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RSA’s Poppy Appeal shows the changing face of New Zealand’s veterans

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Every April the RSA holds its Poppy Appeal to raise much needed funds for support services, and this year the RSA continues to ensure New Zealanders know that our veterans can be almost any age.

The RSA’s National President Sir Wayne Shelford, said that today’s veterans don’t necessarily feel that their service is valued.

“Our more recent veterans of operational deployments come home with little fanfare, and return to a country that has no real understanding of what they’ve been part of. They have faced real danger, some have lost their lives or been physically injured – and even more face long-term effects on their mental health as a result of their service.”

“The RSA remains committed to improving the wellbeing of all New Zealand’s veterans of military service. From World War One to Afghanistan we’ve been there providing support when it’s needed, and we’re still here today and looking at new and innovative ways to support our veterans and their whānau.”

New Zealand has created over 60,500 veterans of military service since 1990, and with an estimated 140,000 living veterans across the country, the need for veteran specific support services is stronger than ever.

This year’s Poppy Appeal runs throughout the month of April, with the street appeal known as Poppy Day, occurring on Friday 21 April. All donations are used to support New Zealand’s veterans and their whānau through the RSA’s network of 250 support advisors across the country.

“The Poppy Appeal and Anzac Day are our annual opportunity to remember the sacrifices made by our veterans of military service. This year, we want to remind New Zealand that the faces of our veterans are changing. They are our grandparents, our parents, sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters – they have served their country and they deserve our support,” said Sir Wayne.

The campaign supporting the appeal features Ryan Gilbert, a 34 year old veteran of Timor Leste and Afghanistan who is the current President of the MacKenzie RSA in Canterbury. Ryan was willing to share his story in the hope that more people will begin to value the service of New Zealand’s younger veterans.

“I hope people will see my story, and realise there are hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who have signed up to serve. We have our own stories, we have our reasons for signing up but we’ve all given a lot” said Ryan.

“I am a symbol of change, I am part of the new generation who have put their hand up and volunteered to take on the responsibilities for veteran wellbeing and health.”

A full account of Ryan’s experiences can be found here: https://bit.ly/Ryans_story


A short history of the Poppy Appeal

2023 marks 101 years since the first Poppy Appeal was held.

In 1921, Colonel Samuel Moffat, Madam Guerin’s poppy emissary visited New Zealand to promote the concept of selling poppies to both commemorate the fallen and raise funds to assist living veterans. As a result of his visit, the RSA ordered 360,000 French made poppies to sell in New Zealand to mark Remembrance Day on 11 November that year.

Legend has it that shipping delays meant that the poppies arrived too late to be sold for Remembrance Day so the RSA decided to sell them in advance of Anzac Day instead.

On April 24, 1922, the first Poppy Day was held making New Zealand the only nation of the First World War allies not to mark Poppy Day in November, in conjunction with Remembrance Day.

Poppy Day is normally held on the Friday closest to Anzac Day, RSAs throughout New Zealand assemble teams of volunteers who line the streets in towns and cities across New Zealand collecting donations in exchange for poppies.

The poppies are all manufactured by volunteers in Christchurch and it is an almost yearlong job to make the close to one million poppies required to support the Poppy Appeal.

2020 was the only year that a street appeal hasn’t been held after the Covid lockdown forced the collection to be cancelled. An online appeal was conducted in its place meaning the Poppy Appeal remains the longest continuously running appeal in New Zealand’s history.

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