The touching story behind painting in Jacinda Ardern's office - 'truly altruistic'

Jacinda Ardern resigned on Thursday. (Getty)
Jacinda Ardern resigned on Thursday. (Getty)

On the day of Jacinda Ardern's resignation as prime minister of New Zealand she has been praised worldwide for the kindness and compassion she brought to the role.

Britain's Labour leader, Keir Starmer, was just one of those hailing her "passion, integrity and achievements" as an "inspiration".

Ardern announced on Thursday she would be quitting next month, saying she "no longer had enough in the tank" to do the job justice.

She said the pressures of the job had been too difficult for her private life, especially for her young daughter and partner.

A journalist for a New Zealand news website, Stuff, subsequently shared a story of the first time he reported on the PM during her first week in office.

Reporter Charlie Mitchell said he was covering her visit to Christchurch in 2017 when she visited a school and Ōtautahi Creative Spaces, a place Mitchell described as "an arts programme in east Christchurch for people with mental health issues, some of whom have trauma from the earthquakes."

Read more: BBC faces backlash over 'staggeringly' sexist Jacinda Ardern headline

He said most of the reporters had gone home, but while he was there he chatted to people who used the centre.

Mitchell said: "One of them, Carmen Brown, was holding a painting. She told me she had schizophrenia, and that art had gotten her through tough times.

"She'd dreamed of meeting the prime minister since she was a girl and had spent many hours working on the artwork she was holding."

He said when Ardern arrived Brown gave her the painting and told Brown "her office walls were bare, and this would be the first painting she'd put on display, to remind her of her visit to that programme in Phillipstown.

"I assumed it would be dispatched to a cavernous basement in the Beehive and never seen again."

He went on to say: "Last year, I saw a video message from Ardern's office and was drawn to the painting in the background, behind the photo of Michael Joseph Savage: The painting I'd seen Carmen Brown give to Ardern five years earlier."

"It's just a small thing, but given everything that happened in the years after - much of it traumatic, toxic, chaotic - I was pleased to see that painting, which meant a lot to its creator, meant something to its recipient, too," he added.

Mitchell's story has been seen by more than 100,00 times on Twitter, many people thanked him for sharing and praising Ardern.

One person by the username Askew One shared a similar story: "One of the other paintings I can see I sold to her, it was painted by a friend of mine for a 3-man show we did.

"She lined up in the rain to buy it after spotting it on a promo video we did. She was the 5th or 6th person through the door. I’ll never forget how genuine she was."

Another user said: "Many disagree but I think PM Ardern is truly altruistic; a trait rarely seen in politicians."

Many others described the story as "lovely", "beautiful" and "gorgeous."

Ōtautahi Creative Spaces describes itself as a "creative community using the power of creativity to change lives."

They host exhibitions, collaborations and other artistic ventures made by people with mental health issues.

They said opened soon after the Christchurch earthquakes.