A frightening experience with her 18-month-old daughter Arabelle inspired Christina Buckland to spread the love to mothers supporting their hospital-bound children.
A suspicious rash, resembling one often associated with meningitis, saw Arabelle and Christina rushed from the GP to the Children’s Acute Assessment Unit in Christchurch Hospital.
After spending “one of the scariest days of my life” in that unit, Christina decided to drop off a few gift bags to mothers in the same situation.
What started as a one-off gesture soon became a regular occurrence, backed by the support of Christina’s friend Joy Reid who shared a similar experience with her own children.
The initiative, aptly named ‘One Mother To Another’, provides gift bags to vulnerable mums and carers while caring for sick children in hospital.
“We both know the isolation, fear and loneliness that can surround that time,” Christina says. “We wanted to ensure that other mums and carers who walk this journey after us feel supported and loved by a stranger.”
The contents of each gift bag vary from month to month, depending on what products have been donated by the public, but must-haves include Dilmah tea, Nescafe coffee and a light snack.
“This is because when a mum or carer is [in hospital] she only has what is in her handbag. We want to make sure she at least has a cup of tea or coffee and a snack so she doesn’t have to leave her child’s side to get these things,” Christina says.
Other gift bag items include practical things like a toothbrush and toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, hair ties and soap, as well as other niceties like beauty products, magazines, candles or something a bit special that has been donated for that month. Not to mention a hand written note from Joy and Christina to encourage the recipient to keep their head up.
One Mother To Another distributes 170 gift bags per month to four wards spread across three hospitals in the South Island – the NICU and CAAU wards in Christchurch Hospital, and each of the NICU wards in Nelson and Invercargill.
Every mum in these three NICU wards is guaranteed to receive a gift bag, with Christina saying: “It doesn't matter if a mum is there for one day or 30 days - it is a difficult time to have a sick new-born”.
Christchurch Hospital’s Children’s Acute Assessment Unit receives 50 bags to be divvied out by nursing staff – the mere number of mums passing through the unit every week meant the demand far outnumbered supply.
This is One Mother To Another’s biggest challenge – sourcing enough products for gift bags each month, with Christina and Joy relying largely on donations from individuals and companies to keep their dream alive.
“The companies and people that support us, support us well,” Christina says. “We are constantly blown away with companies that catch our dream and vision for what we are doing, and donate to us regularly and generously. People have either been affected directly or indirectly with having a sick child in hospital, and those feelings of despair can be powerful and moving.”
Product donations aside, Christina and Joy thought to create a fundraising cookbook to help fund their cause.
The result is EATS, a cookbook that contains more than 100 recipes written by mums who have received gift bags, nurses who have distributed them and celebrity chefs who were keen to show their support. This includes the likes of Jax Hamilton, Simon Gault, Annabel Langbein, Jo Seager, Pete Evans, Peter Gordon, notable Kiwi Hilary Barry and even our very own Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.
“Each recipe has a note from the author about what their recipe and One Mother To Another means to them. It's an invitation from us to join in our vision and learn more about what we do – and your kitchen table will benefit too!”
EATS is available from Whitcoulls bookstores nationwide, or from Onemothertoanother.org.nz/cookbook, with 100 per cent of the proceeds from the sale of each copy being funnelled back into the organisation.
As you can imagine, the feel-good factor from supplying mums in need with not only the essentials, but little luxuries too, is immense.
Christina says it’s not uncommon for her inbox to be flooded with messages of thanks from week to week. “This is our ‘why’, and we love, love, love these messages!”
But this positive feedback isn’t limited only to recipients, with Christina saying some of their most uplifting reactions have come from staff, who are “always supporting us with words of encouragement and telling us what the reactions from the mums and carers who receive the packs is like. It's touching”.
Plans to expand the initiative are in the pipeline, with Christina and Joy’s eventual dream to supply One Mother To Another gift bags to every hospital in the country.
For information on how to get involved by way of volunteering or donations, visit Onemothertoanother.org.nz, email Christina at Christina@onemothertoanother.org.nz or follow them on Facebook @FromOneMother2Another.
This is part of a special Viva and Dilmah editorial series. To see more, go to Viva.co.nz/Dilmah.