and resonated with Marie Kaukura - a single mother in her third year full time studies towards her Social Work Degree. She has 5 children ages 10, 11, 15, 18 and 22. She is an active volunteer in her community and also part of the PTA at the school, where two of her children attend. Unbeknown to Andrew at the time, Marie was struggling with meeting the needs of her family and was considering delaying her studies for a semester. She realised this would not be ideal and the risk was she would only complete two thirds of her studies and resign to being on a low paying job to support her family. Fortunately Andrew liked Marie’s attitude and spirit on paper and decided that he wanted to help her and her family.
Josephine made the appropriate introductions between Andrew and Marie via email and a conversation started between them. Andrew made an initial financial donation for Marie, who said it was a great help during the Christmas period and was used to cover basics for her and her family to get through the holiday season. Of course Marie was stunned that a complete stranger would want to help her and her family out in some small way. Additional support from Andrew was also provided through various contacts (including Auckland Blues gear for her kids who play rugby), countersigning a loan so that Marie could purchase a van so she didn’t have to make two trips on Saturday in her small car to drop off and watch her kids play sports. He even found a former colleague to offer mentoring advice for one of the older sons contemplating university studies.
Marie would also like to acknowledge Andrew’s support with transport which contributed to a family decision to further her 18 yr old daughter’s dance career. Because of reliable transport her daughter was able to participate in late long trainings in Avondale. She is now representing New Zealand in the Hip Hope Dance Crew World competition in Los Angeles later this year in August as she dances for “Fresh Movement”.
Marie has since completed her studies, graduating with her Bachelor of Social Studies and now works at two different schools whilst still tending to family duties. Marie is currently investigating a potential Emotional Intelligence course to offer students at her schools, so that they can have a forum to have their voices heard.She also wants to pay it forward, and utilise her experiences to help others going through similar struggles.
Marie is eternally grateful to Andrew for the support and encouragement that he and Simone have given to her and her family during the last 17 months. She shudders at the thought of what might have been had she delayed her studies and not had that extra backing from Andrew and Simone during that time. Andrew and Marie met for the first time in April this year 15 months after their initial contact. Andrew was able to explain the naming of his initiative Waterfalls and how it came from the movie The Power of One where a young boy stated “A waterfall starts but with one drop”.
Andrew has begun to broaden the Waterfall Foundation project to enable other expats to contribute back to NZ and has other friends lined up to connect with future possible families. He’s identifying ways to make it easier for expats donate money towards incentives back in NZ. If you are interested in Andrew’s story and would like to contact Andrew for more information or contribute in some way, you can view www.waterfallfoundation.kiwi
Written by Manu Keung
Leadership NZ Alumnus