Helping families through the toughest times

We sat down with Annie who is a family support worker for Heart Kids to learn about how she works with Bellyful and what that means for her clients. Annie deals with families going through one of the toughest times of their lives.

Heart Kids provides lifelong support to families who have a child born with a problem with their heart or who gain a disease of the heart during childhood. Having a heart problem usually means the need for open heart surgery, often at a very young age. This can mean long stays for Mum, Dad or both, away from support networks as the surgery is carried out at Auckland’s Starship hospital. Annie remembers one Mum who was in hospital with her child for two years and two months.

Whether families are away from home or close-by, however, the stress is still there. Stress can come from the financial impact of not having members of the family working so they can support their child and from the worry caused by having a child with a heart problem. And the stress doesn’t stop after the open heart surgery, as often the child will need longer-term help at home with things like medications and physical recovery. This is why Heart Kids provides lifelong support for families.

Annie sings the praises of Bellyful when she reflects on one particular family. ‘Dad had lost his job due to wanting to be in Auckland with his family as his daughter went through open heart surgery. The family had savings for basics like rent and power but was finding it a struggle. This was where Bellyful came in and supported the family with meals for three months. This was an amazing level of support and really helped this family during this hard time’.

Annie is impressed that Bellyful doesn’t shy away from supporting families who need longer term support. Many Heartkids families might go through multiple crises as their child is in and out of hospital and each time Annie knows she can refer her families to Bellyful for support. ‘They are always available and willing to help, honestly they are life changing’.

Many of Annie’s clients later reflect back to her the impact of having meals provided. ‘Just not having to think about meals takes some stress off these families. Nothing is quicker and easier than being able to throw something into the oven and not having to think about it. This makes a big difference.’

Not only are Bellyful’s meals quick and easy but Annie also finds the whole Bellyful process for referring clients really easy and effective, particularly using the online referral process. This means that Annie will continue to refer to Bellyful whenever she can, knowing that this small act of providing meals can help ease a really tough time for families whose child has a heart problem.

Words by Rebecca Foley

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