Image: Tina Tiller

A chocolate for breakfast and a burden lifted: Christmas with The Aunties 

This December, with the help of other generous food businesses, Freedom Farms will deliver 40 Christmas hampers to women affected by domestic violence. 

“What’s this?!” I hear you cry. “A Christmas story at the beginning of October? Madness!”

I know, I know. But look, someone has to be first. Better you be eased in gently with a nice story about The Aunties than caught off guard when a Christmas carol comes on at your local cafe or you catch a shimmering glimpse of tinsel at the mall. 

And for many, Christmas planning is in full swing. Freedom Farms, for example, is already getting inquiries about hams, and they’re also busy organising festive hampers for The Aunties, the Auckland organisation that supports women who are living or have lived with domestic violence.  

In 2018 Freedom Farms delivered 36 hams to women with whom The Aunties work, and this year they’re throwing eggs, bacon and sausages into the mix, making up 40 hampers that will also include festive products donated by other businesses.

“We identified that there were an awful lot of food producers who make amazing food and want to share it with people, but they either don’t have the resources to organise distribution or they just don’t know where to start,” says Freedom Farms general manager Hilary Pearson. 

Christmas presents destined for women and children The Aunties work with (Photo: Supplied)

So far, they’ve secured ham glaze, pavlova, chips, orange juice, ginger syrup, chocolate and other sweet treats, Christmas crackers and paper napkins from companies including Farro Fresh, Proper Crisps, Whittaker’s and Molly Woppy.

“For a long time we had been doing piecemeal charity support,” explains Pearson. “We get contacted pretty much every week by someone who wants support and they’re all fantastic causes, but I sat down and looked at what was the most good we could do – how we could leverage what we had to have the biggest impact.

 “Hams are a big part of what Freedom Farms is all about, so the opportunity to share that with people who probably wouldn’t otherwise get to experience a delicious Christmas dinner was the obvious thing, really.”

Pearson got in touch with Jackie Clark, founder of The Aunties, and offered up some hams.

“She cried on the phone – she’s really cool to talk to because she’s so open about what they need,” says Pearson. “With a lot of other charities it’s quite hard to understand what their needs are, but it was clear that we could do something really beneficial with The Aunties.”

Christmas can be a tough time of year for the women they support, says Phil Warin, who works closely with Clark at The Aunties. “It’s a very expensive time, not only for presents, food and items like that, but often when kids aren’t at school they need entertaining, and all those costs add up.

“Then there’s the added pressure of having family and friends over, and a lot of businesses shut for Christmas so there’s no income for many of the women.”

They struggle to make ends meet every day, and Christmas is no different, says Warin. “There’s no putting $5 away each week for Christmas, because there’s not $5 each week available.”

Gifts ready to be wrapped and distributed by The Aunties (Photo: Supplied

Last year, on a rainy day just before Christmas, Pearson and a couple of colleagues delivered the hams to women around Auckland. “I got home at the end of that delivery day and had a big cry because it was just so overwhelming,” she says. “Part of it was just feeling pissed off that there were families living in these situations – you could see that they were just scraping by, and Christmas is not a time when anyone should just be scraping by. 

“And part of it was the incredible hugs I got from the women. There was just so much gratitude.”

Last Christmas The Aunties, through fundraising, spent $15,000 on presents and groceries – including some festive treats thanks to an extra-generous donation they received towards the end of the year.

It’s a burden lifted for the women, says Warin. “It means they can relax, they don’t have to worry quite as much. Everyone should have the chance to have a chocolate for breakfast or pop a Christmas cracker, to have something that you don’t have every other day of the year.” 

One of the women says The Aunties’ support last Christmas allowed her to “rest and heal”. “I was off work and my last maternity pay was on Christmas Day. Having had several DV [domestic violence] events leading up to it, if it wasn’t for The Aunties my children would have had no Christmas at all. Even the Christmas dinner and food for the weeks up to New Year’s was all because of The Aunties. 

“It meant I wasn’t stressed over trying to make nothing stretch, and I could rest and heal and not go into a deep depression again. In a real rough time for my family, being able to treat and see my children with things they really wanted made me feel that someone cared about us, that we weren’t alone hiding behind closed doors. It was quite a big thing at the time to feel like we had whānau.”

Sacks of presents ready to be delivered by The Aunties, and a grateful recipient (Photos: Supplied)

As for the kids, it makes Christmas a special day – “not just another day of the year, which for a lot of kids it would be otherwise”, says Warin. “We had one child last year who was given a present and didn’t actually know what to do with it, because he had never received one.”

“So it’s just making them feel special and showing them that they’re loved, not only by their families, but that other people in the community love them as well.”

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It’s also about making them feel like regular kids, she says. “When they go back to school in January, they’ve got something they can talk about, they’ve got something they can share with their friends.”

For details on how to support The Aunties, click here. Phil Warin and her mother Robyn are shaving their heads to raise money for The Aunties and breast cancer charity Sweet Louise – see their Givealittle page to contribute.  

If you’re a Kiwi food producer who would like to donate something delicious to 40 of The Aunties Christmas Hampers, please get in touch with the team at Freedom Farms by emailing us@freedomfarms.co.nz. No tinned tomatoes thanks! 

This content was created in paid partnership with Freedom Farms. Learn more about our partnerships here


The Spinoff’s food content is brought to you by Freedom Farms. They believe talking about food is nearly as much fun as eating it, and they’re excited to facilitate some good conversations around food provenance in Aotearoa New Zealand.


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