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Prince’s present inspires help for kiwi newborns

Mila, whose parents are friends of the trustees, models the BabyStart box.
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A present from Finland when Prince George was born has inspired life-changing gifts for several hundred New Zealand babies.

When the prince was born to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2013, the Finnish government sent him the same box of baby help it gives its newest citizens.

That gift has led to the creation of the BabyStart charity, which provides a sleeping box, clothes and toiletries worth $900 for New Zealand newborns who need them.

The charity’s website also sells the baby boxes to the public online – and each one sold allows another to be given away. The purchased boxes, which cost $750, are proving popular as maternity leave gifts from colleagues, as well as from grandparents.

In Finland, every pregnant woman receives a baby box after their ante-natal health checks – 35,000 to 40,000 boxes are given out each year.

One percent of babies born

BabyStart CEO Phil Horrobin says their short-term aim is to give the free boxes to one per cent of New Zealand babies born annually. The boxes will keep babies warm and safe for the first 100 days of their life and beyond.

Boxes are being given out in Northland, Auckland and Porirua to babies assessed as being in need of them.

The BabyStart box and its contents.

The first baby box was given to a new mother in Papakura via her midwife, who was going to either buy the basics herself or spend considerable time sourcing donations for the new arrival. Phil says this is a common practice among health professionals faced with the needs of their clients.

More important, says Phil, are the connections built through the boxes between health professionals and the women they care for.

Often the babies are born into homes affected by domestic violence, drug issues, no ante-natal care, or simply a lack of money, Phil says.

The box is designed for the baby to sleep in, if needed. It comes with a waterproof mattress, sheets, quality baby clothes in merino wool and organic cotton, merino wrap, disposable nappies, bib, various personal care products, and even a rattle and a book.

One of the recipients said, “By getting gifted this stuff there was more money for food for my other children.”

Another said,

I hadn’t thought of reading to my baby, but after seeing the book in the box, I’m going to go and look for more books.”

The charity’s origins go back to a BBC story on Finland’s gift to Prince George. An Auckland midwife heard the story and mentioned it to a South Auckland police officer, Bryan Ward.

He mentioned it to Phil Horrobin, then working for Duffy Books In Homes, and suggested a charity should be formed.

At the time life was busy for Phil and his wife, Clare, who were expecting their first child.

After their baby was born, Phil and Clare talked about how they could give back to the community and remembered the conversation with Bryan. When they found out that Bryan hadn’t yet had success with his charity idea, Phil and Clare decided to work with him to give it a go.

BabyStart Charitable Trust was formed in April 2015 with founding trustees Phil, Clare and Bryan.

Sophia Gunn later joined and is now the chairperson.

BabyStart trustees, from left, Clare and Phil Horrobin, Sophia Gunn (chairperson) and Bryan Ward

Phil and Clare put money in to kick-start the project, which had “quite significant” set-up costs. Several grants mean the amount they now put in is decreasing. Phil is giving his time as CEO free of charge.

They consulted many health professionals about what should go in the box, including Plunket and midwives plus their local Counties-Manukau District Health Board. They also imported one of the Finnish boxes.

The criteria

Professionals use four criteria to assess whether a box should be given to a child in New Zealand.

  1. Some risk of SUDI (Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy) for the child.
  2. Material hardship.
  3. The pregnancy has passed 22 weeks.
  4. Assistance from Oranga Tamariki (optional).

After the baby is born, recipients are surveyed to find out how useful the box was. Phil says the responses are “always positive”.

The long-term goal for the project is to expand into other parts of New Zealand and ultimately reach 10 per cent of births every year – about 6000 babies. They also hope sales, grants and sponsorship will enable the project to fund itself.

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For more information:

Go to the BabyStart website click here

BabyStart Facebook page click here 

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