All I want for Christmas is to help others

The time has come to say farewell to my All I Want For Christmas series. Thank you to each and every person who took the time to answer my questions about their businesses, to those that have shared their amazing talents with me and all of my readers and to those who have offered special prices, discounts or prizes. Today it is time to look away from what I want for Christmas, what all of us want for ourselves and our families, and to maybe look a little broader at those who focus less on want because of the larger needs they face. And so, my final wish… All I want for Christmas is to help others.

All I Want for Christmas is to help others

There are millions of people who are in desperate need of help and support of all kinds and just because we may not have the money to help them, doesn’t mean we don’t have something to offer. Something as simple as helping to raise awareness by sharing this post could help them reach somebody who is able to offer even further support.

It was a difficult task to choose only three organisations to share with you today, but I wanted to give each of them enough space to share with you why you should help them help others. I selected causes that dear friends and people I love and respect hugely have drawn my attention to. I have helped where I could over the years, and I am hoping that by writing this, sharing their stories, raising awareness with even a handful of you, I can really help make a difference to the mission they have every day.

Milk Matters

Who is Milk Matters?
Milk Matters is a community based breastmilk bank in Cape Town which collects, screens, pasteurises and distributes life-saving donor breastmilk to state and private hospitals in the Western Cape for premature babies in their care. I have had so many people in my life, many from this blog, who have had their babies incredibly early, that the issues surrounding prematurity are close to my heart.

Milk Matters are devoted to saving the lives of premature babies in Neonatal Intensive Care Units whose own mothers are unable to supply the breastmilk their baby needs. These babies almost all weigh less than 1.5kg (the average weight of a full-term healthy baby is 3 – 3.5kg). They thrive on the irreplaceable nutrients, growth factors and antibodies in human milk, whereas giving these tiny babies replacement feeds such as formula milk, puts them at high risk of contracting potentially fatal infections such as the dreaded Necrotising Enterocolitis.

In the high-tech world of the modern Neonatal ICU, there is no substitute for breastmilk. All over the world it is recognised that only breastmilk offers premature babies the nutrition and protection essential for their survival. When a vulnerable baby’s own mother is unable to supply breastmilk, a breastmilk bank, such as Milk Matters, can offer this life saving gift from another mother.

The Milk Matters’ donor mothers come from all communities as do the recipient babies. By far the majority of the donor milk dispensed goes to State hospitals where the need is highest. They supply donor milk for an average of 40 – 60 babies daily, 365 days of the year; babies who would otherwise not be able to be 100% breastmilk fed in those first few critical days and weeks of their life.

How & when did Milk Matters start?
Milk Matters, which has been operating since 2003, is run by a team of six people; most part-time; with volunteers assisting in various capacities such as hosting depots or transporting donor milk.

It was started by 3 lactation consultants who saw the need for donor breastmilk to be given firstly to orphaned infants. It was recognised that giving these infants donor breastmilk would dramatically improve their health and growth. Then they were approached by a neonatologist at Groote Schuur who started realising how important donor breastmilk would be for the preterm infants whose mothers were either too sick to breastfeed or had abandoned their infants. The outcomes were dramatic, more infants were surviving, growing faster and going home sooner. From supplying one hospital, it grew over the years and today Milk Matters supply to over 29 hospitals and they can’t keep up with the demand.

What is Milk Matters’ focus?
As a breastmilk bank, Milk Matters’ ultimate goal is not just to provide breastmilk to as many babies in need as possible, but to encourage and support all mothers to express and to breastfeed their own babies, even if Milk Matters has helped them at critical times.
If more mothers and health professionals are knowledgeable about the basics of breastfeeding, it means that less babies need donor breastmilk and therefore are receiving the number one prize of their own mother’s milk. Milk Matters also focus on helping other institutions to start their own in-house milk banks by providing training and guidance on the operations of running a human milk bank. This helps to relieve the pressure on Milk Matters, as they currently can’t keep up with the demand 365 days of the year. Then, of course, their focus is to aim for all premature, sick infants who do not have access to their own mother’s milk to receive the best start in life in the form of donor breastmilk.

What is the long term goal for Milk Matters?
The long term goal is to assist more facilities to start their own in-house milk banks and become self-sustainable. Milk Matters currently struggles to keep up with the demand due to the high rate of premature birth and increase in the number of maternal social issues, such as drug and alcohol abuse. They also want to reach more health professionals and conduct breastfeeding training, so that mothers have access to up to date information and support when it comes to breastfeeding. They also want to dramatically increase their donor base, so that they can distribute more donor breastmilk to infants in need.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
Donate breastmilk
Every drop counts – so if you are a breastfeeding mother just 50mls a day can feed a premature infant for 24 hours. Breastmilk donation is a unique opportunity for breastfeeding moms to make a difference to lives of the smallest of babies.

Also, please spread the word about human milk banks as it is still a concept that the public has little knowledge of. If we can improve the public consciousness about donor breastmilk this will assist us in our mission to feed more infants.

Financial donations – of any amount – are just as vital as breastmilk donations in enabling Milk Matters to continue to provide the life-line of safe, pasteurized donor breastmilk to babies fighting for survival in intensive care units.

Your money helps them cover the essential costs involved in running a breastmilk bank and maintaining the internationally accepted best practices for human milk banks. Maintaining these standards is not negotiable – it is what ensures the milk they supply to the tiny recipient babies is safe. Funding also helps them to expand and help more babies, meaning more lives are saved.

Thank you so much to Elizabeth Brierley, Director of Milk Matters for taking the time to answer my questions. Milk Matters is a registered NPO – non-profit organisation (053-121-NPO) and  a PBO – public benefit organisation (930 024 054). If you want to make a difference in the lives of tiny preterm newborn babies, you can find out more on www.milkmatters.org.

Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust

Who is the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust
The Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust supports rape survivors along the journey to recovery and on the road to justice, and works alongside communities to challenge the high rates of rape. They offer free counselling and court support to rape survivors and their families and offer training and workshops to community groups.

How & when did Rape Crisis start?
Rape Crisis was started in 1976 by a woman named Anne Mayne who was gang raped and found no support. She started the organisation with a few other women, and today they serve over 10 000 rape survivors every year.

What is Rape Crisis’ focus?
Their focus is on promoting safety in communities, reducing the trauma experienced by rape survivors, empowering women, promoting gender equality, and strengthening the criminal justice system.

What is the long term goal for Rape Crisis?
A South Africa in which women are safe in their communities and where the criminal justice system supports and empowers rape survivors and acts as a deterrent to rapists.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
There are so many ways to help make a difference.

If you have a Smart Shopper card from Pick n Pay, you can donate your points to them. Simply access the Smart Shopper kiosk in any Pick n Pay store and choose Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust from the list of beneficiary organisations.

Fundraise for Rape Crisis. Run a marathon, climb a mountain, ride a bike – and get friends and business colleagues to sponsor you. Visit Back-a-Buddy or GivenGain to set up a fundraising page with Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust as the beneficiary. You can also collect donations in lieu of birthday, wedding or anniversary gifts.

Apply for a free MySchool card and swipe it every time you shop at Woolworths and other supporting retailers. The card is free and you pay nothing to use it – the store simply donates a percentage of the value of your purchase to Rape Crisis. If you already have a card, you can add Rape Crisis as another beneficiary.

You can also volunteer your time.

This is one organisation that would appreciate any financial support you can provide. They cover the costs of counselling and court support services, and are currently raising funds to help them train new volunteer counsellors.

Thank you so much to Jessica Perrins, fundraising officer for Rape Crisis for getting back to me with the answers to my questions. If you have any other questions or want to find a way to get involved you cango to  www.rapecrisis.org.za.

Little Brinks

Who is Little Brinks?
Little Brinks is an NGO focused on improving the lives of disadvantaged children and families in the Western Cape. They focus on helping and supporting struggling families with food packages on a weekly basis, as well as collecting clothing, food, nappies and anything else these families might need. They also help women who find themselves in desperate situations, from abusive relationships to pregnancies or babies they need support in.

How & when did Little Brinks start?
Little Brinks was started by the amazing Katherine Brink in 2008 after a visit to the Christine Revell Children’s Home. With a special focus on supporting children in need; the Brinks have grown their own family through fostering their gorgeous 11 month old twins, an adored asthmatic 8 year old with a low immune system, and a handsome and much loved FAS 10 year old; they also take in ANY child that needs a home while social workers find them safe accommodation.

What is Little Brinks’ focus?
Little Brinks operates on a deep-seated personal belief that each and every child deserves to have a meal and deserves to be loved and they do everything they can from helping provide material things, to supplying support and encouragement to helping find homes, jobs and safe places for anybody in genuine need.

What is the long term goal for Little Brinks?
Their big project for 2016 is providing women with safe spaces and alternatives to abandoning their babies or children, while continuing to grow their ability to help and support families in need.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP? 
Little brinks needs help in every way since it is run 100% on donations. Most of the donations come from the Brinks’ own family and friends and often from Kath herself. Every single little thing helps.

Donations come in many shapes and forms-
Any household items, food and clothing is always welcome. Toys, Sports equipment and toiletries just as much.

Cash donations are also hugely helpful in that they can be used for many of the expenses they try and assist with, such as buying electricity for families in need, buying medication for kids who need it, putting together food parcels, as well as assisting towards school items for a much needed education.

Fundraising
As with all charitable concerns, Little Brinks are only able to assist as far as their means and funds allow. If you’re a budding enthusiast and would like to adopt “Little Brinks” to raise some funds, they would be most grateful.

Some ideas could be:

  • Hosting a Tea/Lunch or function in aid of the Little Brinks
  • “Adopting” a child placed in a safe house, and purchasing items for him or her throughout the year – School items, birthday gift, stationery, etc.
  • Contributing a monthly amount (no matter how big or small!) via a debit order into the LIttle Brinks bank account

Awareness
Finding out more about who Little Brinks are and what they do is very important. Anyone wanting to get involved can attend an information session or one-on-one meeting at the LIttle Brinks office. Pop in and have a cup of coffee and see what they do. This also allows you an opportunity to ask any questions you may have or even volunteer some of your time to sort donations or wrap gifts!

Volunteer
To really get a sense of what it is that keeps the amazing people at Little Brinks motivated to do what they do, go along and volunteer at one of their events, or simply go and assist at the office with sorting or dropping off items to those in need. Not always an easy job, being a volunteer alongside them, allows them to assist even more families and children in need and also offers a sense of perspective and appreciation for the work being done.

I have supported Kath and Little Brinks in little ways over the years whenever I have been able to and if you are wanting to help make a real difference in the lives of the children and families in the community, this could be the perfect way to do so. You can find out more about them on their website and join them on their journey on their Facebook page.

Gandhi Quote

I totally stole that from the Little Brinks website, because it conveys perfectly the purpose of this post. It is so easy for you to make a difference in the lives of the people these organisations spend every day working for.

If you don’t do anything else, at least SHARE this post wherever you can and help raise awareness for the amazing work that these incredibly special people are doing.

Sending all the love xx

Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for sharing this info Mandy. I agree, we all need to help others as much as we can, especially at this time of year! My love language is not gifts, so this is an easy one for me. Quite happy to forgo pressies to help others.

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