Guest Blog – CanTeen – Youth Support Coordinator Miranda Palmer

Have you ever wondered what CanTeen does? Youth Support Coordinator Miranda Palmer sheds a little light on things in this super informative guest blog post. Over to you, Miranda!

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At CanTeen, we support young people aged 13-24 who are affected by Cancer. We want to make sure no young person goes through cancer alone – patient, sibling or offspring – bereaved or non-bereaved. Support is a really individual thing, so we have several paths for being there for our young people. The 1-1 support us YSC’s provide is like having an advocate and mentor on your team, to be alongside a CanTeener,  stick up for CanTeeners in their communities and provide options and access to support.

Peer support is my favourite part of CanTeen – young people are the experts on what they are going through, so who better to support them then others their own age who have been through the same thing! We also provide counselling, and weekend workshops where CanTeeners can let go, learn some new skills and meet others who get it. Lots of CanTeeners who are over the bad bits of their cancer experience love to give back, and to learn further skills. So we also provide leadership opportunities which gives these young people the chance to run their own events, use their story to advocate for others and fundraise for CanTeen. We even have an advocacy group specifically for young people who are looking to make change in their communities about the grief, loss and change around cancer!

We are really jazzed to have NZ Post Secret Santa choose us again! As CanTeen member leader Matt explained, the gifts and amazing thoughts given to us through this campaign goes towards a busy end of year time for us and our young people. For many young people, cancer doesn’t just impact them physically but also socially, emotionally, mentally and financially. Looking after themselves and their loves ones through treatment and loss becomes priority. Incomes are stretched, lives are changed and the meaning of life changes for our members – and thanks to NZ Post’s NZ Secret Santa we are able to bring a bit of joy and excitement into the lives of our members at this key time of year. From gifts to patients on ward, to vouchers to bereaved siblings and offspring, we are so humbled and grateful to be thought of.

Christmas parties are a chance to really spoil our members which are always great fun (despite what my photo looks like). They’re really a special time, where we can celebrate our members resilience, courage and strength in the face of cancer. #NZSecretSanta adds that extra sparkle to these events and to their lives, which we can’t thank you all enough!

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Guest Blog – CanTeen – Youth Support Coordinator Miranda Palmer

Guest Blog – CanTeen – Matthew Manukuo

CanTeen were kind enough to get a couple of guest bloggers for us, so prepare yourselves, Matthew Manukuo is up first! Take it away Matthew.

Matthew & Members Xmas 1

Hey! My name is Matthew Manukuo. I am 16 years of age and I am a cancer survivor! I also have the privilege and honour to be a member of CanTeen NZ’s Auckland Branch and be one of their member leaders.

Matthew & Members Xmas 2

At CanTeen, we not only have fun at Christmas, we also like to make sure EVERYONE is looked after. During the festive season, we put on a massive Christmas party for all our patient, sibling and offspring members. Our patients have a dedicated Christmas dinner where we give gifts and celebrate the hard year it has been for them. And the last thing we do is ensure our bereaved members and families are set up for Christmas. Thanks to #NZSecretSanta we’re able to make this possible thanks to all the gifts and goodies we get, to really make Christmas that much more special.

Matthew & Members Xmas 3

Thank you #NZSecretSanta for all your awesome support!

Guest Blog – CanTeen – Matthew Manukuo

The First NZ Secret Santa Update for 2017 – dates, changes and more!

Kia ora Santas!

We have awoken from our non-Christmastime slumber to tell you lots of very exciting news. The first is that yes, NZ Secret Santa is indeed happening again this year!

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I HOPE YOU’RE ALL AS EXCITED AS WE ARE

So right off the bat, there’s going to be a few changes and there’s going to be a few stays-the-sameses. Let’s start with the stay-the-sameses.

What’s staying the same?

1) The general structure of the game

You know how it works (unless you don’t, to which I will say, hi! Welcome!). Sign up, get your Santa, sleuth your Santa, tweet hints to your Santa, send the present, wait patiently (seriously, be patient), get your gift, tweet about it, enjoy in the Twitter revelry.

2) The Bad Santa Gift Stash + Super Secret Santas

We’re basically prepared for the inevitable when it comes to bad Santas, so we’ve already started stockpiling gifts for such an inevitability. We will also probably require Super Secret Santas when the game actually gets underway, so stay tuned to the account in late Nov/early Dec for info.

