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Willoughby Living

November 5, 2016

Michelle Barry & Rebecca Ilie, NICU Food From the Heart Founders

“We’re the founders of NICU Food From the Heart; a local community group set up to support parents and families who have babies staying in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit located on the Lower North Shore. No one really talks about NICU stays and we’re passionate about removing any stigma from this experience. The stress and isolation these parents may experience is enormous. They are not the ‘patient’ in this circumstance which means the focus is on the babies, as it should be, but we want the families to know they’re not alone. Some of them are there for 16 weeks, 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. There’s also a misconception that families with babies in the NICU on the Lower North Shore must be from affluent backgrounds with great support networks. That couldn’t be further from the truth. People come here from all over NSW and from all sorts of living situations. Our support takes various forms – a nicely decorated environment, donated goods like coffee machines and dishwashers to hair wash and blow dry treatments for the mums and being able to put families in touch with other support networks. We’re hoping our support can reach greater depth by way of healthy brunch items or emergency food, and we are currently consulting with the hospital regarding this. So many local businesses have come on board to help us support the NICU; Willoughby Chargrill Charlies, High St Deli, The Moody Chef, The Good Guys Chatswood, Farrah Fossano Hair Salon, Sage Hair and Beauty, Escape Salon and Richardson & Wrench Willoughby. Our Facebook group grew organically. We set it up, added our friends and colleagues and it just grew from there. There was no boosting or money involved, and that was really important to us. We wanted it to be community based. Now it has reached America, Germany, Romania and we’ve had donations from all over Australia. For two local Mums we’re pretty excited to have that reach. And we’re developing relationships, especially with the people that donate regularly. They bring things to our house, this is real community stuff! We hope for the butterfly effect. We supported one family for their entire stay in the NICU and they were the first to donate to our Christmas appeal. We are currently on a donation drive for Christmas decorations. The colours are pink, blue or silver and can be home-made or store bought and they will help make the Unit feel festive throughout December. We’re also creating Christmas bags for mums filled with things to brighten what will be a long difficult day. We’ve both worked in health for many years in various roles, and have children of our own. Yes, as a hobby this has taken up a fair bit of time, but we are so passionate about it. And we feel great about instilling this passion in our own kids. Ideally we’d like to take this nation-wide. Can you imagine if every mum in Australia with a baby in a NICU was supported?”

Photo: Ron Irving

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