WestReap (Westland Rural Education Activities Programme) is one of 13 REAPs across New Zealand. They, alongside Buller REAP are our LDM’s for the West Coast of the South Island. Based in Hokitika and Buller, they distribute funds supporting family initiatives.
Baby Place South Westland, is a recipient of funding to help keep communities connected. The Baby Place group provides an opportunity for South Westland families with babies aged 0-1 to come together for social support and learning opportunities. They are supported by the Early Childhood Team Leader at WestReap and the group meet weekly at the Franz Josef Glacier Community Development Centre to support whānau and tamariki from surrounding small rural and tourist based towns.
The impact that Covid-19 has had on this region has been particularly hard felt with the smaller glacier tourist towns so reliant on the international tourist market. The loss of jobs, and community, in a town that only has a population of approximately 300 people has a direct impact on the fabric of community and its whānau. The closest town is two hours away which can feel extremely isolating so the meetings have played a pivotal role to keep families and whānau feeling connected. Even attending a new environment and location can provide a stimulating experience for tamariki and parents/caregivers to look forward to.
One participant said “The Baby Place has provided us a quiet space where the younger ones can explore at their own pace and for parents to get to know each other and not feel on their own, especially in such a small and isolated community as ours. We’re really thankful to everybody who makes it possible.”