Whānau Āwhina Plunket – making a difference to children, families and whānau October 2020

Story by volunteer reporter Helen Frances, Volunteering Northland

Plunket - we’ve all heard of it. Most of us are ‘Plunket babies’. “It’s such an iconic organisation; it’s part of the fabric of who we are as Kiwis,” says Pauline Lamerton, Community Team Leader for Lower Northland. Alongside Plunket’s Clinical Team providing child health and development services, the Community Services Team provide a range of services such as playgroups, parent groups, walking groups and coffee groups, parenting education, toy libraries and kaiāwhina support. Volunteers play a huge role in the delivery of many of these services. “What we do is create a platform for the community to meet its needs.” says Pauline. “We want to deliver the best we can and having a strong volunteer team allows us to do this”.

In the Kaipara, Whānau Āwhina Plunket operates from sites in Dargaville, Ruawai, Paparoa, Maungataroto, Mangawhai and Kaiwaka. Currently Plunket is looking for volunteers to act as hosts for their drop-in nursing clinics in all these sites. “But there are so many ways volunteers can assist Plunket,” says Ema Kelly, Community Support Coordinator for the Kaipara area. The Paparoa playgroup, Ready Steady Wriggle, needs more volunteers, for example. The playgroups are a really important part of Whānau Āwhina Plunket’s kaupapa. “Children make friends there; parents make connections with each other. They have a wonderful community-building dynamic.”

The Kaipara area is large, and many families and whānau living remotely can become isolated. Volunteers who can reach out to families can help to provide the community connection that is so important for young families.

Whānau Āwhina Plunket’s purpose is to support Kiwi families and whānau and their tamariki to thrive, and volunteers are an essential part of that. It’s a rewarding way to take an active part in the local community; a way of investing in the next generation.