One Voice amplified by funding support

25 May 2023

When you first set foot in Lynsey Abbott’s Flaxmere home, it’s obvious straight away that whānau | family is everything. 

Pictures of tipuna | ancestors sit alongside more recent family photos. Even the family’s overly affectionate one-eyed cat, curious at the arrival of another new visitor, has a framed picture on the shelf. 

Whānau is paramount to Lynsey. And if you spend any amount of time with her, you soon realise that to her, everyone is whānau. 

The New Zealand Disaster Fund has provided a grant of $50,000 to Lynsey’s organisation, One Voice Charitable Trust, to support their ongoing work helping those affected by Cyclone Gabrielle in Hawke’s Bay.

From their base at Lynsey’s Flaxmere home, a team of dedicated helpers coordinate support to those who need it. Before starting to tell her story, we all come together for a karakia (prayer) for those that continue to struggle. 

Adapting in the early days

“I got a call at 5am the morning of the cyclone to ask if I could set up Te Aranga Marae (in Flaxmere),” Lynsey explains. “We had 56 people at the marae, and we also helped set up at the Cook Islands Community Hall, Flaxmere Community Centre and a local church.” 

Lynsey didn’t know the full extent of the damage in those early stages but along with the One Voice team, set out to provide people with food, blankets and clothing. As time went on, the need for a fast response became clear.  

“We worked out early on that the quickest and easiest way we could help people is with vouchers.”

Lynsey’s team began giving out supermarket vouchers for groceries, as well as vouchers for petrol and hardware so that people could buy tools and fuel the machinery needed to clean up their properties. “Along with Hawke’s Bay Toy Drive, One Voice has been supporting people in Napier, Omāhu, Waiohiki, Esk Valley, Pakowhai, Pātoka, Tangoio, Puketapu, Rissington, and Te Hāroto.” 

Working in community with others

One Voice is also helping other charitable causes to deliver support. Community hero Neela Neela is making hundreds of meals a day – over a thousand on Tuesdays and Fridays – and giving them for free to those in need. One Voice has been supporting Neela with vouchers to cover the costs of food. 

Nancye Rewi’s nieces and nephews lost everything in the flooding. She took them to buy some toys, so they could have something of their own. One Voice has been supporting Nancye’s mahi | work – and the work of others – by providing funding for essential items. 

Photo of Lynsey Abbott from One Voice Charitable Trust with the pataka kai (pantry) she has outside her house, with free food for those in the community that need it.

Lynsey Abbott from One Voice Charitable Trust with the pataka kai | pantry outside her house, with free food for those in the community that need it.

“The look of joy on their face was something I wanted every kid to have,” Nancye says. “I’ve been operating a Facebook page for the Hawke’s Bay Toy Drive, to help children with nothing have something. We have been giving them school packs, clothing, toiletries, and toys.” 

Nancye turned her own home into a playcentre, so parents would be able to drop their children off and focus on cleaning up properties and communities. With clean up now underway, Nancye is hoping to focus on the unseen damage from the cyclone – mental wellbeing amongst the tamariki | children.  

“It’s not fair what people are going through. We are working to help them cope with the emotional side of things through play.” 

Helping people deal with grief 

Lynsey’s story is just as harrowing, if for different reasons. One week before Cyclone Gabrielle, Lynsey was saying goodbye to her husband, Haira, who sadly passed away. Throwing herself into her work at One Voice has provided Lynsey the opportunity to work directly with those who are dealing with their own grief. 

“I had one whaea | aunty from Pakowhai come in who had lost everything. Her son, daughter-in-law, and their children had lost everything as well. Three generations, all left with nothing. 

“She was so desperate and she needed help and support. I handed over vouchers to help them get food and get some fencing supplies. I just wanted to give her a hug and she just fell into my arms. It all just came out.”

Lynsey is grateful for the support of New Zealand Red Cross and the New Zealand Disaster Fund because, as she says, “The moment the money comes in, it goes straight back out again”. She shows off a giant box of receipts, and is able to account for every cent donated to the Trust. 

In normal times, One Voice serves a very different purpose. Since One Voice was founded 10 years ago, Lynsey has supported victims of sexual abuse, drug addiction and runs a grief support group. Having lost her son a decade ago, Lynsey finds comfort in helping others to share their grief. 

But for now, the community needs One Voice’s support in other ways. They have visited most parts of Hawke’s Bay, and with the road between Napier and Wairoa now open, they hope to travel there soon as well. 

We say a karakia to close our meeting, and the One Voice team gets stuck straight back in.  

“Our whānau have a big journey ahead of them. Even through our own grief, our interest is in the pain and grief other people are going through,” Lynsey says. 

“When we collectively come together, it just uplifts the energy.”

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Lead image: Members of the One Voice Charitable Trust team: Darius Tuhiwai, Lynsey Abbott (holding a picture of her late husband, Haira Abbott), Nancye Rewi from Hawke's Bay Toy Run, and Tira Te Maari.