An Ōtaki man who’s making Christmas special for thousands of disadvantaged children, has won an ASB Good as Gold award.
Pera Barrett grew up in Ōtaki and still calls it home. Now living in Wellington and working as an IT manager, he organises Christmas presents every year for kids whose parents and care-givers are close to the poverty line.
Called Shoebox Christmas, his programme began four years ago in Wellington, working with low decile schools and early childhood centres. Already, more than 9000 presents have been delivered. He expects this year’s figure to be close to 5000. Often Pera delivers them personally.
Students at about 35 schools receive the gifts, based on priorities the schools provide. The gifts have a value up to about $30, and are wrapped and delivered to the schools.
Pera works with sponsors who are prepared to buy a gift, asking whether they prefer to buy for a boy or girl. He lets them know when he’s allocated a child for them to buy for. The sponsors include individuals, small businesses and corporates.
The effect of poverty on children tugs at Pera’s heart-strings.
“Kids just down the road from us have no money to buy their lunch, but we have enough for my kids, and a $4 coffee every day. So as part of the same society, I should help out there."
As well as the Shoebox Christmas project, Pera organises stationery starter packs for kids in their first year at college.
It came about after one of the Shoebox girls said she wanted stationery for Christmas.
“She knew her parents didn’t have enough money to buy what she needed for college next year. She cried about it. That’s not something a girl that young should be worrying about, especially when I know there are people who can help.”
The impetus for Pera’s benevolence emerged after he was involved in a fatal car crash in 2005. He had multiple injuries in the crash and it was four months before he could walk again.
Though he was lucky to survive, a woman in the other car died.
“We’re not here forever, so we should make the most of our time – sometimes we don’t truly realise that until it’s too late. If I can help others, I should – and I should do it now.”
Pera received $3000 from the ASB award to help with the 2018 Shoebox appeal. He was also given $3000 to help him with his writing (he’s already published a novel) and has $4000 to take his family on holiday.
The holiday is still not planned, but will be a welcome break after the hectic pre-Christmas rush of organising presents.
- Read Pera’s writing and learn more about Shoebox Christmas at perabarrett.com