Supporting second chances

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Norman Jones Foundation inaugural chairman Colin Ballantyne and present chairwoman Ailsa Smaill.

IT has been 30 years since the Norman Jones Foundation was set up in Southland, and inaugural chairman Colin Ballantyne has been actively involved throughout.

Mr Ballantyne said he had been a trustee of the foundation for three decades because he was a “charitable kind of person”.

“I just see the really great work [the foundation] has done,” he said.

“Being able to help over 1000 people is quite exceptional.”

The Norman Jones Foundation was set up in 1988 to provide second-chance education study grants for mature New Zealand citizens over the age of 25 years residing in Southland, Queenstown, Arrowtown, Glenorchy and Tapanui studying full-time at a NZQA institution.

Since its inception, the foundation had provided more than $660,000 in grants to 1127 students.

Norman Jones’ niece and the foundation’s present-day chairwoman Ailsa Smaill said often applicants had not had the easiest start to life, so it was rewarding to see their confidence grow through their studies as they made a better life for themselves and their families.

“They are just such inspirational people, getting their lives back in order and trying so hard to pick up their lives positively,” she said.

Mr Ballantyne agreed.

“You meet people, some with adversity, but all with motivation and ambition to succeed,” he said.

Mr Jones was one of eight children and the son of a tram driver. He joined the New Zealand Army in 1941 aged 16 after lying about his age and fought in World War 2.

After returning from war, Mr Jones didn’t have any qualifications, training or a job. He became a lift operator in a retail store in Dunedin, and later trained as a secondary school teacher.

Mr Jones went on to become a New Zealand National Party politician, representing the Invercargill electorate in Parliament in 1975. He remained in Parliament until shortly before his death in 1987.

Mr Ballantyne said following Mr Jones’ death, a meeting was held in February 1988 where ideas were mooted to consider ways to commemorate his life.

The result was the Norman Jones Foundation providing grants for mature students.

Mr Ballantyne said the foundation’s function was fitting given Mr Jones’ life.

“His life was very much about second chance.”

The then Prime Minister David Lange launched the foundation at an event at the Civic Theatre’s Victoria Rooms.

It was set up with financial donations from community-minded people and Mr Jones’ former colleagues totalling $100,000.

The foundation is now funded by the Community Trust of Southland.

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