Borne of the increased challenges and pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic, Applause Charitable Trust is supporting the staff of Aotearoa’s Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to continue caring for vulnerable New Zealanders during these unprecedented times.  Applause creator, Jen Deben, says she was inspired to help when she saw how frontline support workers answered the call for New Zealand in 2020.

“I became aware of the massive hours that NGO staff were working during Level 4 Lockdown to support the Government to quickly house, feed and care for vulnerable whānau.  COVID-19 increased caseloads for frontline community workers to the point where they were working 7-day weeks, up to 12 hours a day, and those increased needs are still continuing on long after the easing of lockdown restrictions.  The evidence is overwhelming that our NGOs need support and are absorbing a huge amount of unmet need.”

The idea for Applause, Jen says, is to provide a practical response which connects kaimahi and community workers with free or discounted goods and services provided by local businesses and volunteers.  During her initial research, she learned about Hui E! Community Aotearoa and the support that she could access as part of the Hui E! network.  “There’s so much work involved in establishing a charity, and certainly an element of not knowing what you don’t know.  For us, it was about bridging that knowledge gap as quickly as we could.  The work we’re doing is very much now, not in some future state.  Hui E! was hugely supportive about that.”

Hui E! has provided Applause with a range of support, Jen says, from grant writing and learning opportunities, to critical connections and updates from the Hui E! network.  “It was extremely valuable for us to learn how labour-intensive the grant writing process can be, and to use that process with Hui E!’s volunteer grant writer to really nail down some of our key messaging and streamline future grant proposals.  We weren’t successful in that first application, but we learned so much about who we are and the level of information we need to be collecting on a regular basis.  I was also really impressed by the Health & Wellbeing workshop series that ComVoices (of which Hui E! is a member) hosted last year as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.  Understanding mental health and wellbeing – from both an individual and an organisational perspective – is one of our key outcomes.  We attended and learned from every one of Hui E!’s sessions.”

Applause is now growing and currently launching a new partnership with online marketplace, Chooice, as well as bringing some corporate sponsors on board to help provide care packages to kaimahi as a surprise koha for their ongoing contributions.  While Applause’s focus is currently on kaimahi in the housing sector – primarily people who are working to get vulnerable New Zealanders into transitional and emergency housing – Jen is excited to expand to new carer segments soon.  “When we first started, we were a bit broad in our approach.  The work we did with Hui E! helped us to narrow our focus to housing providers first; we will then move to another sector of care staff, and so on.  It’s a much more sustainable way to operate for the size of our charity and it’s really helped to clarify our purpose and connect with our audience in a way that resonates with them.” 

Looking back, Jen reflects that being part of collaborative networks really is the key for a successful impact sector, and she’s grateful to Hui E! for facilitating this early in Applause’s journey.  “In signing up for Hui E!’s network and regular newsletters, I realised the importance of collaboration and of knowing what is going on elsewhere in Aotearoa.  When I recently attended the Hui E! AGM, I saw how much amazing mahi they produce without much funding themselves, and how many volunteers they have supporting them.  Knowing how supported they are by their own community is incredible, and also well-deserved.  They treat the people in their network and their mahi as both valuable and valued, and they’re always ready and willing to help, despite how busy they must be.”