Jo Hayes, the founder of GrandFriends, Surrogate Grandparents New Zealand put a post on a local Kāpiti Facebook page asking if anyone wanted a granny.

A strange post you might think at first, but the idea immediately struck a chord with the Kāpiti community.

"This wonderful granny in Paraparaumu is looking for a family to support," Jo's post said.

"I am looking for the win-win situation where a family and a grandparent are there for each other playing a part in each other's life experiencing the joy of this relationship and also a sense of belonging.


"I would like to be able to get to know a family who may also be isolated from their biological family and support systems and to build a relationship based on health care and friendship in a neighbourhood or country where other loved ones are not nearby."

This is not just a random request, but part of an idea Jo had years ago when she found herself with two children and no support in a country she now calls home.

"I'm from the UK, and I've been here for 17 years now."

Coming to New Zealand on her OE, Jo planned to continue travelling and then return home to the UK.

"I had no intention of staying here but I ended up here, married a Kiwi guy and now have two Kiwi kids.

"My relationship with their father dissolved which left me in a conundrum living on the other side of the world from my family with two little Kiwi kids.

"I have no family support and am here on my own.

"That's my reasoning behind why I felt I needed support."


Befriending an older lady she met at her kids' day care centre, a relationship blossomed and Jo found there was a mutual desire for friendship and support.

"I friended this wonderful lady who my kids now know as Granny Susan, and I now call mum.

"We struck up a relationship in the day care playground, got talking, got on really well, and then our families just kinds of merged from there.

"It's been the most wonderful thing."

Jo found the love and support she needed from a parental figure and Granny Susan found love and companionship from a young family eager for her wisdom and support.

Talking about it with friends from overseas, Jo found there were many people in similar situations with no support system nearby.

Encouraged by these friends, Jo decided to try and get the idea going to help other people, and GrandFriends was born.

GrandFriends is a programme run by Surrogate Grandparents New Zealand to provide social, caring connections for families around New Zealand.

Surrogate Grandparents New Zealand provides intergenerational connections with the aim of helping to alleviate social isolation and loneliness by finding grandparents for families who may not have them for their children.

The organisation has now been operating for three years increasing their rang from Auckland and now expanding to Kāpiti.

"This granny is one of the first in the Kāpiti district and she received immense love from the area with the post online.

"Several people have signed up and we are now in the process of finding the right match for this granny."

The first step is filling out a detailed application form ranging with information from interests, health condition, how far you are willing to meet someone, how many children you would like to hang out with, what in your past has made you approach this service, "and just anything we need to know to try and get a sense of who you are and how you will be well-matched with someone".

Police checks are also done and regional coordinators facilitate initial meetups.

While there can be some hit and misses, the thorough application process is set up for lasting connections to be made.

"It's not just free babysitting.

"Of course once a relationship develops it might be that the surrogate GrandFriend would love to take the kids down to the park while the mum and dad go out to the movies.

"But that's absolutely up to the people in the relationship and it's absolutely give and take.

"It's about building that village, it's being there for each other and its building those relationships — that connection that people seem to be missing."

A 'GrandFriend' can be anyone, of any age who is interested in increasing their social connections and building a "village' around themselves and their families.

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