3) Our charity – CanTeen!

So normally we like to change charities with NZ Secret Santa like people change cellphones – approximately yearly. But we had such an overwhelming and incredible response to having CanTeen as our charity (I cried over all the presents we received), that we’re doing the same again this year.

4) Adding a card to your gift

So with hanging with CanTeen again, we’re doing the “add a card to your gift” part again too! All money for the card goes to CanTeen. ❤

5) Badges!

Love ’em or hate ’em, we’re using badges again this year.

So what’s changing?

1) The dates!

Believe it or not, we heard you. Last year got really frantic, especially with the earthquake putting elf HQ out of action, so we’re extending the timelines this year just in case. The dates are as follows (unless we change them):

6 November – Registrations open
22 November – Registrations close
23 November – You’re assigned your Santa
10 December – Send in your gifts by this date
18 December – Dispatch date

We’re giving you an extra week to send your presents – so don’t let us down or you’ll be in trouble. We also heard you about how it wasn’t fair how quickly Auckland got their presents compared to everyone else. That was a weird logistical quirk with dispatching on a Thursday with the storehouse being in Auckland. So now we’re dispatching on a Monday and…

2) The Storehouse is moving!

That’s right! The NZ Secret Santa Storehouse will no longer be based in Auckland. We’re moving this puppy to Wellington. As a side note, if someone wants to bring in a puppy as a therapy dog, we might need it.

We don’t know the exact address that we’ll ask you to send your things to yet, but please for the love of Christmas DO NOT send any NZ Secret Santa presents to the old Storehouse address.

What does this mean? For you, logistically, nothing at all really. Send it to our Welly address, elves take care of it, boom, Christmas is sorted. It may mean that if we ask for help, you can join us at Elf HQ! Previously the Storehouse was at the North Pole behind a line at NZ Customs at the International Mail Centre, which meant it wasn’t technically in the country. Hooray! It also meant that anyone without clearance couldn’t enter, so we couldn’t accept any help from eager Santas.

Please bear in mind just because we might ask for volunteers doesn’t mean we will ask for volunteers. We love your help and enthusiasm, but we just can’t guarantee the scope of everything.

Anything else to note?

A few things.

If we’re perfectly honest right now, we’re having some technical issues at Elf HQ. Nothing for you to be concerned about, but there might be a chance our dates will change as a result. We’ll let you know more if it’s looking to throw things out of whack.

We’re going to be a little stricter around the badges system this. Last year we had requests for workarounds on the charity badge, and while we accommodated this last year, we’ve decided it’s not fair on our charity partner. Not discouraging you from donating to other people anyway, but you’ll need to donate to CanTeen to get the charity badge this year. No workarounds. Soz fam.

We’re still looking for Bad Santa Gift Stash contributions, so awesome businesses, please get in touch!

Also if you want to write a guest blog post for us, message us on Twitter!

And that’s all from us for now! If you’re playing again, welcome back! If you’re playing for the first time, welcome! Let’s make 2017 the best NZ Secret Santa yet.

Lots of love,
Libby, Aj and the Elves x

The First NZ Secret Santa Update for 2017 – dates, changes and more!

NZ Secret Santa – Post-Game Round-up 2016

Hey Santas! You did it! You survived another year of NZ Secret Santa and Christmas! (and so did we!)

If you played, thank you so much for playing. This game wouldn’t be what it is without you. If you didn’t play, we hope you had fun lurking on the hashtag and that you join in on the fun next year! Now let’s get to the nitty gritty. The Good, the Meh and the Ugly.

The Good

The Badges

Holy Santa’s beard, you loved the badges. Big old tick on something that worked super well. The number of people who wanted to go above and beyond to add badges to their dashboards was awesome.

Partnering with CanTeen

In the end we had seven huge boxes of presents to send to CanTeen and most of them were extra presents that you bought out of the kindness of your hearts! CanTeen Christchurch told us that they’ll have gifts for Christmas, birthdays and end of treatment celebrations, which made me cry beautiful, ugly happy tears. Y’all should give yourselves pats on the back, you’ve made a real difference to people in need this Christmas.

