Linda Roil would prefer it if there was no need for the well-recognised charity she started in Cambridge five years ago, Kids in Need Waikato.
But instead of working her way out of the role, the numbers of children needing support to live with families other than their birth parents continues to increase and, as a result, Kids in Need Waikato is expanding.
Earlier this month, the charity held its first open day at Linda and Graeme Roil’s property, which is where it is based. More than 350 people came along, among them some big sporting names who expressed an interest in getting involved, including rowers Emma Twigg and Lucy Spoors.
A larger-than-life presence was athlete and ex-All Black Liam Messam who was one of five children adopted by a Rotorua couple who extraordinarily fostered about 300 more.
The star athlete played basketball with some of the youngsters there on the day, and toured the charity’s new shed, built to meet growing needs.
Linda and Graeme began fostering children in 2014. It was when they noticed a lack of support for those children and their caregivers that the nugget of an idea grew and they set about getting community donations to make up age-appropriate care-packs for children aged from newborn to 18. The charitable trust, Kids in Need Waikato, was established in 2018.
Now, three paid staff and about 20 volunteers help Linda and Graeme run the charity. The Roils volunteer their own time and are often knee-deep in bringing in what’s required and co-ordinating the running of their now two busy sheds.
Times have changed since they began operating, Linda said. “When we started it was for children in foster care. Now, with changes in legislation, children aren’t put into foster care anymore. Instead, they are placed with extended whanau, most often grandparents.
“It is to those caregivers that most of our support is directed. Many of them are not in a position to give the children what they need and there is very little official support.”
She said Kids in Need operates closely with other agencies, but the need is constantly growing while social workers are often too stretched and time-poor to be able to adequately handle the demand.
“There has been a marked interest in the numbers of referrals coming to us. Before we even look at the Christmas packs we’re putting together now, we have put together 1399 care packs this year, compared with 1206 over the same time last year.”
The open day was intended to let people take a closer look at what Kids in Need Waikato does. It was also attended by songstress Izzy Bond, and the Cambridge Rotary band, the Bruised Brothers.