Every month, Joy and her team drop goodie bags to parents and carers (primarily mothers) in the Children’s Acute Assessment Unit, two paediatric wards and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Christchurch Hospital, as well as those in Neonatal Units at Nelson and Southland Hospitals and the mothers and babies unit at Princess Margaret Hospital.
“We know what a vulnerable time it is for a Mother, carer or parent when their child is sick.”
Inside the bags is an assortment of goodies that are both practical and luxurious. Snacks and hand creams go hand in hand with magazines and handwritten notes telling them they are brave, beautiful and loved. In January there will also be a specially designed gratitude journal, recognising the role gratitude can play in supporting mental health even when times are tough.
When Joy Reid ended up in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with her third child, she witnessed first-hand the impact of her volunteer work.
Many of the volunteers themselves have also experienced the service on the other side, sitting in hospital wards with their sick children or babies.
“As a fly on the wall” Joy was able to watch on as a Mother opened one of her goodie bags and then be overcome with emotion at the kindness behind the initiative.
“Even if it’s only five minutes in a day that distracts them from the reality of what they’re facing, that’s five minutes more than what they would have had,” says Joy.
Every month about 270 bags are delivered across the units, with the recipients of the bags never known to the volunteers.
Joy co-founded the initiative, which was started in 2016, and took over the running of the organisation last year.
The mother of three estimates they have supported over 12,000 Mothers over the last five years.
“While we’ve grown in volume, the ethos, heart and concept has stayed the same. Our heart is very much to show kindness in what is a very difficult and vulnerable season.”
Having expanded again this year, the team are now needing to bring on a paid staff member.
In November alone, 387 volunteer hours were done by 83 different people, including 20 to 25 hours a week completed between Joy and her husband, Geoff.
Joy and Geoff have been surprised and grateful for the number of businesses who have come on board to donate items and help them grow the initiative.
“It gave us the confidence that what we thought was a good idea, they did too.”
Two of Joy’s three children have spent time in NICU and it was through this experience that the organisation moved into gifting bags to the unit. Joy didn’t expect to be there herself again, but earlier this year she was back there with the birth of her third child, Annabelle. Annabelle then ended up on a nasal gastric feeding tube in the months following her birth and in and out of the paediatric medical ward.
“I saw the need in there. I felt my own and I saw it and that’s why we decided to branch into the paediatric wards so quickly. I am driven by that personal passion. I have felt those feelings and it’s so real.”
After seeing Mums benefitting from the bags when her own daughter was a patient, Joy says she can never stop doing what they’re doing.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, at the end of the day, your heart is on the outside of your sleeve and when your child is sick your feelings are all the same.”
In January, the gratitude journals will launch. Inside each journal will be a place to practice gratitude and also space for notes and questions to “try to empower the Mother or carer to take time for themselves, to alleviate stress and to encourage them to take an active role in the conversation around their child’s care.”
Ahead of Christmas, Joy and her team are launching a campaign where the public can buy Christmas goodie bags for someone in need.
They have also released a celebrity cookbook, featuring recipes from figures such as Hilary Barry and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
You can buy yours here.
Photo credit: Angela Jones Portraits