Sarah is the kind of women who has an innate ability to make you feel like you’ve made a forever friend. The sense of joy is palpable as soon as she walks into the room. A mother, go-getter, philanthropist and friend, you get the sense there’s nothing she can’t do.
Her story is one that will resonate with many; during her struggle with post partum depression and navigating raising a toddler recently diagnosed with autism, Sarah searched for something to make her feel better. What started with Sarah emptying her cupboards and donating to her local Women's Refuge Centre soon grew into the charity many of us know and love today as the @kindnesscollectivefoundation.
Read more about Sarah's story and how she navigated the early years raising her son, who she has in her corner and how much the Kindness Collective has raised since 2014.
It takes a village to raise a child, who have you got in your corner?
I'm super lucky to have an amazing husband of almost 17 years who is an incredible dad.
In the early years we had three amazing therapists who helped teach, guide and support Max with things like communication and learning, and Aimee, Jenna and Lily were our family for many years. Max is also lucky to have two older sisters (from my husband's first marriage) who spend lots of time with him and love him very much.
Lastly, my best friend, Shanelle, also has a child with Autism (uncanny right?!) so I've always got someone to yarn with too.
What does being a mother mean to you?
Being a working mum is, as I'm sure every working mum can tell you, a massive and constant juggle.
I've found it's impossible to give your job 100% and give it your all at being a mum 100% too. Something always has to give, but over the years I think I've figured out that it's OK and as long as you are doing the very best that you can, that's all that matters.
I love being Max's Mum. He drives me to work hard every day to give as many kids as I can access to essentials and moments of joy. I'm grateful for the start we had because it taught me so much and has completely changed our lives. Without the start we had together there would be no Kindness Collective, so I'm grateful every day for that.
I'm fiercely proud of all he's achieved and will tell anyone that will listen how cool he is! I'm also fiercely proud of myself because I found being a mum quite difficult in the beginning but now being his mum is literally the best part about me and I love our life together.
How would you describe Max in 1 sentence?
A bright (and hilarious) spark of pure joy.
Are you happy to share your experiences raising a child on the autism spectrum?
Max was diagnosed with 'moderate to severe' Autism at 18 months old. We were told he may never talk or cognitively develop like other kids, so the first five years of his life were a mix of furiously learning everything we could and trying everything we could to make his life a little easier.
We learned really quickly that raising a neurodiverse, (and sometimes quite honestly, a disabled child) in a world not set up for them, was full of challenges. From day one, despite those challenges, Max brought everyone in our family so much happiness. Although I may be a bit biased, there's something pretty cool about my kid.
Despite not being able to talk, Max still went to a mainstream school. With the help of some amazing therapists and teacher aides, he soon began to learn, cope with his emotions, and communicate his thoughts and now at 10 years old, he's in his last year at primary school. Max will always be autistic, and how he navigates the world will always be a little bit different from ours, and that's OK. He's currently obsessed with Minecraft, collecting Pokemon cards and squeezing my arms, telling me to get back to the gym. He's super funny and makes everyone laugh with his cleverness, extreme honesty and wit.
You founded an amazing initiative ‘The Kindness Collective Foundation’. We’d love to know more about the work you do.
KC was started back in 2014 as a small, behind-the-scenes community group. After Max was born I had quite shocking postnatal depression and things were pretty dark there for a while. When Max was 18 months old the diagnosis came and I found that first-year juggling depression, Autism and going back to work really challenging.
I looked for something to make me feel better and started one day just randomly emptying my cupboards of all the cans and food, got my friends and family to do the same, and took it to my local independent women's refuge group. I was met with a smile and a hug and I walked away with the most intense feeling of joy. I kept repeating this and started collecting more, extending my group of people who would give, and started donating more. Food soon turned into Christmas presents, Easter eggs, winter PJs, building gardens and filling houses for families affected by family violence and disability. After a few months and then years of this, my depression lifted and I found out it was really hard to be sad all the time when you were focused on making others a bit happier.
In 2020 I decided to make it official and KC became a registered charity. We now have a Community Hub in Mt Eden, 5 Regional Coordinators, and more than 85 community Partners and in the last 3 years, we've donated over $6.5 Million to communities and kids in need.
We also just got named Community of the Year at the New Zealander of the Year Awards last week so I'm pretty stoked about that. #humblebrag
How can people support the Kindness Collective? Where can they find you?
We run four big projects a year as well as operate an essential service with food, baby items, clothing, toiletries, toys, and books (literally everything) for our community partners to support their clients. Our big projects are the Christmas Joy Store (a social toy store) and the PJ Project.
People can find out more about us here: www.kindness.co.nz or on our IG/FB: @kindnesscollectivefoundation
SABEN STYLE - What bag have you chosen and what drew you to this one?
Frankie in black. This is actually my second Frankie, with the first being a birthday gift that gets used every day.
I'm quite basic with fashion, I live in black and white, dresses, tops, linen shirts, jeans, and a red lip! I love that Frankie can fit with my everyday fashion, be casual enough to fit with jeans and a linen shirt, but also perfect for a night out with my favourite dresses and heels! Frankie is also big enough to fit all my essentials, a makeup bag, wallet, my diary, and a stash of Pokemon cards and snacks.
Any last words, thoughts or feelings you would like to share on the love, the joy, the juggling and the struggle of Motherhood
Everything is going to be OK in the end, and if it's not OK, then it's not the end.
We're proud to announce for the duration of our Mother's Day campaign, you'll be able to donate to the Kindness collective at checkout. Saben will be matching 100% of donations made during this time.
Spoil them with Saben this Mother's Day - Shop Saben New Arrivals.