Providing opportunities

There are over 250,000 children in New Zealand living below the poverty line, whose families struggle to provide day-to-day necessities, let alone any extras.

The Sarah Lilli Fund has helped 2,000 children in need to enjoy music, dancing, swimming, soccer and other sports, or to go to school camp with their friends — opportunities that would not have been possible for them otherwise.


How the Sarah Lilli Fund started

The Fund was set up by the Payne family in 2006 in memory of their daughter. Sarah Lilli died shortly after her 10th birthday of a rare brain disorder. The Paynes wanted to give other children the kind of opportunities that she had during her life and have worked with Barnardos to make this happen.


How it helps

The Sarah Lilli Fund helps disadvantaged children to

  • pursue a creative, sporting or social opportunity that is their chosen interest and will benefit their wellbeing — through grants for lessons, sporting equipment or musical instruments
  • enjoy a special celebration, experience or holiday — including grants for holiday programmes or camp fees


Making a real difference in children’s lives

Assistance from the Sarah Lilli Fund makes a tangible impact on the lives of children who receive grants, and it helps their families too.

View a breakdown of Sarah Lilli grant recipients (PDF, 267KB)

Here are some of their stories

The Sarah Lilli Fund helps children of all ages.


Brodie lives with his grandmother and father. He has a younger sister and his parents separated last year which has affected Brodie’s emotional well-being.  Teenager Brodie has issues with technology addiction and struggles to find other activities that he feels as he is achieving in and proud of. His addiction causes him to get violent towards his mother and sister to the point that he now has to live with his grandmother and father.
Brodie has also been recently assessed for Dyslexia because of his learning difficulties. His father has recently had a stroke at work and currently he is not able to work and surviving off a benefit. His grandmother is a supermarket worker and is on low income. Brodie’s mother who is also a beneficiary has her own physical health issues.

The $110 grant will be used to get Brodie into climbing lessons at the stadium. He will be able to walk the short distance to this activity from his grandmother’s house. This will give Brodie an opportunity to participate in a challenging physical activity which could increase his confidence and self-esteem and decrease his need to seek gratification via online gaming


Matt has been diagnosed with FASD and ADHD and Sam his brother is now showing signs of the same.  They have been placed in permanent care support services. 

The opportunity to be involved in dancing will help them with their co-ordination, balance and discipline, following instructions and socializing with others will help boost their self-esteem. This will also flow on into their learning and activities at school.

Participation in dancing will be beneficial in staying physically fit and healthy. Building relationships with other children at the dance class and also strengthening their own relationship as siblings. Being part of a team and following instructions which helps develop trust and co-operation.



Harper lives with her brother, mother and mums partner. Harper has had a history of presenting with challenging behaviours, throwing tantrums and resorting to physically aggressive outbursts. Her mother comes from a background of being in care and reports having a childhood in numerous foster placements. She is determined to ensure that her children do not experience the same childhood as her and she has worked hard to provide a stable and secure home environment for the children. 

Money is tight at home and mum has recently has her employment come to an end and they are reliable on her partners income which is putting significant strain on the finances. Harper is a very active child and would greatly benefit from having some extracurricular activities to focus his energies on.  Harper has expressed interest in gymnastics and it is hoped that having a regular sporting activity that requires discipline will assist Harper managing her mood. Harper received a $176 grant from the Sarah Lilli fund to attend gymnastics.


Katie is one of five children, who is currently living with her mum in emergency accommodation. This accommodation is a tiny two bedroom motel unit. Her mother has been unable to secure permanent housing for her and her four brothers since separating from the children’s father due to domestic violence. Katie’s mother is currently going through a long and painful custody battle through the family court. Mum is just about managing to keep her head above water in meeting the children’s basic needs and has no additional income for extra activities such as school holiday programs. Katie appears to be coping well but mum is concerned that the situation is affecting her emotional health. Katie  would really benefit in having some fun time away from her brothers during the school holidays and the chance to have a break from her current home environment which can feel very overcrowded and stressful.

Katie has been exposed to domestic violence between her parents and their on-going custody battle. The $200 holiday program will give her the chance to play and have fun in a great environment with other children outside her family unit. This opportunity will provide a break from her current situation and give her the chance to experience something new and uplifting.


You can help

The Sarah Lilli Fund relies on donations, and a little gift goes a long way. For the children helped it’s the chance to enjoy an interest they’re passionate about or join in with their friends at school camp or on a holiday programme. For their parents, often a solo mum, it can mean connection to other families and relief from some financial and emotional pressures.

You can make a one-off donation or join our sponsorship scheme. We also run fundraising events, including concerts, auctions and movie nights. All the money you donate goes to the children, as Barnardos supports the administration of the Fund within its wider operations.

Read our latest newsletter to find out what’s been happening (.DOC, 136KB)


Making an application to the Sarah Lilli Fund

Social workers from Barnardos or other agencies make the grant applications on behalf of the children and families they are working with. They know there are real needs and no alternative sources of help.

Applications are reviewed by a Barnardos senior manager, and grants are made in a few days or even hours in some cases.


Donating to the Sarah Lilli Fund 

You can sponsor a Sarah Lilli Sports, Creative or Holiday Grant via regular automatic payments.

Grant sponsorships are

  • $10 per month or $120 per year for a Sarah Lilli Sports or Creative Grant
  • $20 per month or $240 per year for a Sarah Lilli Holiday Grant.


Regular giving

You can set up regular payments via internet banking. Payments can be made to Barnardos NZ, account 06 0501 0509606 02. Please put ‘Sarah Lilli sponsor’ in the payee identification field.

If you'd like a tax receipt at the end of the financial year, email with

  • your full name and address
  • the start date, value and frequency of your payments.

We also accept automatic payments by debit or credit card. Contact us if you'd like to set one up.


One-off donations

We appreciate donations of any value. If you'd like to sponsor a grant in full, it's $120 for a Sarah Lilli Sports or Creative Grant or $240 for a Sarah Lilli Holiday Grant.

Credit card donations can be made securely online through our donation portal. Under "What prompted you to donate today?" select Other, then type "Sarah Lilli" in the text field.

Donate now


Who to contact

For more information on donating to the Sarah Lilli Fund, email or call 0800 005 437.