Latest News

1 June 2021

WFF Newsletter June 2021

WFF Newsletter June 2021

DiagramDescription automatically generated

From the desk of Chloe Wright

A person in a white shirtDescription automatically generated with medium confidenceAroha atu,

I am a sort of muddy brown, pink colour on the outside and on the inside the same colour as seven billion other people on the planet.

My parents scraped through, raising nine children. Neither of them drank alcohol, their speech was never vulgar, crass, or demeaning. They worked, put food on the table and shoes on our feet. They read to us. We laughed a lot. They loved us all unconditionally and that is what makes me an incredibly privileged person.
How fortunate that we are bipedal, have opposing thumbs, brains to problem solve and create art in its various forms. And surely work, that wondrous opportunity that allows us to determine ours and our family’s comfort and direction, benefits us all?

I recall talking to a man at a factory. He told me, his unskilled work on minimum wage was far better for him than being on a benefit. He said, “I would rather come to work each day, talk with my mates, swap stories than sitting alone at home collecting a WINZ payment”. He had pride in his work, and I was reminded that every part of our day is affected by others, those who collect the rubbish, drive the ambulance, teach our children, care for our health, keep our streets safe, and pay our wages. I cannot think of a single form of work that does not in some way benefit mine and your life.  
What I am saying is – for a child, security, love, and role models can land every child in a place of privilege. To work is to contribute. To be grateful we can work is divine.

We ask our young ‘what do you want to be/do? When we start asking them ‘how do you want to make a difference in the world’ we will have aspirational, intentional futures. And isn’t that what we want for all people?
While our mental health issues reach epidemic proportions, our pregnant, birthing and postnatal women are traumatised by lack of support and horrific pelvic floor injuries. While our tamariki sit out on a (rotten) limb through a lack of targeted health and educational failure and while our infrastructure that is designed to move product and people efficiently, safely, languishes. Whilst this is happening we are talking about cycleways and wedding dresses! Wake up!

I want to ‘follow’ those who work for the best outcomes for our people in a targeted, intelligent, focused way. The organizations that support our children to chase their dreams. Our children to understand they can dream. I want parents to be supported to nurture their children.

When an eight-week-old baby has her ribs cracked and a brain bleed I want to know, was this mother given the support she must have needed? When was she abandoned by her family, community, the government swore to support her? I want a society that delivers that support. I want a government that does not turn a blind eye to the suffering of our people. I want a government that does not rely on our complacency but engages with the challenges of those of us who do not sit comfortably in privileged ivory towers but who walk with our people.

I was saddened by Mike King’s return of his medal. And I was disgusted by the bland acceptance of it by the Prime Minister. I want a Prime Minister who will get off Facebook and get on her knees to people like Mike who support our children to know their worth and who they are.

Do not talk to us about ‘Child Poverty' when you cannot connect the dots between supported parents who nurture their children and generational poverty. Did you know Prime Minister, that when a woman suffers unhealthy stress in pregnancy her unborn child is likely to have impaired foetal brain development? Research is showing that this will likely impact future generations. I do not expect that you will ever read this. Certainly, as you have consistently declined any attempt by me to kōrero, it may be time to give up on you. But I will not give up on our people.

The people I ‘follow’ are those who genuinely care for our people, no photo opportunities but hard work, long term vision for people’s empowerment to grow their natural instinct for self-regulation and personal growth. Those who organise Breast Cancer breakfasts, our Supergrans throughout the country who are genuine in their Olympian efforts to walk the walk. Our champions for Kid’s Lit, Wayne Mills who has taken the competition and our readers to the world stage. Our women of Palmerston North who have developed the first North Island Milk bank to give mothers and babies the best nutrition life can provide. We, women, are magnificent in our ability to produce.

We ‘follow’ Life Education Trust who struggle to fund the most fantastic education for our school children. The midwives, support people, and the community of Māngere held a most fantastic open day of celebration. The DHB has refused to engage in a need that is blindingly clear in the Māngere area. It has also been made clear by the Ministry of Health that they will not support this hub of love and nurture, notwithstanding multiple evidence to the contrary, “every DHB has teams to take care of birthing and postnatal women”.