The Tweeting

I checked the data and since November, the #NZSecretSanta hashtag was used over 22,000 times. We were trending for the first and last halves of registration and have been trending for most of the last few days, so thank you for tweeting!

The International Coverage

This is going to sound a little pompous, but we’re used to a news story or two about NZ Secret Santa, but the amount of international interest we had this year was phenomenal and totally unexpected. We were on Mashable, the Huffington Post, ABC News, Marie Clare and so many more. You’ve helped NZ maintain its status as a pretty darn cute country, so pakipaki to that, Santas!

The Bad Santa Gift Stash

We don’t want to need it, but we do need a little extra support to ensure everyone gets a present as we get eager and well-meaning Santas who just don’t end up playing. The Bad Santa Gift Stash this year was amazing. Thank you again to all of our sponsors, who can be found on this link here and are a great option for if you need last minute really early Christmas presents. (Phew, good save 2017 Libby)

The Meh

Disengaged Santas/Bad Santas

Unfortunately, we had Bad Santas/Disengaged Santas, as we do every year. On the plus side, the Bad Santa numbers are the lowest they’ve ever been! On the minus side, the Bad Santas let down some long-time players who have voiced their dissatisfaction with us. While we’re always open to feedback on how we can cut these numbers down, we’re still inclined to not put restrictions in place on who can and can’t play based on things like tweet count or whether an account is locked, because we don’t feel it’s in the spirit of the game.

The Timelines

We hear you. Our timelines were too tight and we totally agree. The Elves were completely caught off guard by the earthquake, which ruined a fair few of our plans for the game (including an early surprise match, d’oh). We’re looking at changing the timelines next year to fix this so there’s more time to do EVERYTHING.

The Earthquake

So in case you’re not aware, the Elves are a few employees from NZ Post. The two that run the Twitter account are Libby (yours truly) and Aj. Along with a handful of other Elves, we’ve been displaced from our workplace since mid-November, which screwed a few of our plans. I had put together a whole content calendar of fun stuff to do that had to be thrown out the window as the paperwork was still in the building. Our mascot, Kiri, had to be left behind on our floor, which made us sad because we had ideas to do an Elf-on-the-Shelf type content series with her. And Aj was planning on doing an early match (as mentioned previously) one week into registrations, but because we were displaced along with so many other people, we didn’t feel it was fair or feasible to do so.

The Ugly

The Dashboard

There’s no nice way of putting it, the dashboard was borked this year. There were a lot of reasons this happened, like extra gifts, charity stuff not performing as expected but mainly because…

Issues at the Storehouse

As part of the game, we rely on people who work in different departments within NZ Post to help us out in the logistics side of things. This year we had a brand new Chief Logistics Elf who did an amazing job (especially for their first run at things!)

However.

When checking in presents the expected level of vigilance/care wasn’t taken. This is likely our fault as assumptions were made that whoever took over from our previous Chief Logistics Elf would be good to go with little (read: no) training. Obviously, not the case.

Among the issues were presents going to the wrong people, completely unrelated parcels ending up in the game and some presents getting misplaced. That last one had a number of Santas stressed and the Elves completely stressed too. It was a really small number of people, but to anyone who’s present didn’t end up where it should have…

We’re sorry.

We can’t emphasise this enough, we’re really well and truly sorry. It genuinely hurts our hearts when people have bad experiences with the game. We do this game because we love it so much and we love the Twitter community so much. I wish we could explain what happened here, but we can’t. Things were meant to be somewhere and they weren’t. And that sucks. We understand if it has negatively affected your experience with the game and we totally understand if you don’t want to play again. We hope you change your mind, but again, we understand if this is it for you.

2017?

Things are looking positive (not necessarily concrete, but positive!) for having #NZSecretSanta again this year. The Elves are already putting their heads together on how we can change and improve the game. There may be big changes coming. Or there may not, we’re not sure as only ideas have been floated about at this stage and we’re not sure how feasible some of these ideas are and we probably won’t really talk about it again until maybe June or July this year. We’ll be sending out a post-game survey in the New Year, so please keep an eye on your inbox and provide us with your feedback!

Wishing you all the very best for the holiday season!

