Grayson and Jessica Barnes know just how much difference a respite care home for babies with ongoing medical conditions will make for their families.

Their son Eli, now 18 months old, has a neuro-muscular disease and requires specialist medical equipment.

"Just relief. Just to have a facility with confidence, to look after people with needs like our son," Whangarei's Mr Barnes said.

When Eli was younger, he had a oxygen monitor, an apnoea monitor and a suction unit.


Mrs Barnes said now he has a feeding tube, special formula, a standing frame and can't be bathed without equipment.

"Having a centre so we can still take our other child away on short trips will be great."

That centre, is the dream of paediatric outreach nurse Sharlene Clements. Husband David Clements is building the "cottage" in Morningside, which will be called Kind Hands.

Mrs Clements has been a nurse for 23 years, with the past 10 in Whangarei, where she grew up.

"I've seen all the difficulties families have with respite care and getting a break."

Her vision is to provide a safe and "home away from home" environment for children who are medically fragile, or have disabilities.

"I just want to make it easier, I think these parents do an incredible job."

She said often it can be a challenge for families to learn how to use all of the equipment, and leaving their child with someone else would mean teaching them how to use it too.

Mrs Clements said the nurses who will work in the cottage all know how to use the medical equipment, and that will give parents the confidence to leave their children with them.

Kind Hands is aimed at newborns to 6-year-olds, and children will be able to stay for the day or overnight.

Seven children will be able to stay the night, with more able to stay during the day.

She said the respite care will give parents the chance to go on a school trip with their other children, or do the supermarket shopping.

"Things other people might take for granted."

Mrs Clements wants Kind Hands to be a place that services all of Northland.

She and her husband have taken out a loan to build the centre, and have been humbled by the support through fundraising and donations so far.

Construction is under way, and Mrs Clements is planning to open in July.

To make a donation to the cottage, go to