When Delta Insurance decided to continue their support of the GirlBoss Awards by sponsoring the Emerging Leader Award again last year, they weren’t quite expecting the impact the winner would have on the company.
GirlBoss New Zealand was founded by 15-year-old Alexia Hilbertidou in 2015 when she realised she was the only girl studying advanced physics in her year. The aim of the organisation is to close the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, maths, entrepreneurship and leadership, and Hilbertidou has certainly set the wheels in motion to achieve that goal. In 2020, GirlBoss has over 10,000 members, is represented in 55 schools and has an awards programme that attracts over 400 submissions, celebrating the determination and passion of young women defying stereotypes and leading change in their communities.
Winner of the 2019 GirlBoss Emerging Leader Award Maia Mariner was only 12 when she set up Lazy Sneakers, a charitable organisation based on a beautifully simple, yet totally practical and socially in-tune idea: taking quality, used sneakers and sports shoes that were no longer in use – hence the name “lazy” sneakers – and passing them on to others who could not afford them.
Maia’s motivations were straightforward. “When I was 12, I noticed some of my friends couldn’t participate because they didn’t have the proper footwear. I talked to my parents and realised it was a much bigger issue than I originally thought. After a lot of research and a lot of brainstorming we came up with the idea of lazy sneakers.”
Chief executive Craig Kirk and the rest of the Delta team attending that awards night were impressed with Mariner and her vision for Lazy Sneakers. Says Kirk: “We were so blown away with what Maia was doing, we decided we had to find a way of supporting her.”
The team got behind the worthwhile initiative and decided to reach out not only to their schools and communities, but also to all of Delta’s broker partners, asking for any pre-loved shoes that needed new homes.
Delta have been overwhelmed with the level of support. Says Kirk, “We set ourselves the ambitious target of sourcing 200 sneakers by mid-February. At last count we hit 251. It’s been amazing the extent to which the whole team and our brokers have got involved!”
On February 17, Mariner and a team of Delta volunteers went to Point England School to distribute the sneakers to students, ready for the school year ahead. Principal Russell Burt was grateful for the contribution to the school. “There are lots of people in our community who struggle at times to give their kids all the things that they’d like to give them. For these kids to now be able to join in with sports and other activities is absolutely wonderful. It’s a great koha to New Zealand.”
Mariner said it was incredibly satisfying each time she gave away the sneakers she had helped to collect. “Today has been so cool. You know, one kid today said this is the best day of his life. It’s really rewarding. We’ve given away 1,500 sneakers already. It’s such a simple gesture giving something and supporting people who don’t have as much as others do. And the best thing is we’re recycling and helping out the planet as well.”
Craig Kirk summarises Delta’s first time being involved with a charity of this nature. “Our Delta volunteers said it was incredibly rewarding to help the students find the shoes they liked and to see the smiles on their faces. I’d just like to say a big thank you to everyone who donated – it’s been a real community effort.”
Mariner has big plans for the future too. “Our goal for this year is to collect 3,000 sneakers and give away 2,000 sneakers and we’re looking into setting up a charitable trust and taking Lazy Sneakers nationwide. There’s so much potential.”
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