Lately, Sacha McNeil has developed a great deal of empathy for professional bakers. Having never described herself as a “morning person”, she’s now become accustomed to hearing her alarm go off in the pre-dawn hours, ensuring she’s in the make-up chair at work by 4am for her presenting role on TV3’s Firstline.
“I was dreading the hours at first,” admits mother-of-two Sacha. “But I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve actually been enjoying it! My body is getting into the groove of it now.”
One definite upside to the early morning wake-up calls, says Sacha, is having her afternoons and evenings free to spend with her children, Isla (4) and two-year-old Arte.
“It’s certainly a bit chaotic at night, when we’re all trying to get to bed at the same time, but it’s so nice to have dinner together as a family.
“My daughter starts school in July and it’ll be great to be able to pick her up from school, which I wouldn’t have been able to do had I still been working at Nightline.”
This week, Sacha is looking forward to spending time with her children in the kitchen, as she takes part in Oxfam’s Morning Tea. Sacha is the face of the charity’s annual initiative, which encourages Kiwis to hold a morning tea in their home or workplace, take a moment together over some homemade baking and make a donation to Oxfam in the process.
A keen baker herself, Sacha was quick to say yes to supporting the Morning Tea, particularly after travelling to Tonga last month to see first-hand the work Oxfam does for communities in need.
Sacha visited Tongatapu and the Ha’apai island groups in Tonga, where residents are still reeling in the aftermath of Cyclone Ian.
“They are still struggling” says Sacha of the eye-opening visit.
“Everything was flattened by this cyclone – all their infrastructure, all their food, their ways of making a living.”
Having previously visited Vanuatu with Oxfam, Sacha says she was still taken aback by the widespread damage to the islands.
With all their freshwater supplies and businesses completely ruined, Sacha assisted Oxfam in providing desalination units to residents.
Sacha was particularly touched by the resilience of the young children affected by the powerful cyclone.
“I saw little kids living in a situation you just wouldn’t want to have to dream of living in,” she says. “Although it’s been more than three months since the cyclone, many families are still residing in makeshift homes and are finding it hard going.”
Back home with her family in Auckland, Sacha is proud to be continuing to help through Oxfam, and to have a special helper onboard to assist her – her eldest child, Isla.
“I tell Isla about the other little kids I meet overseas in these situations and show her photos of them. She’s really interested in the places I’ve been and who these kids are.
“Isla said to me, ‘Mum, I really want to bake things and we can have a stall outside.’ I’ll definitely get her to help me with our Morning Tea at home.”
And for Sacha, she’s just thankful that her new role allows her to be at home to enjoy these precious moments with her young children.
“They love icing cakes – it’s definitely an abstract art they go for, but they love it!” she says smiling.
“It’s a good thing to get the kids involved in, and so nice to be doing something that’s truly worthwhile.”
To sign up for your own Oxfam Morning Tea, phone 0800 600 700, or visit oxfamsmorningtea.org.nz.