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Story-telling art draws generations together

Molly’s interpretation of the story shared with her

A winning website is using story-telling and art to build safe and fun connections across all ages. This helps address the isolation many people are facing during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The fun-across-the-generations site called Draw This! was named the winner from more than 200 original ideas and 46 finished pitches in New Zealand’s largest collaborative start-up event, #HacktheCrisisNZ.

The judging panel included Sir Stephen Tindall, Greg Cross, Lisa King, Mike King and Vic Crone.

Imagine you are on your own in lockdown. You phone to make a short audio recording where you unpack your memories of a special event or perhaps a much-loved pet.

A few days later you receive by email or post (or both) a picture of the event that a child has drawn just for you.

Team of eight

The website was created on the weekend of April 19 by a team of eight from around New Zealand who have never met in person.

Project leader and co-founder of Draw This!, Holly Grover says the team gave themselves limitations early in the weekend with a narrow problem to solve:

Engaging with older people using only a landline.

“We focused on making meaningful connections in all that we were doing. It warmed our hearts to gather descriptions, and then get the first drawings in response.”

The teams in the competition were supported by more than 40 mentors, a dedicated team coach plus the backing of innovation hubs from every corner of New Zealand.

Team member Liz Breslin says 20 per cent of people over the age of 65 in New Zealand experience loneliness and isolation.

Social distancing during COVID-19 is exacerbating this problem and the latest figures from Research NZ show that 78 per cent of respondents are concerned for older relatives in different parts of the country.”


Idea creation

This issue was front-of-mind for Holly Grover, who came up with the idea behind DrawThis! by challenging herself to “build limitations and have a narrow problem to solve to begin with: engaging with elderly people using only a landline. The connection with kids came to mind.

“I think, because I was listening to my mum (a deputy principal) plan her lessons and so I came up with ideas for engaging kids remotely.”

“We were so excited to gather descriptions, and then get the first drawings in response,” Holly says.

The team of eight recent strangers is continuing, excitedly, to confer between their bubbles all over New Zealand. They want to work out how best to reach isolated people who may get some joy out of this project.

The winning team, from left, Liz, Brandon, Arthur, Yu-ching, Ruth, Holly, Medha and Harsh

Thanks to the $5000 prize from #HacktheCrisisNZ, the expertise and encouragement of the mentors, and both public and private sector interest, they are feeling motivated and supported.

National spread of participants

This is a team that would never have met in traditional all-in-one-room hackathon conditions, connecting with each other while working on other people’s connections. They come from diverse backgrounds.

Holly, a digital producer and experienced designer and Yu-ching Lee, a junior UX designer and ex-pastry chef both live in Wellington.

Two team members recently moved to Wellington: Ruth Martin, an environmental protection researcher who came from Britain six months ago after completing a social innovation fellowship and Brandon Kwong who moved from Canada in 2018.

Brandon works in infrastructure advisory and stumbled into the start-up community through his first Kiwi friend and Airbnb host.

Harsh Singh Garcha has worked in the banking sector and agile start-ups, and lives in the Waikato, working in local government.

Arthur Evstifeev is a software developer from Christchurch has been doing programming for more than a decade and Medha Bandari is a Year 9 student at Mt Albert Grammar School in Auckland. She makes videos out of her tech learning on her channel @nztechgirl.

Liz Breslin writes and edits, works in events and as a students-in-the-community co-ordinator. She lives in the Upper Clutha.

Yu-ching says, “There’s so much potential for Draw This! to also be something more than just a fun thing for kids and adults to do. The story-telling aspect of it enables us to capture the history of people and place, amongst other things.”

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More information:

To hear the descriptions, see the gallery of drawing and try Draw This! for yourself, visit

To find out more about #HacktheCrisisNZ, see


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