Most people get paid in money. Tayla Nasmith's most valuable currency is hugs – from the hundreds of vulnerable young mothers she helps every year.
Nasmith describes her workload of her Mummys In Need organisation over the recent Covid-19 lockdown period as "insane" – although it was also a time of scarcity, given the lack of hugs due to social distancing.
And make no mistake, this talented and highly motivated 19-year-old needs hugs almost like, well, a baby needs hugs – and babies are as much the focus of Mummys In Need as mums. So that's the currency Nasmith traded in…before she was granted $10,000 through an ASB Good As Gold award.
Nasmith says: "It is really, really rewarding to help mothers going through hard times. I see them going through domestic violence; I see them 39 weeks pregnant, alone and with nothing ready for the babies – so they are stressing and up all night.
"It is a very special part of Mummys In Need to help them; it lights the fire in my heart and those thank-you hugs from the mums are a special part of what we do. I care about every single mum I help and each one touches my heart in a different way; the hugs are a great reward.
"So Covid-19 has been really, really hard – not being able to hug them and let them know that there are people out there who care for them."
ASB West Auckland regional manager Ngaire Angus says what Nasmith has achieved is inspiring, particularly given she started at such a young age: "For anyone to have started a charity like Mummys in Need and have grown it to where it is today would be impressive, but the fact that Tayla started this at just 12 is incredible.
"Her selflessness and caring have helped so many mothers feel more prepared for what can be a daunting and scary time, and for that, we think this award is very well-deserved."
So let's, for a minute, go back to the beginning of Mummys In Need and a 12-year-old Tayla (yes, 12) who already knew her role in life was to help people.
She started at age 10, she thinks, in her last year of primary school. A family friend was organising relief donations to the Philippines after a weather disaster there – and Tayla organised three truckloads of clothing and other materials.
It was, she says, the first inkling that her life was to be built around helping others – and the buzz it gave her. After that, she contacted Starship Hospital and discovered they needed, more than anything else, pyjamas for the "children who lived in hospital and who needed to have something of their own. I think I just wanted them to be comfy. I just had a thing for helping people."
That stopped when new health and safety regulations meant all Starship's pyjamas had to be new – so 12-year-old Tayla started Mummys In Need. It is aimed at pregnant and vulnerable mums with babies and children of up to two years old. She puts out calls on her Facebook platform and people donate baby clothes, nappies and anything that mums need to care for their babies or toddlers.
They are boxed up and Nasmith delivers them by hand. That's why she called the lockdown period "insane". As well as 150 boxes of clothing and baby gear, she also visited supermarkets, compiling and delivering another 150 boxes of baby food and other supplies that mums-in-need were desperate for over the lockdown.
"I am always thinking about the babies," she says. "They are so innocent and you know so many are not provided for. It's upsetting and you also know that, whatever the parents are going through, it shouldn't affect the child."
Mummys In Need started "with a couple of random mums" but has grown into a giant. Nasmith is now full-time there and works with social agencies; the Facebook page and whole operation has grown so big that word-of-mouth also means mums come to her too. She normally delivers about 100-150 boxes to mums a month.
Affirmation about what she was doing came when her own sister became pregnant at 16 – a personal encounter with the difficult time particularly young mums have: "There's not much financial support and it's really hard. We've dealt with 13 and 14-year-olds kicked out of home; sometimes they haven't even gone to Winz because they don't realise they can."
Her nominator, Alexia Hilbertidou, first came across Nasmith at high school while running her Girl Boss programme in schools – a network for young women who "want to change the world".
"I think the most inspiring thing about Tayla is that she started helping people at such a young age. We often say to young people that they don't have to wait to make a difference – many want to delay until they have achieved milestones like finishing school or a degree. Tayla just got stuck into positive change with the resources she had at hand."
Nasmith says part of the ASB award money will go toward expanding the storage space Mummys In Need was rapidly growing out of.
But she's also looking forward to the day – it can't come quick enough – when she can get back to hugging her mums and "we can all stop walking round like we've got the plague".