#MightyWomanMonday: Maia Mariner

Helping others reach their potential, one pair of sneakers at a time


  • Hamilton
  • Community
October 19, 2020 Abigail Uttley

At 12 years old, now Year 11 student Maia Mariner noticed that many of her peers did not have proper sneakers and either struggled to play or couldn’t play at all. But she also knew lots of people have an unused (lazy) pair of sneakers lying around. So after talking about it with her parents, she came up with an idea for a sneaker bank to help her friends keep playing basketball. And thus, Lazy Sneakers was formed! That was in 2017 and since then, Maia has collected over 2200 pairs and given away over 1500 pairs all over Aotearoa NZ. The not-for-profit sneaker bank provides good reusable sneakers to people wanting to play, participate and reach their potential. 

Maia is Samoan, Chinese and Māori (Ngāi Tai ki Tōrere and Ngāti Koata). Her favourite food is Hāngi, she enjoys perusing Netflix for a good watch, and her favourite holiday destination is Hawaii!  Maia enjoys playing volleyball and basketball, of which she has played for the NZ Under14 selection team back in 2018!

Maia is a proactive, empathetic, and active teen who has already made a positive difference in many young New Zealanders’ lives. We were excited to hear more from Maia about her organisation, as well as her other interests and passions!


Below are some quick-fire questions to get to know more about Maia:  

1.  Favourite book quote?

“And Still I Rise” (Maya Angelou)

2.  Favourite movie line?

"I just want to do something that makes me feel like I'm free, that I can go do anything I want to do" - Dennis Rodman in The Last Dance.

3.  Math or English? 


4.  Science or Art?  


5.  Favourite sports team in NZ or beyond? 

The Wellington Saints (NBL NZ). My parents would always take me to watch the games ever since we moved to Wellington about six years ago. I'm also looking forward to going to watch a live WNBA or NBA game one day.

6. Favourite pair of shoes you own, or would like to own?

I am in love with the Air Jordan 1 Mid Fearless Maison Château Rouges right now. 


Whilst still in primary school, you noticed that some peers did not have the proper sneakers to be able to participate in sport and consequently came up with the idea for a sneaker bank, where unused sneakers by others could be used by those who were without. This is a very empathetic and proactive approach for a pre-high schooler.

What were some things you learnt through the aforementioned actions? 

I learnt that all things were not equal and that material poverty is a huge problem that we need to find ways to address. I was also surprised to see what a pair of free sneakers can do to help lift someone’s spirit and self-worth, even if it is for a short time. Lastly, I learnt that working collaboratively with like-minded groups can have a greater impact and reach.


Your humble ‘sneaker bank’ became Lazy Sneakers, a not-for-profit sneaker bank that has given away over 1500 pairs of good reusable sneakers to those in need!

What are some challenges and triumphs you’ve faced through this journey? 

We have now given away over 2000 sneakers. However, I have experienced challenges on the way, such as:

  • No money - didn't have any!
  • Balance, learning to maintain study, sports, my chores and other interests while making sure I fulfil my Lazy Sneakers project obligations
  • People being critical of the project when it started. I keep telling myself it's about the kaupapa, not about me. 

In terms of triumphs, there are many but here are few:

  • Going into primary schools and distributing sneakers
  • Sending a shipment of sneakers to Samoa, so the Salvation Army could distribute through their outreach programmes
  • Making a profit from selling our apparel and then giving it away as community grants during Covid 19. By November, we would have given $2000 worth of grants away
  • Winning awards is humbling, it is a way of recognising the Lazy Sneakers project, but for me it's about recognising the communities who have backed  Lazy Sneakers


What’s next for you, in terms of your vision for Lazy Sneakers or beyond?

We have reassessed our goals now that we have met our targets for 2020. Consequently, we are looking at a collection target of 5000 sneakers and distributing up to 4000 sneakers by the end of 2021. I would also like to see Lazy Sneakers go nationwide! Also, we are currently selling Lazy Sneakers apparel (tees and hoodies) so all profit goes towards grants that support communities who want to see their young people play, participate and reach their potential.

Lastly, my hope is that the Lazy Sneakers project inspires people to come up with simple ideas to help their communities.


What are some tips, words of wisdom, or advice you would like to pass onto other young women hoping to make a difference in their area of passion? 

It is important to surround yourself with positive people, and shut out the negativity (which includes people). It is also vital to realise that although failing is hard, this is how you learn so don't be afraid of it, keep going and back yourself! Also, you don't have to be loud and big to make a difference - just do you. And lastly, have FUN!


Has anyone guided or supported you so far? Can you share who and how they helped you? 

Firstly, a big shout to our community partners who have set up collection sites and distributed sneakers. If it wasn't for them, a lot of people would miss out including children and young people. Also, a big thanks to my family and friends for their support and backing me. They have helped me cushion the failures and have kept me grounded. They were also so helpful with getting involved in creating the content for social media posts and helping support the Lazy Sneakers events.

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