And my last mention will be for the recent launch of the Knowledge Hub by Professor Richie Poulton and Sir Peter Gluckman with a team of experts who are leaders in ground-breaking research that will have global positive health outcomes for the future generations.

It is my ‘privilege;’ to walk alongside these folks who are genuine in their love of our country and humanity. Hard work brings its rewards.
Ia manuia,

                “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity”
                 – Nelson Mandela


Founder/Chief Executive – Wright Family Foundation


VEX Robotics World Championships

A picture containing person, crowdDescription automatically generated
Pictured above Sam Orsler, Ryan Kayser and Luca Ririnui competing at the National Robotic Championship. 

The Foundation is delighted to support the innovative work of the House of Science and their Tauranga VEX Robotics team, providing inspiration and innovative opportunities for youth in science.

The House of Science Tauranga VEX Robotics team competed in the VEX Robotics World Championships last week (17th-20th May) and were thrilled to finish the event with two trophies, 'Engineering Division Finalists' and the 'Innovate Award'.  The VEX Robotics programme provides educational and competitive robotics opportunities for primary school students through to those at University. 

The team qualified for the World Championships after their success at the New Zealand National Championships where they won the most sought after "Excellence Award" and also the "Robot Skills Champion Award".  At the National Championships, all 60 teams competed in one age group which made these results even more special, as for the World Championships the team were young enough to compete in the Middle School age group.  Sam Orsler, (Yr 11), Ryan Kayser and Luca Ririnui (both Yr 10) designed, built and programmed their robot to play this season's game which involved placing and removing balls in goals in a 3-dimensional TicTacToe.  Each week they recorded and critiqued their progress in a Design Notebook, the quality of which contributed greatly to them winning the Excellence Award at Nationals and the Innovate Award at the World Championships, as only those with high-quality notebooks were granted the opportunity for a Judge's interview.

Due to the travel restrictions currently in place, the World Championships took place using a Live Remote platform, with teams streaming their 2-minute game from their school, house, library or anywhere else they could find to set up a field and the other required live-streaming equipment.  The teams were divided into 3 divisions in which they played 7 qualification matches before being ranked and going into the elimination rounds with set alliance partners.  House of Science Tauranga chose the 6th Grade all-girls team from Hollywood, Los Angeles as their alliance partner for the elimination matches, and they worked and communicated together so well that they soon won their way into their division final! The alliance they ultimately lost the final to, went on to win the overall World Champion title after playoffs with the other divisions.  The House of Science Tauranga boys were thrilled by their performance as their robot had been designed for the in-person competitions that they had been lucky enough to be able to participate in here in NZ all season long, and not the live remote events that other international teams had been forced to compete in which had slightly different rules and therefore altered the winning robot designs.

The traditional final act of the World Championships is to announce the new season's game. The House of Science team are thus beginning their preparations for the 2022 round of competitions, sitting down to start their design, build, programme, drive  process. This young House of Science team will be hoping to represent NZ again after qualifying for the World Championships the last two years, with high hopes of being there in person at Dallas, Texas. Due to the ongoing world COVID events, the team has missed out on the vibrancy and hype of being in the same physical space of 800 teams of like-minded students competing in the biggest robotics programme in the World.

Toni de Rijk, from Kiwibots, couldn't speak more highly of Kiwibots, the national organisation that brings VEX Robotics to NZ, explaining that Kiwibots "is doing a tremendous job of enabling teams to compete at the international level and at the same time as focussing on growing the programme throughout New Zealand, especially targeting schools and communities that wouldn't normally have access to robotics programmes".  Toni further expanded Janet Van, who took over managing Kiwibots18 months ago has worked hard to expand Kiwibots reach. Toni and the House of Science Tauranga will be helping Janet by welcoming and supporting the Kura and Kaiako around the Bay when they join in local workshops and competitions. The House of Science Tauranga also runs robotics after school classes, home school classes and holiday programmes to give as many children as possible the chance to learn about this technology.


