Courage and initiative Generosity People

Surviving the odds to pay it forward

Rebecca Jones in her 'free op-shop' run out of her garage. Photo: Fran Cain

Rebecca Jones of Rangiora has faced every parent’s worst nightmare, four times. She is now on a crusade to give back to her community for supporting her when her family desperately needed it. 

Inspired by kindness, ‘The Aroha Project’ was born. 

A proud mother to four incredible children, each of them has, or has recovered from, a severe life-threatening condition.

Rebecca has been there with her children through major surgeries to correct the sudden onset of three different types of scoliosis, septic arthritis and a rare mysterious infection that landed her youngest son in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Carrying on with life, Rebecca recalls joking that her healthy third child who never so much as had a cold was going to be the one who would make her worry the most. Unfortunately, on Friday, December 14, 2018, this cruelly became reality.

At 10 years of age and seemingly in the peak of health, Rebecca’s son collapsed on the lounge floor, clinging on to his head. Unable to get up or tell her what had happened Rebecca called an ambulance.

An onset migraine was diagnosed but Rebecca’s gut told her something else was wrong. She rushed him into the hospital and eventually after pleading with doctors, managed to get an MRI.

Rebecca was told that her son had an inoperable arachnoid cyst that had spontaneously ruptured, and to prepare for the likely event that her son would not be going home.

At this moment Rebecca recalls thinking,

Nope, dying is not an option in my family. He is going to get better and come home.”


True to her word, her son was able to go home one week later. However, life will forever be different for her rugby loving son. Any bump to the head could further rupture the cyst and have a catastrophic outcome.

Exhausted from the ongoing symptoms, Rebecca’s son was bedridden for six months. After which time, despite Rebecca’s concerns and fears, her son wanted to start going back to school part time.

“I never would have considered it if it wasn’t for the incredible support by Mr Price and the staff at Swannanoa School,” Rebecca says.

“They were amazing and refused to let my boy fall behind or be at any risk.”

Not being one to ever ask for help, Rebecca was overwhelmed by how much support and care she received from her community.

“People dropped off board games and books and the school organised petrol vouchers for me so I could get to Swannanoa after I moved away from the local area,” she says.

It was this kindness that inspired her to pay it forward.

The Aroha Project

In September 2020, Rebecca created The Aroha Project, which is a free op-shop run out of her garage that provides anything and everything that is donated such as food, toys, clothing, and furniture.

She also runs charity drives, clothing evenings, and events. She is inundated with donations and offerings. “We average around two loads of donations every single day. All of which never hang around for long,” she says.

“People drive as far as Rolleston. All items are completely free to anyone in need.”

As The Aroha Project continues to steadily gain momentum, Rebecca finds herself working 40 hours per week. “Anywhere from 2 to 40 people call in every single day,” she says.

“Luckily, I have an amazing 5-year-old who spends hours bagging clothes and helping people who visit the project.”

Her friends also offer their help by transporting goods, offering spare vehicles when they have them, and running the project from time to time.

Rebecca’s hope for the future is to be able to deliver donated items to people in need who do not have transport or are isolated.

Her car was stolen just before lockdown in 2020 and she finds it frustrating that she is unable to get items people kindly donate for pick up only.

Due to this she has recently (and reluctantly) started up a give-a-little page to raise money for a van so the Aroha Project can be mobile.

When I tell Rebecca she is doing something remarkable she humbly waves the comment off and simply says,

The process of doing something good for other people has been healing for me.”


As I finish up my interview with Rebecca and stand in her garage amongst the hordes of donated goods that are sprawling out into her carport, I cannot help but be inspired by her story.

I am simply left wondering, ‘what can I do today to pay it forward?’

If you liked this article, join up to our Daily Encourager Media Facebook page by clicking here

For more information:

Please visit The Aroha Facebook

To make a donation to The Aroha Project, click here


Did this story bring you hope?

By becoming a Daily Encourager supporter, you will help bring hope and courage to New Zealanders. Get people excited about our country and our people and the amazing things they are achieving.

You can make an investment in hope for as little as $5.

Become a supporter
Community Foundations of NZ

Leave a lasting legacy in the community that you love.
Find out how your gift can give and grow at

Leave a Comment

Daily Encourager
Sign up to our regular newsletter highlighting the best things happening in New Zealand society.