A baby shower for a new mum trying to leave a gang situation led to the creation of a charity that supplies practical help to new parents around the Waikato.
In the past year alone, they have given away baby-related items, nearly all donated, that would cost $200,000 to buy.
And 2020 has seen the demand almost triple due to people losing jobs or having their work hours decreased due to Covid-19.
It was just before Christmas seven years ago when Te Awamutu woman, Sharni Budd, helped this new mum where she could, and Sharni turned to Facebook for support. Soon she had enough supplies for 10 babies in the form of new and used baby clothes plus donated vouchers.
Formation of charitable trust
Sharni organised a surprise baby shower but there were so many baby clothes left over it got her thinking there were likely to be many more women who could use support.
It was also a challenging time for her as her husband, Jamie, had lost his job just as their sixth child was born.
The next year, 2014, Sharni and her helpers began collecting and distributing practical items for new mums, focusing initially on Te Awamutu.
Practical help included baby clothes, bassinets, cots, car seats, toys and children’s books.
They also focused on building relationships with other organisations that support new mothers, such as midwives, who can make referrals.
In 2019, Sharni and Jamie, now parents of eight children, and their helpers, formed the charitable trust, Loving Arms, which supplies practical support for new mums around the Waikato.
Loving Arms has a team of people who knit vests and cardigans to help keep babies warm.
They see homes where people have put bubble wrap over the glass of their windows to keep out draughts.
In other places, babies sleep on the couch, floor or car seat because they don’t have their own bassinet.
For many mums it can be a choice between buying food or paying the power bill.
You see that relief from stress and one less thing to have to worry about,” Sharni says.
Mothers in Arms was launched late in 2017. This is a monthly gathering for mums, caregivers (and even some dads). Here, mums can feel connected into their community and glean encouragement and support from mums from all ages and stages.
An interesting and relevant speaker is invited along to share and encourage the mums and caregivers.
“Mums enjoy coming along and we have seen some deep friendships develop through these gatherings,” Sharni says.
At the beginning of 2020 the Loving Arms Charitable Trust’s newest initiative, Kaiāwhina, went live.
Kaiāwhina is a home-based postnatal service where they match a passionate and skilled volunteer (kaiāwhina) with a new mum who requires some extra TLC, encouragement, support and guidance in the first few weeks after the arrival of their new baby.
Sharni says the Waikato is home to many transient families who move about to work on dairy farms and new mums find themselves quite isolated.
Working alongside the mother’s own midwife or other healthcare providers the kaiāwhina can help the new mum adjust to their new role as a mother by providing help with basic baby care, light household duties and meal preparation.
Jenny is one of the new mums who has been supported by a kaiāwhina.
“The day I met my kaiāwhina was a day of relief . . . it was another person to talk to. I had recently become a single mum to six kids, my oldest being 20 and my little guy, seven weeks.
“I have not had too many friends that I could vent to. I would always get told, ‘We need to catch up for coffee or come for baby cuddles’ but they never do,” Jenny says.
But when [my kaiāwhina] came into my life it was a new shoulder to lean on and a new ear to talk to.
“When I have a bad day, I know I can give her a text. My marriage breakdown has been the hardest thing I have had to deal with on top of having a new baby but being able to talk to somebody that [sic] will not judge what I say has been so great.
“I am hoping that I can one day be there for someone like [my kaiāwhina] has been there for me.
“I would also like to thank the team from Loving Arms for loaning me a bassinet. You do amazing work and it is great to have a place like Loving Arms to support families who have fallen on hard times.”
Run by volunteers
Currently, Loving Arms is run solely by a team of volunteers. Grants have enabled them to rent premises instead of working from several sites around the Waipā district.
Future hopes include starting a group for mothers, something similar for teen mums and also a programme for new fathers, which Jamie may run.
So, what has Sharni learned that would inspire people looking to do something to help others?
“I really believe that God gives us gifts and passions and the skills you learn as you live your life can be put to good use, so whatever is in front of you that you are passionate about you are able to do something . . . so you can make a difference in the world.”
How you can help
Loving Arms has volunteers who cut up sheets and woollen blankets to make cot-sized sheets and blankets. They also need knitted woollen garments, especially for premature and new born babies.
One of their supporters is an 80-year-old woman who crochets blankets to cover babies in car seats.
People can also support Loving Arms through regular monetary donations.
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Loving Arms website