From sleeping on the floor to his own bed
For Diane’s three little boys, the bed was a pile of old foam mattresses on a chipboard floor in a cold, damp corner of their home. There they slept in a tangle of blankets.
Living in the countryside where the surrounding land became waterlogged and nighttime temperatures dropped below freezing during the winter, Diane’s fibrolite house was prone to dampness and rapid mold growth. It was no wonder his boys suffered from skin ailments and an endless succession of colds.
It’s a situation Healthy Homes Initiative provider Nik Gregg sees all too often when he visits low-income households around the Bay of Plenty.
“Our tamariki and pepi sleep on floors, sofas, shared beds, shared mattresses, chairs and bunks and broken beds. Without their own bed, they are exposed to more viruses, bacteria and respiratory diseases, they are more prone to mold and dust mites, sleep deprivation, allergies, eczema and skin infections.”
Every year in New Zealand, 28,000 children end up in hospital with preventable illnesses because of where they sleep. These children are three times more likely to return to hospital and ten times more likely to die.
Winter is a particularly difficult time of year, especially for children whose families are struggling financially, says Susan Glasgow, CEO of children’s charity Variety.
“Children living in poverty are most affected by winter illnesses. Often it is not just colds, but illnesses like rheumatic fever which can have lifelong consequences.
“Winter can be a risky time for children whose health may already be at stake. With the potential for a rebound in winter illnesses that have been contained during pandemic restrictions, these children need more than ever our support.
Over the past four winters, Variety has partnered with the government’s Healthy Home Initiative (HHI) providers, such as Nik Gregg, to identify the children most in need of beds.
“Our goal is to help our whānau live in a warm, dry and safe home. We focus our efforts on supporting the whānau with a long list of activities including insulation, repairs, advocacy and more again,” says Nik.
“Despite all the support we can give, if our tamariki and pepi don’t have their own sleeping space, the health and social benefits of a warm, dry home are compromised.”
In Diane’s case, HHI worked with the homeowner to improve the home, including installing a heat pump and fixing the woodwork that was a source of drafts. Variety provided the beds and bedding to give each boy his own space to sleep on the floor and in warm, dry beds, keeping them healthy and out of the hospital.
“His boys are no longer exposed to the threat of wet, cold and highly contagious conditions,” says Nik.
There are even more families like Diane’s who urgently need beds and bedding before winter sets in.
Three-month-old Olivia, who is hospitalized with bronchiolitis, and her brother Tim, who is being monitored for strep throat and is sleeping on a foam mattress on the floor. Their mother, Maria, is in a constant state of worry, but she knows that a warm new bed for her son and a crib with bedding for her daughter would help keep her children safe and healthy.
Ben has ADHD and sleeps on a mattress on the floor, while his two sisters Fiona and Sally sleep on a couch. A bed and bunk beds for him and his sisters would mean a good, warm night’s sleep so they could stay healthy and concentrate in school.
Now Variety urgently needs the support of generous Kiwis to help these families and more. This winter, 1,100 children are waiting for their beds and bedding. Even a small amount can make a huge difference:
$45 will provide a warm blanket
$80 will provide a bedding pack
$343 will provide a single bed and bedding set
$688 will provide bunk beds and bedding set
To help keep Kiwi children out of hospital by ensuring they have their own bed and warm bedding, please visit heartlink.variety.org.nz/donation to donate.