Christmas festivities begin for 300 Angel Tree whānau

By Mānia Clarke

Festivities have already begun for 300 Auckland whānau of prison inmates.  In a first, the annual Angel Tree Christmas celebrations were hosted at Mataatua Marae in Māngere.

Monty Hune o Ngāti Awa says it’s all to give some joy to families who are doing life hard.

“Many children and the partners of inmates live on the outside in the community, so there's lots of pressures,” says Hune, “We need to really consider what they're going through.”

For 14 years the national Angel Tree programme of Prison Fellowship NZ has been giving gifts through donations to children who have a parent in prison.

This year Angel Tree is helping 3, 000 whānau nationwide.

“They're often stigmatised, bullied, they're brought up often by women on their own, or too young, or by nannies,” says NZ Prison Fellowship national director, Marama Parore.

“They miss their parent, often when their parent is arrested they don't know where their parent has gone.”

And Santa's helpers are busy preparing presents for 150 children, aged one month to 16 years.

“It's community, community,” says Peter Rakanui of Angel Tree.

“We've had so many generous donors from within the church, from businesses, from local community here [in] Tāmaki Makaurau.”

And in another first, some carnival fun for the whānau.

“You give a ticket, that ticket lets you play a game, depending on how well you do you get another ticket, and exchange it for a present,” says Rakanui.

“They can get anything, from something crafty or toys, up to- they can get a bike.  We've had lots of bikes donated.”

Angel Tree plan to host Matariki celebrations for their whānau next year.