Lots of love,

Libby, Aj and the Elves xx

NZ Secret Santa – Post-Game Round-up 2016

How to be more awesome this Christmas – guest post

If you’re looking for a gift that does good, look no further than this blog, brought to you by Nic of Good Bitches Baking. Nic Murray is trying to save the world with kindness, and cake, after getting pretty drunk one night and accidentally starting a charity. She’s based in Wellington and is a self-employed contractor who gets shit done. You’ll find more of Nic at @goodbitchesbake and @NicNicNZ Take it away, Nic!

@goodbitchesbake and @NicNicNZ

You are pretty awesome already because you’re playing Secret Santa, but there is a way to become more awesome. It’s easy too – you’re buying a present anyway, all you have to do is buy a certain type of present and you’re instantly more awesome (and the world is a little brighter).

Buying a gift that supports a charity is a gift that gives more. As well as your recipient getting a great present, the charity you supported gets some much needed funds and you get to feel twice as good because in effect you gave two gifts. More people win, and you are more awesome than you were before you bought that gift.

There are loads of ways to do this, but since I’m writing this blog I’m going to shamelessly spruik my charity – Good Bitches Baking. There are about 1000 GBs all over our lovely land who believe that kindness can save us all. We show kindness by baking delicious treats and giving them to people who are having a tough time. There are a lot of them – in shelters, refugees, hospital wards, support groups etc. We know that a moment of sweetness has amazing benefits, for everyone involved.

We need money to keep going, so we’ve made a freakishly beautiful cookbook called Bloody Good Baking. The recipes are tightly-held kitchen secrets and family heirlooms. And there’s a special price of $40 available for you until 3 December – even more winning!

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Also available is a cool tea-towel ($15) featuring my highly sought-after ginger crunch recipe. Seriously, people who usually have good grace and decorum used to beg me for this recipe. This is perfect for anyone with a kitchen.

Buying these things will definitely make you more awesome! Do it here.

Of course, there are other charities that you can buy presents from. Check out some charities that you love and see if they are selling stuff. Or have a look at:

  • Super cool bandanas from Canteen and help support teens with cancer and their siblings
  • A knitting book from Neonatal Trust and help support prem babies and their parents

Or if you think your gift-recipient would like it, you could buy a gift that goes to someone else, like:

And even if you can’t help out a charity, there are other ways to make your gift-giving dollars do more good, like buying your gift from

  • Trade Aid and help craft makers in developing counties
  • a company that treats their suppliers fairly like these Wellington Chocolate Factory chocolates or Flight coffee
  • a store that supports lots of charities, like Moore Wilson’s.

You can even get customised Christmas cards made, with some of the profit going to a charity of your choice.

There are loads of ways to help make every dollar you spend do good. And crikey, we could all do with a bit more good right now, eh?

How to be more awesome this Christmas – guest post

5 tips for playing #NZSecretSanta – guest post

Okay Santas, we’re getting down to the wire on sending deadlines. Good thing Meagan (ThisIsMeaganK) is here to give you some hints and tips on how to play and how to get your gift sorted.

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We’re in full swing with #NZSecretSanta – everyone has been assigned the person they’re gifting to (if you’re not sure who yours is, make sure you check your dashboard, stat!) and some Santas have already shipped their presents off to the elves. Some people are easy to shop for because they join in the Q&A sessions, they tweet a lot and they’re active on the #NZSecretSanta hashtag; but what if you’re trying to find a great gift for someone who has a locked account, only tweets about work things or just retweets ratings of cute dogs?

THINGS TO HELP THEM RELAX

If someone tweets about work a lot, there’s a good chance they need a bit of R&R! Gifts to help someone relax are always a nice treat regardless – think body lotions, face masks, candles, foot scrubs … basically any of those nice “feel good” things.

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EMERGENCY TEA BREAK KIT

The humble tea break is the perfect time to check Twitter, so why not get your giftee some things to make that tea break even more awesome? Suggestions include a nifty coffee cup, something to drink (I’m a fan of hot chocolate and coffee myself, but go for your hot beverage of choice), a tasty snack, and something to pass the time – a magazine, a crossword, Sudoku – think about what you like to do on your breaks!

CHECK OUT THE BAD SANTA GIFT STASH SPONSORS

The elves have been hard at work lining up some amazing sponsors, and they have some pretty cool things that might spark some ideas for that perfect gift. Find the full line up here.

