Late last year our Trustees had a great day out visiting different organisations that The Tindall Foundation supports. One of these organisations, was to a fabulous SPACE programme in Pakuranga, Auckland. We were very grateful to the Anglican Care Network for arranging for us to see, first-hand, the huge benefits of SPACE.
This unique programme support first-time parents through the first year of their child’s life. The 30-week facilitated support group offers child development and parenting topics such as establishing attachment, sleeping and brain development. For the babies, SPACE is a fun, vibrant play session with all sorts of toys and activities to assist their learning and development.
Our Funding Managers, of which Anglican Care Network is one, use Tindall Foundation money to fund the delivery of SPACE programmes at a local level in communities across the country.
Our main fund at The Tindall Foundation has been supporting SPACE on a national level since 2008. We have given over $750,000 in this time. Our current donation of $450,000 over three years is to help the national organisation with growth and sustainability. Continue reading below.
The article below, from The Anglican magazine, written by Elizabeth Witton, outlines the huge benefits of SPACE for both the parents and babies alike.
When I had my first child over 20 years ago coffee groups were the ‘thing’ for mothers (and a few fathers) to go to. My friends and I all belonged to at least one. We would meet each week taking turns at hosting and providing morning or afternoon tea. Friends were made and we supported each other to the best of our abilities whenever it was needed.
That was about it.
Things have moved on since then and now there is SPACE – Supporting Parents Alongside Children’s Education.
I visited one of the groups held at St Peter’s Church in Pakuranga to find out what it was all about.
I knew that Playcentre initially developed the programme and it had grown to include a variety of partners including some Anglican Churches, that it was primarily for first time parents with newborn babies and that it supported parents through the first year of their babies life.
Other than that I had no idea what to expect.
Carolyn, the leader, greeted me warmly as she did everyone as they arrived. This group was mainly mothers and their children but there were also some grandparents standing in for parents. Fathers do sometimes take their babies along but often it is later on in the programme once Mum has gone back to work.
I walked in to a baby friendly environment and quickly realised just what I, and all my friends, had missed out on when we were first time parents.
The session got underway with everyone welcomed individually in song. The time went by quickly as so much was covered.
No matter what stage the session was at if a baby needed something it was attended to with no disturbance or interruption.
Ideally families join the yearlong programme when their babies are between three weeks to three months old.
As well as meeting and getting to know other new parents each two hour session includes:
- Discussions on relevant child development and parenting topics
- Play time with equipment that supports baby’s learning and development.
- A thought for the session
- Story time
- Music Time including a welcome and a goodbye song
- Talking, listening and sharing
- Refreshments and social time
At Pakuranga the programme is run on a three-term model whereas some others use a four-term model. Each term has a
To get a better idea of how parents find the programme I asked Becky Heale whose husband Kris is the Vicar of St Peter’s Pakuranga a few questions.
Becky has been going to SPACE each Thursday afternoon with their son Aidan.
Describe what you expected and your first impressions when you started the programme.
I didn’t really know what to expect. Honestly I was reluctant to go but wanted to make a good impression on the parish as the new vicars wife by joining in one of the programs. Oh how that seems so hilarious now as it has become such a huge part of my life! I know I was very anxious as my son is very fussy about sleeping and the program is 2-3 hours long, but as I started I realised that there was lots of flexibility within the program with babies sleeping and eating when they needed, and so the sleeping wasn’t a prohibitive issue.
My first impressions of SPACE were that it was very warm, friendly and had a real sense of freedom and support. That was largely due to the environment which our leaders had created, but also due to the fact that all of us mums were in the same boat – we were all struggling to adapt to having a needy, demanding human being totally dependent on us and were eager to figure out how to deal with that and so were very open to forming relationships with each other quickly. My husband also attended several sessions and I remember him saying how happy he was to run this program in his church as the feel of it was so positive and uplifting.
What sorts of things have you learnt during the course of the programme?
I have learnt lots of things, our leaders covered things like brain development, movement, learning, eating, as well as expectations and goals we have as parents. In addition to this practical knowledge I learnt that a community of caring people in the same situation as you is the most encouraging thing. I have also learnt that in the times when parents feel so desperate and alone, we are actually living out a shared experience, which other people are going through too, even though it feels like no one would understand. SPACE gave me the opportunity to discover I wasn’t alone in the very worst times. I have also learnt more about the way in which I want to parent Aidan, and about the need to look after myself and keep a focus on me as a person, not just me as Aidan’s mum, so in that sense I have learnt transforming lessons about both Aidan and myself.
Have you been surprised by anything about the programme (the running, content, atmosphere, anything you didn’t expect to feel).
I was surprised at how free and fun SPACE is, its loving and accepting atmosphere, and how much I have come to treasure my time there. It is a very beneficial and needed time out of the house for new parents and is something I look forward to each week. I have been surprised at how quickly all of us mums have been made to feel at home and comfortable, and the confidence that we have gained through the materials and experiences there. I have also been surprised at how much of a family feel we have there now after 2 terms, where we all know and love each others babies and I can trust anyone to look after Ace if I have to leave the room, or if he has crawled to the other side of the circle (as so often happens!).
What is the most valuable thing you have got out of the programme?
Friendship, sanity and support.
Did you have any preconceived ideas about parenting before you had Aidan that have changed as a result of attending SPACE
I had vague ideas of parenting before we had Ace and once he was born I had google and books. None of them were wrong, but SPACE was wonderful in that it equipped me at each step of the way, outlined various options/methods etc. and gave us the freedom to adopt what ways we thought were best for our babies and support us in those
SPACE provided the perfect support for me as a clueless new mum in so many ways. Having this kind of program run in the church and with Anglican leaders made me experience God’s love and nurture in a powerful yet gentle way in a time when I was so vulnerable, and I am so glad that I was able to experience that love with the other mums in our group who are not regular church attenders.
Thank you to Carolyn, Becky and the others at the St Peter’s Pakuranga SPACE session for allowing me to come and observe.
I saw a well-designed programme with mothers who were relaxed, supported and developing connections. Where babies were happy, engaged, exploring and their needs met.
What better way is there to start out as a first time parent. I wish SPACE had been around when I had my first child.
For more information on SPACE: www.space.org.nz