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Four Kiwis to make world of difference

October 4, 2005

Four extraordinary Kiwis to make world of difference

From providing for orphans to supporting bereaved parents, the diverse visions of four extraordinary New Zealanders will be rewarded by a unique, national charitable programme.

The Vodafone New Zealand Foundation's (VNZF) flagship "World of Difference" programme is unveiling the four passionate people who have won the opportunity to work for causes they love.

Kylie Bentham and Diane Sharp (both from Auckland), Vicki Culling (from Wellington) and Susan van Schreven (from Invercargill) were chosen from a record 500-plus applicants to work for their favourite cause for 12 months, with their salaries and expenses paid for.

Since 2002, the programme has enabled 14 Kiwis to unleash their passion and touch thousands of lives in New Zealand and overseas.

For this year's winners, the opportunity to make a difference was compelling.

Vicki Culling will work for voluntary organisation SANDS New Zealand (Stillbirth and Newborn Death Support), to strengthen their national network and co-ordinate regional support groups for bereaved parents throughout New Zealand. As a parent personally affected by the tragic loss of her daughter, she knows from first hand experience the difference SANDS can make to someone's life.

"The possibility of someone working full-time for SANDS to do all the things we have only dreamt about is a real luxury. The year ahead is going to be busy and challenging, but ultimately it will make a difference to those families who will be faced with one of life's hardest encounters, the death of a much wanted and much loved baby," says Ms Culling.

Diane Sharp will spend 12 months working with New Zealand's Riding for the Disabled Association (NZRDA).

Mrs Sharp - a registered occupational therapist - will share her knowledge and skills with the NZRDA's many voluntary groups around the country, to develop the potential of using horse riding as therapy for clients with disabilities.

"I've done a lot of volunteer work for Riding for the Disabled and am passionate about riding therapy, having seen first hand the benefit it has. The World of Difference programme has given me the amazing opportunity to contribute full-time, " says Mrs Sharp.

Registered nurse Kylie Bentham will spend her 12 months on board the M/V Africa Mercy, with international charity Mercy Ships which operates a fleet of hospital ships in developing nations.

As the Theatre Manager, Kylie will be responsible for running six operating theatres and a sterilisation unit.

Ms Bentham says that while working for Mercy Ships in West Africa over the past few years she has witnessed the huge difference free operations have made to people's lives.

"I'm incredibly passionate about using my nursing skills to improve the health and well-being of the desperate and impoverished people of Africa. It's fantastic that the Vodafone New Zealand Foundation is giving me the opportunity to do something meaningful and practical that I know will make a lasting difference in a world of need," says Miss Bentham.

Invercargill's Susan van Schreven established Orphans Aid International, a New Zealand charity aimed at helping overseas orphans. She has a home in Romania that currently cares for nine abandoned orphans and many more waiting for homes.

Mrs van Schreven has been involved in voluntary work for around twenty years and is humbled that she will now have 12 months paid employment to invest in Orphans Aid.

"It is absolutely amazing that Orphans Aid will be lifted to the next level and we can concentrate on increasing the number of children that we can find mums and dads for," says Mrs van Schreven.

The Vodafone NZ Foundation also encourages Vodafone employees to share their talents and passion with the community. This year a new initiative - the 'mini World of Difference programme' - was launched and Vodafone received an overwhelming number of staff entries.

Nine Vodafone employees will share their skills working full-time for up to one month with one of the Vodafone New Zealand Foundation's existing partner charities. These include the Royal New Zealand Foundation of The Blind, the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust, Project K and the Spirit of Adventure Trust.

Vodafone New Zealand Foundation Chairman Neil Porteous says that he is blown away by the passion and commitment of all of the entrants in this year's programme. Determining who would be a recipient this year was a difficult and humbling task.

"When we launched the World of Difference programme four years ago our vision was to inspire passionate New Zealanders to make a real difference to causes dear to their hearts, anywhere in the world," he says. "What we never envisaged was the commitment and sheer breadth of causes people are passionate about."

Mr Porteous says the standard of entries was extremely high and he is confident that each of the winners will make a long-term, sustainable difference to the organisations they have chosen and to New Zealanders.


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