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Department gets into the Christmas spirit

Wednesday, 21 December 2016 4:28pm

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Nicola Wilson, Sarah Young and Janine Tansley of the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine with the Christmas gifts they yesterday delivered to Presbyterian Support Otago.

A generous University of Otago department has issued a challenge for next Christmas: instead of holding a “Secret Santa”, why not instead donate something to those less fortunate.

Staff and students of the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine yesterday donated gifts and food to Presbyterian Support Otago for distribution to those in need.

The gifts included Lego, blocks, skipping ropes, books, and gift vouchers for teenagers.

For Professional Practice Fellow Janine Tansley, who proposed the idea, the motivation was personal.

“The Department has over the last few years always had a food box that we place items in for the foodbank at Christmas, but this year in December I had a couple of really good things happen for me and it made me think about how far I had come.

“In 2001, as a solo mum, I started my university study and very much remember the humiliation and defeat I felt when I needed to front up at the foodbank with two small children. While I was there they took us to the present room and let my kids select some toys. The looks on their faces I will never forget and it eased some of the pressure for me and made me realise that some people cared about us in our situation.”

"Life is good but I never forget the time when the kids were young and life was not so good. The foodbank and peoples' generosity was a beacon of light for me."

Fifteen years on, her son has just graduated as a medical doctor, while her daughter will soon turn 21 and has a great job in oncology. Ms Tansley herself was recently progressed in her position in the University to a Professional Practice Fellow in Epidemiology and Public Health.

“Life is good but I never forget the time when the kids were young and life was not so good. The foodbank and people's generosity was a beacon of light for me.”

She asked the Department’s Administration and Research Support Officer Nicola Wilson for help drafting a letter in which she told her colleagues her story, and says the response in two short weeks was “fantastic”.

She hopes that their Department might inspire others to do the same.

“We would love to see our Division and the wider University wanting to do this and making it a huge event. We have decided as a Department that we will make this a tradition from now on but we would love to see others join us.”