Whāngai Ora Milk Bank Celebrates
it's Official Opening

Whāngai Ora provides precious donated breastmilk to mothers for their babies, this liquid gold is recommended as the feeding choice by the WHO for the first six months of babies life. Chloe Wright and Jacquie Nutt officially cut the cake at the launch. 
Breastfeeding does not always go to plan, added to these babies who arrive earlier than expected and those who need a little bit of coaching to feed. Whāngai Ora Milk Bank was established to collect and distribute safe donor milk for such occasions.  Donors are screened and donated milk is pasteurised to make it the safest option of all the supplemental alternatives to a mother's own milk for those currently or previously receiving care within MidCentral DHB's district. 

Whāngai Ora celebrated their official launch this past May, Jacquie Nutt (IBCLC and Milk Bank Coordinator) reflected on the occasion as being "a wonderful celebration, with a chance to thank our wonderful sponsors and celebrate with our supporters". Those key supporters are The Wright Family Foundation, whose support includes startup costs as well as the top-class commercial-grade kitchen within the Te Papaiōea Birthing Centre, which is managed by the MidCentral District Health Board. The partnership approach of this innovative service celebrates its other key relationship, the MidCentral District Health Board, which support the service through administrative resources as well as being an overarching champion. Added to this support is the Sterifeed T30 Human Milk Pasteuriser, donated by Sir Patrick Higgins which was built overseas especially for Whāngai Ora Milk Bank.

Following the launch, Jacquie and the team saw an unprecedented surge of donor applications in May with a grand total of 13, included in this were two from Auckland and one from the Bay of Plenty with some being passed on to Mothers’ Milk NZ. As with all successful partnerships, the benefits flow both ways, the MidCentral DHB is enjoying the amazing service of having this local milk bank on hand, where internal DHB statistics report 25% of babies in the neonatal unit, a three-fold increase, used pasteurised donor milk (PDHM) this May 2021. The passion and dedication from the team at Whāngai Ora is clear to see "it is a joy to see these mums go home exclusively breastfeeding a couple of days later" says Jacquie. 

The passion and determination in providing this vital service to Mothers and their babies extend to the wider community outreach which the team actively engages in. This outreach is varied, from attending the Well Child symposium on May 6th, DHB study day on May 17th, the team will also be represented at talks at Dannevirke Community Hospital this coming June. The relationship between the maternity unit continues to grow and develop, with both sites working closely to streamline processes to avoid late-night calls for milk to Whāngai Ora. The impact this new service is having on new mothers, their babies and whānau are inspiring and hugely rewarding and for many it is life-altering. One new mum explains that it was just that for her and her precious premature baby, "Your donated milk is literally lifesaving for babies like mine, the donation of milk is one of the greatest donations that there can be".


Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures
- Latest Research   

A person giving a presentation to an audienceDescription automatically generated with medium confidence

The Wright Family Foundation proudly supports Koi Tū. Professor Richie Poulton presents findings from this latest research showing stress during pregnancy is linked to impaired child brain development and can reinforce the cycle of cumulative intergenerational disadvantage.
The research was officially presented this May at Auckland University of Technology’s, Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures. The evidence brief, prepared by Dr Felicia Low and Sir Peter Gluckman from Koi Tū and Professor Richie Poulton of the University of Otago, underscores the need to rethink how the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage can be broken. 

While sociological factors such as poverty and the wider environment play a large part in intergenerational disadvantage, the research shows biological factors such as maternal mental wellbeing during pregnancy also play a role. Sir Peter says: “We need to do more to support all mothers, not just those with severe clinical depression. The focus must be on women’s mental wellbeing from before pregnancy through to after birth.” 

Research shows even mild to moderate stress during pregnancy can have adverse outcomes on a child’s neurodevelopment or “executive function” which impacts how a child learns.  It can have life-long consequences for a person’s journey through school and society – showing up in areas such as antisocial behaviours, school failure and poor relationships. The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Study, led by Professor Poulton, was able to predict poor outcomes from testing a child at age three.  

