Purple Cake Day

February 2012


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It will all be about purple on 1 March. Around the country, schools will hold purple mufti days, purple cupcake stalls, purple cake raffles, purple sports days. Whats the inspired this purple frenzy? JUDE BARBACK finds out.

When I asked my three-year-old daughter Zenzie what she wanted for her fourth birthday, she said, ‘I want a purple cake... two purple cakes!’”recalls New Zealander Emily Sanson-Rejouis. Tragically, Zenzie never saw her fourth birthday. On 12 January 2010, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit Haiti and claimed the lives of an estimated 300,000 people including Sanson-Rejouis’ husband Emmanuel and their daughters Kofie-Jade (5) and Zenzie (3). Miraculously, their youngest daughter, Alyahna, aged one, was rescued after 22 hours under the rubble of their collapsed apartment building.

A few months after the earthquake, Sanson-Rejouis established the Kenbe La Foundation Charitable Trust to provide educational opportunities for disadvantaged children in Haiti, and Purple Cake Day on 1 March is the Trust’s day of celebration, education and action, to raise awareness and funds for children in severe need. Through Purple Cake Day, the Trust’s mandate has expanded to children in need, in any country.

Purple Cake Day was inspired by Kofie’s compassion for street children and Zenzie’s wish for “two purple cakes” for her fourth birthday, a request symbolic of children’s unlimited aspirations. Sanson-Rejouis hopes that Purple Cake Day will help provide more opportunities for disadvantaged kids to realise their hopes and dreams.

And so, out of the tragedy and devastation of the Haiti earthquake, Purple Cake Day was born. The first Purple Cake Day was held last year on 1st March and inspired purple-themed celebrations across schools and communities from countries all over the world, including New Zealand. The fundraising activities were initially planned to provide educational opportunities to those children in Haiti whose lives had been disrupted by the earthquake. However, only a week before Purple Cake Day launched, Christchurch children experienced their own terrifying earthquake, of the same magnitude. Supporters were asked to double their efforts and reach out to children affected by the Christchurch earthquake as well.

A year later and Purple Cake Day is gaining momentum. Schools are gearing up for all manner of purple antics on 1 March 2012. This year funds raised from Purple Cake Day will primarily go to support school children in Nepal, the 2012 ‘country of focus’.

Many supporting organisations have jumped on board to help the cause, among them MORE FM. The radio station has launched a national songwriting competition with the theme ‘Kids helping kids all over the world’ to encourage Kiwi school kids to celebrate and connect with children around the world, through music. The competition is open to all primary and secondary school children across New Zealand and will close 15 March 2012; songs will be accepted in any language from individuals and groups. Well-known children’s songwriter, Kath Bee, Wonky Donkey’s Craig Smith and Kiwi act Minuit’s Ruth Carr will judge who wins the great prizes on offer, including $250 cash and airplay of the song.

WOW or ‘World of Wearable Art’ has also come to the party by encouraging students to make their own wearable art creations using mostly recycled materials and the colour purple. This year’s theme is ‘Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’. WOW founder, Suzie Moncrieff, along with her daughter Emma and granddaughter Daisy, judged last year’s ‘Purple Passion Fashion’ competition. “It was wonderful to see children come together to support Purple Cake Day Wearable Art and to help children less fortunate than themselves,” says Moncrieff.

Nelson artist Kathryn Furniss has inspired the Kids 4 Kids art project where children are encouraged to produce a work of art, whether it is to create a mandala, draw a global village or paint the Himalayan mountains. The artwork may be used for fundraising calendars and to share with the Nepali students. Students are also encouraged to make flags of hope to share with these children.

For the more sporty types, the Get Active ‘Everest Challenge’ is an invitation for schools to organise their own action-packed fundraiser. A hill hike, five kilometre walk, half-marathon or sports tournament – with participants all clad in purple of course! - are just some of the suggestions.

And of course there will be cakes – purple cakes, naturally. Whether it is a purple cupcake stall or the auction of a healthy purple beetroot cake, the purple cake is at the heart of this fundraising venture, so kids (and their parents) will need to get baking!

Adults – quite possibly the cake bakers and costume assistants – may question where exactly the money is going. With Nepal as this year’s country of focus, three established organisations – Himalayan Trust, First Steps Himalaya and In-Time KBS – have been selected as the 2012 project partners to help develop quality education programmes and infrastructure in Nepal. With the money raised from Purple Cake Day, Himalayan Trust will provide scholarships to students aged 13 to 17 at three schools, students who would otherwise have to abandon their education. First Steps Himalaya will construct and run purpose-built early childhood development centres, provide support through a network of rural community centres, and provide training and resources to schools. In-Time KBS will establish a comprehensive library at Kailash Bodhi School.

In addition to these projects, a portion of the funds raised from Purple Cake Day activities in 2012 will also be used to sustain the original Purple Cake Day education targets in Haiti. Purple Cake Day funds can also be used for any global humanitarian disaster involving children, should one arise.

Despite the sombre origins of Purple Cake Day, the positivity and energy thrust at the project are motivating and the resource pack alone makes one want to get involved immediately. The purple pandemonium is certainly bound to provide fun for children as they go about trying to raise money, but there is an educational element too.

The resource pack comprises facts about Nepal (did you know Nepal has a population of 29.3 million and 39 per cent of the population have no access to toilets?), basic Nepali phrases and information about the culture, food, environment, economy and social problems.

Perhaps of most fascination to New Zealand children will be the case studies of children from Nepal. Through these stories they can meet Sita, a five-year-old girl, whose father works in India cycling a rickshaw and visits the family once a year, leaving her mother to labour in the fields while Sita and her older sister and younger brother were locked indoors. They can meet eight-year-old Karma, whose father was killed by Maoist rebels and whose mother weaves blankets and works in the fields in return for vegetables. They can meet ten-year-old Sarita of a low-caste who sleeps on a dirt floor next to the fire and considers herself very lucky to be able to go to school. Each case study is accompanied by a learning activity, giving children the chance to engage with the lives of the Nepali children they are helping through their fundraising activities.

It is all for a good cause. Not just raising money for those in need, but learning about the plight of others, identifying with their needs and most of all, encouraging a sense of compassion. And all in purple, naturally.

For more information about Purple Cake Day, including entry information for the MORE FM Purple Cake Day National Songwriting Competition, can be found at www.purplecakeday.org.