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Damion Ranginui
Damion Ranginui.

Having grown up in poverty, Otago alumnus Damion Ranginui (Tūhoe and Ngāi Tahu) is sharing his story and taking on a fundraising challenge to raise awareness of child poverty in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Each weekday in April, Damion is running a half marathon in his ’22 Halves, 22 Weekdays’ challenge, to fundraise for the KidsCan charity.

He says he decided to take on the challenge because he knows “how hard the day-to-day is when you’re going without lunch or having Weet-Bix for dinner, and not getting the proper nutrition you need at that age”.

“I thought this would be a good way to tell my story and raise awareness that there’s a lot of kids that do it pretty tough, and also to help towards the cause financially.” Through his Givealittle page he hopes to raise between $20-$30,000 and things are looking on track so far.

Damion also hopes his ‘22 Halves’ challenge will inspire others to help children and young people who are living in poverty. He says he and his whānau experienced significant poverty during his intermediate and high school years.

“Our circumstance was the result of traumatic events, consumer debt earning high interest, a single mother raising three kids while struggling with mental health (due to the trauma), poor financial literacy, and addictions such as cigarettes and fast food. No family chooses to live in poverty, we just hadn't been taught better and didn't have the appropriate support networks,” he says.

“For me, it was people giving their time rather than direct financial aid which made a difference. It was being shown the habits and behaviours which lead to success, rather than defaulting to the same behaviours, and the same results which I could see immediately around me.”

Damion began training for the challenge last July, “initially, I’d run 3km then get home and be gassed”. By September he’d decided he wanted to support KidsCan with a fundraising run in April, and gradually increased the distance each month until he was close to the 21km mark.

After a full day’s work throughout the month, he’s hitting the pavements around the Auckland waterfront, often joined by friends, colleagues or running clubs turning out in support. He says he chose running for the fundraiser because he was “looking for something where I could essentially punish myself – I figure if I’m going to all my friends, family, and networks asking them to donate I have to give something in return. So I wanted to do something which was a decent physical challenge.”

By Thursday or Friday each week he says his legs are getting a bit sore, but good nutrition alongside stretching, cold showers, spas, and physio are all, “helping to keep the legs holding up”.

Damion completed a BCom in Finance and Accounting at Otago in 2017. During his degree he also tutored in the same subjects and served on the board of Te Tai Tuarā/Māori Commerce Students’ Association. He went on to get his Chartered Accountant and Chartered Financial Analyst Certificates and is now working as a Corporate Finance Manager in the Deal Advisory team at KPMG.

Donations to ‘22 Halves’ will support the KidsCan charity to provide food, jackets, shoes and health products to schools and early childhood centres across New Zealand, helping kids participate in learning and have the opportunity for a better future.

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