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POPPY APPEAL A LIFELINE FOR VETERANS AND THEIR FAMILIES

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Raising vital funds to support the needs of New Zealand’s 41,000 veterans and their families will be the focus of this year’s RSA Poppy Appeal.

Recognising and responding to the needs of veterans, especially those members of the military who have served in recent deployments around the world, was a key theme of the national launch of the 2017 Poppy Appeal, held today in Auckland.

Veterans and their families need our help

RSA National President BJ Clark said the RSA was responding to a growing need for its support services, and that included providing a wide range of help to the veterans and their families coping with everything from health impacts, the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Illness (PTSI) and other conditions brought on by service, help with transitioning to civilian life or financial aid in times of hardship.

“New Zealand now has 41,000 veterans – the most at any time since the end of the Second World war. Many Kiwis would be surprised to learn that nearly three quarters of those veterans served in overseas deployments since the Vietnam War.

‘This younger generation of veterans have to deal with many of the same life challenges of those earlier generations of service men and women but perhaps without the understanding of the public that they too had experienced some dangerous, stressful and personally distressing situations in their service for New Zealand.”

The Poppy Appeal, is a time for New Zealanders to recognise that service and give back to those who have made sacrifices and put their well-being at risk for others. This is captured in our theme for the appeal, Remember to Care.”

This year, there will be a variety of ways for New Zealanders to make a donation throughout the week of the Poppy Appeal. The Appeal will again culminate in Poppy Day which this year will fall on Friday April 21, just four days before Anzac Day.

The RSA national leadership was joined at the launch by dignitaries, RSA member clubs and also the Poppy Ambassadors, who will help spread the message of the Appeal.

Ambassadors call on Kiwis to give generously

This year’s Ambassadors are: former soldier and widow Tina Grant; former All Blacks and Maori All Blacks captain Buck Shelford; Naval reservist and recording artist Rebecca Nelson; actor and comedian Oscar Kightley; All Blacks coach Steven Hansen; and film-maker Sir Peter Jackson.

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has personal and family connections to the services and to the work of the RSA and calls on all New Zealanders to dig deep on Poppy Day.

“Every year the RSA does a terrific job looking after New Zealand’s 41,000 veterans and the young men and women serving in our armed forces at home and abroad. I know what it’s like to have someone serving in the military, and the sacrifices they make for us on a daily basis deserves our support. What better way to recognise this than to buy a poppy and wear it with real pride. Poppy Day is a day we should all remember with a little bit of sadness for those we’ve lost but also a tremendous amount of pride for the commitment of these people to make our world a better place."

Tina Grant’s husband Doug was killed in Afghanistan in 2010 and she says it is critical to care for those who have served and for their families and those left behind, as is the case with the families she deals with in her work for NZDF as Liaison Officer for Families of the Fallen.

“Looking after our veterans and their families is at the heart of the Poppy Appeal, which is why it is so important to me. I know from my own experience and those of the families I work that there are so many things that people who have returned from service or those families affected by their family member’s time overseas that might need help with. It’s no longer just about the older generations of soldiers either as many of our veterans now are young people not long out of service who have to make big adjustments and sometimes need a bit of a hand. “Poppy Day also allows us pay tribute to those young people, to the veterans of the last Century and to those people just starting their military careers today. By wearing a poppy we honour them and by making a donation to the Poppy Appeal we can help take care of them.”

Actor Oscar Kightley, who appeared in the 2016 hit Hunt for the Wilderpeople and in this year’s Moana, also supports the RSA’s recognition of the broad range of Kiwis who have served and are serving for our country.

“When I wear the poppy I often think of the soldiers who fought for freedom and for their country in the two World wars of the 20th Century. Sadly, we are seeing the last of that generation. Standing in their place is a new band of service men and women who have put their lives at risk in service for New Zealand. They do it without complaint and when they come home many of them must deal with the effects of what they have seen and experienced or with a wide range of injuries and illnesses that need long-term care. We also still have young families whose members don’t come home at all. We can all show we care by wearing the poppy and by digging deep for the annual Poppy Appeal to help the RSA look after them in communities all over New Zealand.”

The newest Poppy Ambassador is Naval Reservist and singing sensation Rebecca Nelson, who has strong personal ties to the work of the RSA.

“As a reservist in the Royal New Zealand Navy I have the honour and privilege of singing at commemoration services in New Zealand and around the world. It is truly a humbling experience visiting the battlefields in Europe where we lost so many soldiers and I always feel an incredible sense of pride wearing my poppy while singing the New Zealand national anthem on that sacred land.

“The Poppy Appeal allows us to honour the fallen, but it is also about supporting our current service personnel and the brave veterans, young and old, who live day to day with physical injuries and psychological issues brought on by their service. The poppy is more than just a flower, it is the ultimate symbol of respect and remembrance and I encourage you all to get behind the RSA and donate generously this Poppy Appeal.”

Former All Blacks captain Wayne “Buck” Shelford comes from a long family line of service in the military and believes it important to give back to those who given service.

“I have been fortunate to wear both the All Blacks and Maori All Blacks jerseys at international level and the uniform of the Royal New Zealand Navy in my 11 years in the Navy. I wore those uniforms with great pride. Each year I now wear the poppy to show my support for the RSA and for veterans and current service men and women who represent our country at home and around the world. Many of them, including younger veterans who have served in recent years, need our help and support. You can show your care and help them out by making a generous donation to this year’s Poppy Appeal.”

Film maker Sir Peter Jackson, who is a founding member of the RSA National Association and the creative force behind Wellington’s Great War Exhibition, is returning as a 2017 Poppy Appeal Ambassador.

95 years of giving and support

The 2017 Poppy Appeal marks the 95th running of the appeal, making it New Zealand’s oldest continuously run appeal.

RSA Chief Executive Jack Steer says the longevity of the appeal reflects New Zealand’s long-service to assisting countries near and far in times of conflict; in peace-time missions and other deployments in aid of others.

“While for most of the 20th Century New Zealanders knew that the Poppy Appeal was a key part of providing support to our former servicemen and women and their dependents, that is not so well understood today. The Poppy Appeal funds can only be used to provide help and support to those veterans and their families, regardless of whether they are RSA members or not. All funds collected by clubs locally is also deployed locally, providing care to those servicemen and women and their families living in your communities,”

Members of the public can support the appeal by making a donation to a Street Appeal collector on Friday 21 April.

Donations can also be made at ANZ branches and New Zealand Post branches and on the weekend of April 22 and 23 at Bunnings Warehouse branches across the country.

Z stations throughout the country will also have the special car poppies for sale and there will be a range of digital giving options including text donations (people can contribute $3 by texting POPPY to 4662), or online at www.rsa.org.nz/donation.

Photos of the National Launch event are available via Getty Images on: www.gettyimages.co.nz.

A GENUINE KIWI CONNECTION AT THE HEART OF OUR COMMUNITIES

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