Julie Chapman, our ‘Champion for Charity’

Wednesday 19th October 2022

Women in Business, sponsored by Eclipse Recruitment
Julie Chapman, CEO – KidsCan

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Women in Business events are known for their high-calibre speakers, who are always relatable and inspirational. But not all can fire up such an emotional response from their audience as Julie Chapman did when she talked about her work with KidsCan and Pet Refuge.

Long before she founded either of these charities, Julie was helping others. As a child, she regularly brought home injured birds and small mammals! Julie knew she wanted to “give back” and originally considered a career in the police. However, she wasn’t able to run fast enough for their tests. Arguably, the police’s loss has been numerous others’ gain.

Attending school in Henderson, she noticed that some children didn’t have “the basics”, like three meals a day or their own shoes. She’d always felt this was unfair and unjust – and that was the motivation behind KidsCan, which she started from her garage in 2005. Having found out what was preventing children from getting through the doors, the charity started working with 40 low-decile schools, supporting them with food, clothing, and health hygiene.

“Education equals opportunity.” Helping these children into school and helping them stay there means they have a fair start, a chance to lift themselves up. It’s also about giving these young people their dignity, treating them with respect, and showing them that someone really does care. “We give them the best we can, not the worst we can get away with.”

KidsCan is currently working to support approximately 1,000 New Zealand schools. “This is not something to celebrate,” said Julie, adding that the situation is only getting worse, with 10,000 more children needing support in Term 4. “Families that were just getting by, keeping their heads above water, aren’t able to do that anymore.”

Julie pointed out that food is a “discretionary budget”, which may have to be ditched to pay the bills that keep a roof over a family’s head.

KidsCan is also supporting almost 90 early learning centres. The first 1,000 days of a child’s development are critical, and yet some babies come in with only half the correct amount of formula, as parents struggle to stretch supplies. As well as food, KidsCan also provides gumboots – “Because splashing in puddles when you’re five years old is so important. Perhaps we should do it as adults too!”

Then, attendees watched a video featuring KidsCan’s ambassador Verity Brogden, an amazing young woman, who was supported by the charity and is now studying politics. “Hope saves you,” she said. This short film was extremely moving.

As well as her tireless advocacy for children in need, Julie is an animal lover. This could be an understatement… She and her husband share their lives with umpteen cats, dogs, and goats.

A few years ago, Julie became aware that some people (predominantly, but not exclusively, women) delay leaving a violent partner out of fear for their pets’ lives.

So, using the money from the sale of her late parents’ house, Julie purchased some land and began construction of New Zealand’s first shelter for pets caught up in domestic violence.

In its first 12 months, Pet Refuge has helped more than 215 pets and their families. The shelter is beyond capacity and uses trusted external resources to care for larger animals such as horses. “These are much-loved family pets.” The aim, therefore, is always to reunite them with their owners as soon as they are safe in their own accommodation. Sometimes this can take many months. The good news, however, is that despite the challenges of finding housing that will accept animals, only in a handful of cases have the pets had to be rehomed.

Pet Refuge receives requests for help from all over the country, and the longer-term goal is to open another shelter on the South Island.

$30 a month to KidsCan gives one child in need healthy food, a warm jacket, comfortable shoes, and access to health products throughout the year. To find out more, go to kidscan.org.nz/donating-to-kidscan

$25 a month to Pet Refuge gives a pet a safe bed. This covers shelter expenses such as a safe place to sleep at night, warmth, bedding, enrichment and exercise, transport, vet healthcare, animal behaviour therapy, and expert animal carers and case workers. Read more at petrefuge.org.nz/donate

Business North Harbour’s general manager Kevin O’Leary warmly expressed his gratitude to Julie and presented her with a gift from Edible Blooms. He also spoke to the audience. “I don’t normally say this at these events, but ‘so what, now what?’ If you haven’t been moved by what you’ve seen and heard today, what is wrong with you?!”

Kevin also announced a new arrangement between BNH and KiwiHarvest, represented in the room by Angela Calver and Jennifer Stephens. From now on, KiwiHarvest will take the scones, sandwiches and cakes left at the end of these events, adding these items to their deliveries for local people in need.

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Bernadette Robert

Bernadette Robert