Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
They say ‘it takes a village, and this expo, My Baby’s Village, held in Auckland, is about collectively caring for Pacific infants’ health and wellbeing, children, mothers, fathers, carers and families.
Pacific organisations, health providers, churches, early childhood centres, community groups and the police came together at Fale o Samoa in Mangere, to showcase the services and resources available for families to provide information and support networks they need during their babies’ formative years.
A Pacific organisation specialising in research and advocacy for Pacific peoples, Moana Connect led the My Baby’s Village initiative.
CEO for Moana Connect Malaetogia Jacinta Fa’alili Fidow says the concept was born from discussions on the need to elevate the earlier years, particularly babies.
Malaetogia says the concept is knowing they have the best start in life as it affects the rest of their lives.
“Police came to us because they were tired of being called to homes where a baby has died and so what we did was we came together as a caucus, MSD, Counties Manukau, and said ‘let’s work together and see what we can do”.
“We want to support our parents who are caring for young babies. We want them to know they can reach out, we want them to know that they are seen, we know their pressures, and that’s the hardest time just after a baby is born. We’re trying to say, ‘we see you, we know how hard it is, here is the village that is around you’,” Malaetogia says.
Community lead for My Baby’s Village and Moana Connect, Ane Fa’aui, says the response has been overwhelming from the wider community.
“I think what we are seeing in our community is that a lot of our community have the solutions to Pacific wellbeing and Pacific infant care. We have so many in our communities who are experts and knowledge holders who were already practicing some of their cultural approaches.
To know that there are Pacific ways and approaches that are valued that have worked for us for many years and generations, and we are just wanting to be able to elevate that,” Ane says.
Railala Gade Gaunavou was one of the many stallholders who went along to showcase the art of Fiji Masi (Fijian barkcloth). She says it was necessary to come along and share the traditions and knowledge of her ancestors that have been passed on to her.
“I am so thankful to God to share the knowledge of my parents and grandparents with the Masi making, and I am so thankful for all the teachings that I brought with me to NZ, to help not only me but it helped me to earn a living, create a business to help me and my children.”
From baby clothes, how to massage babies’ heads, safe sleep for babies, and dealing with the loss of a baby, there was something for everyone, including prizes and giveaways.
While much information was available, Malaetogia Jacinta Fidow says it is about ensuring parents are not overwhelmed with too much information.
“We have to be careful that we don’t put them off by confusing them, so if we can find ways where we all work together to listen to them first and then direct them to where they need to go and also acknowledging that they already know a lot already, but if we can support them around the stuff they find difficult that will be much more meaningful for them.”
Financial pressures can also take a toll, and My Baby Village is offering, for the first time, the My Baby Village fund of up to five thousand dollars.
Malaetogia and Ane are confident that this could become an annual event they hope can be held across the country.
Lisi, who is Mum to 6 children with a newborn baby from Mangere, says she is pleased she came to the expo and believes it is vital for new parents to have events like this.
“It’s great – a lot of information, and great to see what different providers have to offer to support new Mums and Dads, parents, caregivers, and they can offer some financial assistance. We need more events that are baby friendly.”
Ane Fa’aui agrees and hopes this is the start of more innovative programmes to support families and their babies.
“Remember you are loved, and people care. I know it’s hard to ask for help. There is no shame in asking for help. There’s a village around you.”