Sophie Weenink Smith has been fundraising to help give homeless Nelsonians meal vouchers. Photo: Erin Bradnock.

Paying it forward for homeless on birthday

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Instead of asking for presents for her 15th birthday, Sophie Weenink Smith instead asked for donations to help the city’s homeless.

Now she has raised nearly $2000 to help that growing community.

Sophie handed out 65 meal cards last Sunday at Anzac Park as part of Giving Aroha’s evening meal service.

The community group serves over 60 homeless people meals each week.

“When I volunteered to cook and serve food last time at Giving Aroha, it broke my heart when a man said it was the first meal he had eaten in days,” she says.

Sophie started fundraising as part of her 15th birthday at the start of the month, asking friends and family to donate to her Givealittle page for meal cards instead of buying anything for herself.

“I hope to inspire the community to do the same on their birthdays. Even if one person in Nelson did this each week it would really make a difference,” Sophie says.

Alongside the meal cards, Sophie has been handing out personalised notes with supportive messages inside such as ‘you are loved’ and ‘keep your head held high, you are amazing and strong’.

Sophie says $1810 has been raised this week for food vouchers provided by Loaves and Fishes at Nelson’s All Saints Church.

The Loaves and Fishes meal cards are exchanged at the church on Vanguard Street, which has been running its service for 25 years.

Sophie says she started volunteering with Giving Aroha once she began to notice how big an issue homelessness is in Nelson.

She says she has noticed more and more homeless camps on her river clean up trips.

Sophie says she will continue to advocate and fundraise for the homeless community by handing out meal cards each week until the funds run out.

She says anyone looking to help with kai or donations can visit the ‘Giving Aroha in Anzac Park’ Facebook page.

“I think it makes people realise how lucky we are. I’ve had really positive messages from strangers who want to help, and it makes me so happy,” Sophie says.