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GROW YOUR OWN

Plants can be a cool gift but they’re hard to send in the post (all that soil and whatnot). A kit to grow something cool of your own? Now there is a great idea! Grab a premade kit (these Peropon ones are my top pick, they’re super cute) or pick out some seeds and create your own.

FEELING CHARITABLE?

A donation to a rad charity is always a nice thought. CanTeen is the #NZSecretSanta charity this year, or you could support another one you think might appeal to your giftee. Whichever one you choose, make sure you send a little something in to the storehouse so that the elves can check off your gift – maybe a card to say what charity you’ve picked and what you’ve donated on their behalf?

If you’re still feeling stuck and need to give your #NZSecretSanta giftee a nudge to help you out, check out the NZSS Prodder – they can send an anonymous tweet on your behalf and do some sleuthing for you. Good luck Santas!

5 tips for playing #NZSecretSanta – guest post

What CanTeen and #NZSecretSanta mean to me – guest post

We’re lucky enough to have another guest post from CanTeen – this time from Matt, a member of CanTeen. He’s here to share his story and what he thinks of #NZSecretSanta supporting CanTeen. Take it away Matt.

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Me at the 2015 CanTeen Christmas party.

Kia ora folks, my name is Matt. I’m a member of CanTeen and I’ve been invited to share a little about ourselves and what this years #nzsecretsanta means to us.

You may be aware that the team at NZ Post have decided to make us the lucky recipients of this years BSGS (assuming there aren’t too many bad santas out there!) and some of you may have even been awesome enough to send us a gift yourselves! We reckon you should know therefore what we’re all about at CanTeen.

In case you’ve never heard of us CanTeen is an organisation which supports young people living with cancer. Thats people aged 13-24 and includes patients, siblings of patients, bereaved siblings and offspring (people whose parents have cancer). I’ve been a part of this fantastic family for over three and a half years now so I know much about what this all involves but lately I’ve been thinking a bit about what it’d be like on the outside looking in- what you guys see. And I think what is often seen is the ‘ABC’s of CanTeen’.

In my head these ABC’s are adolescents, bandannas and camps. Is this what comes to mind when you think of CanTeen? No doubt that’s all part of what we do and we can do them all well but to me there is a whole alphabet to the world of CanTeen (don’t worry, I won’t be so inane as to assign something to each letter!). What are some of these other things? Well, we of course offer important support in hospital, we run programmes that help our members deal with grief, relationships etc, we take member experiences and with those advocate to government, we offer counselling, peer support, leadership development and loads of fun times. Although that’s far from an exhaustive list, point is that supporting us helps support a tonne of really important work- and I can vouch for that importance because I’ve experienced it personally.

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Me with my sister, Hayley.

And what of myself? I’m 22 and a bereaved sibling member. My sister Hayley was diagnosed with cancer just before the beginning of 2013 and together we experienced much of CanTeen’s support in hospital, through catch ups and at camp. In Hayley’s case cancer wasn’t to be overcome and she died in April 2014. Since then I’ve seen ever so much more of CanTeen. I’ve grieved a lot and grown a lot and they’ve been by my side the whole way.

There is a quote from our Queen which really resonates with me- “Grief is the price we pay for love.”

I had it hard for a while after Hayley died, I was very close to her and for months I’d cry myself to sleep. Since then I’ve learnt that the grief I experienced came from my love for her and I am convinced that the love I was able to share with her makes it all worth it. And that is what life’s all about- being kind to one another and sharing our love.

I must confess my prior ignorance to the #nzsecretsanta phenomenon but reading the blog and browsing the hashtag I see that in the community that you’ve all created. This idea is such a bright spark and it is amazing seeing the joy people have in giving and doing something kind for a stranger. In some cases that stranger may be people like me, members of CanTeen, and knowing that we have that support and backing from you means a great deal- more than the material benefit ever will (and you can bet we appreciate every bit of that we can get too!).

With that I’d like to give a huge thank you to everyone involved in NZ Secret Santa- the sponsors, the team at NZ Post and of course the thousands of you- you’ve already brought a few smiles to my face today and there is huge potential for many more!

Merry Christmas and thank you to all- you guys rock. xx

What CanTeen and #NZSecretSanta mean to me – guest post