“Children with impaired executive function may be less resilient which means they are more susceptible to stress and depression. It has a cumulative effect. Their children are likely to have a higher risk of impaired brain function and that’s how the cycle of disadvantage is reinforced,” Dr Low says. Many women experience stress, anxiety, or depression during and after pregnancy. In New Zealand, studies suggest 12 – 18% of pregnant women are clinically depressed. An estimated 30% have less severe symptoms and consequently difficulty accessing services, as they tend to be considered lower priority than those with more severe conditions.  

Stress can be further compounded by low socio-economic status. In 2019, more than 36% of children lived in low or very-low-income household. Pregnant Māori women experience greater depression or anxiety than pregnant non-Māori women, with more than half identifying significant life stress.  The authors warn the current explosion of mental health concerns in young New Zealanders is likely to give rise to new generations of women who are at greater risk of low mood during pregnancy, further exacerbating rates of intergenerational disadvantage. 

The authors suggest a formal, structured process for women to be routinely screened for depression during pregnancy. 

“It is now evident that all women need support. We routinely screen for diabetes during pregnancy – we need to screen women for mental health as well,” says Dr Low.  

Professor Poulton says: “Intergenerational disadvantage is arguably one of the most important social issues facing our future, and it tends to be repeated across generations in a vicious cycle.”  

Sir Peter says it is indisputable that investing in disadvantaged families and young children benefits not only the children but also successive generations, communities and society at large.  

“Strengthening a child’s executive function by improving maternal mental health is arguably the most logically, morally and economically sound way of breaking the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage and advancing New Zealand,” he says. 

Mothers Matter
A person holding a babyDescription automatically generated with medium confidence

The Government stills sit silently to our calls for discussion and action, in the meantime the Mothers Matter campaign continues to air across TV screens, with over 188 spots confirmed for this months schedule.

The short film – Who Holds Our Mothers? – was born out of a commitment to our nation’s future success, out of passion, frustration, and an overwhelming desire to bring recognition of the withdrawal of basic humanitarian care for our mothers.

Raising the red flag to the Government means a call to action from readers and we are gaining momentum. Statistics just released from the latest round of TV advertisements tell us that over 887,000 people have viewed this powerful short film. Mothers Matter continue to be inundated with messages from mothers, fathers, friends, sisters, brothers and grandparents. We have received an overwhelmingly positive response, we are being told that this powerful short film finally tells the story we have so long hidden from this society. New Zealand has been sending us messages daily telling us that they are grateful to us for standing up and raising our voices.

Women are telling us they want better care for their mental health. Women are telling us they want to be well informed and know their rights. Women are telling us that they were sent home too early after giving birth, that they were not ready. We hold these stories as mirrors to the Government and say how can they sit there in silence and not respond? These stories will just be another number, another piece of text etched into history. These stories are the fuel that is firing the Mothers Matter campaign to engage more strongly. Maternal Mental Health is no longer a hidden story for Aotearoa New Zealand, it is time for us to come together and demand better for our women, our children, our families, our society. 

One viewer passionately shared that “finally someone has seen the importance of this story, it is so real for a lot of people in our country, bring on more like this we need powerful statements about so many areas in our lives here in NZ. Yes, it is confronting but we as a society need to confront the issues, we need our children to learn these situations are not acceptable bring the real out and then we can all learn and bring about change”.

Only the Government can create the policy changes that will provide the guarantee of support for mothers and parents, they are the first teachers and role models to our children.

The science is irrefutable, as we see from Koi Tu lastest release, stress alone during pregnancy has a long-lasting negative impact on the child. Added to this is the lack of mental health checks for mothers pre and postnatal, using best practice tools such as 'The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS)'. It is clear that women are not receiving their right to care 48 hours following birth, and even more shocking is that they far too often are not even aware of this right. 

The Government continues to be on notice – to give to New Zealand mothers, what is rightfully theirs – a dignified, valued and caring pregnancy, birth and aftercare. We continue to ask them "Who Holds Our Mothers?". Will they?

Quote of the day


A community that is engaged and working together
can be a powerful force.

Idowu Koyenikan