From a young age, our Fundraising Coordinator Elizabeth Maddison has been passionate about combatting poverty and inequality. After taking part in a Tackling Poverty in NZ workshop run by the McGuiness Institute and New Zealand Treasury in December 2015, Elizabeth recently travelled to Queenstown as part of an initiative to tackle poverty in the regions. Here Elizabeth explains the aims of the initial workshop and its impact on her.

Complex. Multifaceted. Challenging. These are the kinds of words that come to mind when poverty is raised as a topic of discussion.

Like many New Zealanders, I’ve been passionate about addressing inequality from a young age – I started sponsoring a child in The Gambia through ChildFund when I was only twelve years old. Then and now I felt strongly that poverty was something that could be fixed if we all worked together.

Tackling PovertyElizabeth with Chief Economist Dr Girol Karacaoglu in December 2015

It was for this reason that I was thrilled to be invited to attend a three-day workshop at The New Zealand Treasury in Wellington aimed at tackling poverty in New Zealand.

The workshop invited 36 young New Zealanders to work together to find solutions for addressing poverty. We were a diverse bunch – some of us had experienced poverty first-hand, others had gained an understanding of it through our line of work or study, and others were simply driven by a genuine desire to implement positive change.

Over the course of the workshop we spoke with MPs, city missioners, social service providers, economists, policy makers, judges, teachers, and people who’d experienced poverty first-hand to get an understanding of the problems and what could be done to solve them. We were given the opportunity to take what we had heard and develop potential ideas for solving poverty.

At the end of three days we presented our findings and our suggested solutions at New Zealand Parliament. The experience of being listened to by some of the most powerful people in New Zealand was something I will never forget. As a young person it’s easy to feel like you have nothing to offer, like the problems are too big – but it was so empowering to be reminded that every person can be part of making poverty a thing of the past.

Poverty touches so many people’s lives and impacts on society at all levels. Should New Zealand with its relative wealth allow children to grow up in damp houses or have hungry tummies, unable to concentrate in school?

The young people I met at the workshop were capable, passionate, intelligent and above all optimistic about a future where no child lives in poverty in New Zealand. Being listened to and having adults interested in our ideas, made me realise I have a voice. It opened my mind to the level of influence we all have – if we work together.

Tackling PovertyElizabeth discussing ideas at the regional workshop in March (Photo: McGuiness Institute)

Tackling Poverty NZ workshop is now being taken on tour – check out tacklingpovertynz.org to get involved in a town near you.

This is an opportunity for New Zealand to act, to stand up as a proud leader in our corner of the world and in the wider international community. Listen to the experts and recognise that the experts don’t reside solely in Parliament. They are the struggling parents, working without adequate means. They are the hungry children, unable to concentrate in class. They are the jobseekers with no money for a tie. They are New Zealanders: they have the will, they have the solutions; what they require is our collective action.
TacklingPovertyNZ: Exploring ways to reduce poverty in New Zealand – a collection of the ideas produced by 36 young New Zealanders. (December 2015)

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While ChildFund New Zealand does not work with children and families in New Zealand – many great local organisations do – we are committed to helping children break free from extreme poverty, and to giving children a voice no matter where they live. You can join Elizabeth in supporting children overseas by sponsoring a child too.

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