At a celebratory lunch in
Auckland yesterday AJ Macdonald, from New Plymouth, was announced as the 2011 Lesley Pearse Women of Courage Award winner for . New Zealand
Amy Jane McDonald is a single mum of two boys and works for the YMCA programme for young mums, also Taiohi Wahene a programme for female offenders. Amy Jane was nominated because of her outstanding work as a mentor as she positively affects the life of young people. Always compassionate she doesn’t just see their bad behaviour, but what these people could be, and will be with her help and support.
What makes AJ even more special is that she has a condition that will eventually render her completely blind, yet she never complains about what she is losing, only what she will gain.
Lesley Pearse was so moved by the stories of all five finalists and this is what she had to say about the winner:
Losing one’s sight is probably the very cruellest and hardest thing in the world. But I feel that AJ will not let it change her kind and generous nature. In ten, twenty or thirty years from now, she will still be listening to people’s problems, helping them solve them and showing them by example what true courage is. AJ McDonald you are my Woman of Courage.
Lesley was also extremely moved by the stories of the nominations:
I was moved to tears to read the stories of the final five brave ladies who have been nominated for this years Lesley Pearse NZ WOCA . Having been in
New Zealand earlier this year and met so many lovely people in both North and South Island you have an even bigger place in my heart now. I just wish I could have met each of you finalists as you are all so very special.
The other finalists were
Apolonia Pius from
Raema Stephens from
Brenda Chayne from
Angelique Bull from
Lesley’s novels have sold close to 4 million copies in the UK alone. She has fans across the globe,
including a massive following in New Zealand.
Lesley has had a rich source of material to draw from in her own life. From difficult start she had a desperate need for love and affection and is certain that is the reason she kept making bad choices herself.
Even though she settled in to a happy family life all was turned upside down again in the 90s when the recession bit leaving her with a mountain of debts, bruised pride, her eighteen year marriage gone and back where she had
started in a grim flat with barely enough money for her youngest daughter’s bus fares to school. Then the tide turned and with a publisher on board she was ‘on her way.’ Whether she is writing about the pain
of first love, the unwanted abused child, adoption, rejection, fear, poverty and revenge, she knows about it first hand. She’s a fighter, and with her long fight for success has fi nally come security. She now owns a cottage in a beautiful village between Bristol and Bath, and a creek side retreat in Cornwall.
About the Award
The Lesley Pearse Women of Courage Award has been running very successfully in the United Kingdom for several years now and is very special to Lesley.
As president of the Bath and West Wiltshire branch of the National Society for the Prevention of Child Cruelty (NSPCC) and a child of a not-so-perfect upbringing Lesley is acutely aware of the toll that can take on a young life. After the sudden and tragic death of her mother she spent many years in orphanages before her father remarried to a veritable dragon of a woman. Lesley believes her desperate need for love and affection as a young girl was almost certainly the reason she kept making bad choices in her youth. Although she now has a happy and settled life it has certainly not always been that way and she is acutely aware of the struggle it is for many women to just keep it all together in the face of adversity.
That is why The Lesley Pearse Women of Courage Award is so precious to her. Launched in the United Kingdom in 2006 it recognises the heroines among us who often go unnoticed — ordinary women who show extraordinary strength and dedication in their everyday lives. Lesley is absolutely delighted that New Zealand now have their own award to recognise New Zealand women.
Penguin Group (NZ) launched the award last year and Penguin Group (NZ) GM Marketing, Sandra Lees, was ‘touched by the stories and the bravery of the nominated women. There were many that could have easily won the award.’
The 2010 winner, who was flown to London where Lesley presented her with her award, was Kelley Martin . Kelley has endured multiple operations to mend a very broken body after a car accident 11 years ago. Despite doctors and specialists telling her she would never walk normally again, Kelley refused to give up hope and worked tirelessly at her rehabilitation. She has since amazed all who know her and her story by realising her dream and opening a dance studio in Auckland.
This year, Lesley Pearse, New Zealand Women’s Weekly, The Breeze and Penguin Group (NZ) are delighted to again sponsor the awards and invite people to nominate a New Zealand woman they know deserves to be called a Woman of Courage. More details about the award criteria and the nomination process can be found at www.womenofcouragenz.co.nz.