Good people and great causes collide

Lee-Anne Roycroft, Ken Knott, Yvonne Campbell, Carol Burborough, Taitama Heke Nepia, Kylie Pasternak with the new play equipment.

Take two security safes and a fish smoker, and what do you have? A giant plastic building set for junior pupils at Brookfield School.

Tauranga-based charity DonorsChoice is helping to resource schools with play and learning equipment, one project at a time.

Based on a hugely successful charitable trust in the United States, it links up teachers and their classes with sponsors who are interested in supporting school projects.

The money is raised through various means, including garage sales and selling second-hand goods online.

The latest donation, to Brookfield School, was made possible after Yvonne Campbell donated two safes and a smoker that belonged to her late husband Ian.

DonorsChoice then sold the items, making $500 to fund the play set.

“It’s always hard for the school to get extras,” says deputy principal Carol Burborough.

“We decided we would have a go, so we wrote a letter asking for $495 for the new entrant room. They said it was a great project and perfect for what they were looking for.”

The building set will be used to foster learning through play, by building social skills, teaching children how to share and improving oral language.

DonorsChoice was started by Ken Knott and Bernie Hanvey, who are both trustees, together with Stephen Hatfield.

In true Kiwi style, the money was raised through a series of connections. Bernie, who is Yvonne’s son-in-law, sold the fish smoker to a friend. Ken sold one of the safes to one of his friends, and that friend found a buyer for the other safe.

Ken says the charity it has been modelled off, Donors Choose, has raised hundreds of millions of dollars by matching sponsors with teachers.

He would like to see the concept grow to the point it is working with corporates, as is the case in the Unites States.

In the meantime, DonorsChoice will continue to work its contacts to help schools, on a project-by-project basis.

Volunteer Leeanne Roycroft says DonorsChoice “just wants to make stuff happen”.

“When we get a project, we sit down and work out how we can bring it together,” she says.

“Teachers are time-poor, and schools are money-poor. We make the connections to make it happen.”

Schools who have a project that needs funding, or those would like to donate, can contact Ken at