Thrive Teen Parent Support Trust was established in 2010 as a dedicated teen parent service in Auckland. The trust has taken a leadership role by developing a flagship programme for teen parents which has grown rapidly and seen great success in its positive parenting schemes, support programmes for vulnerable teen mothers, young fathers’ support groups, child birth education, parenting workshops and one-to-one support. Thrive uses a youth development approach to achieve its vision that young parents can reach their full potential by being connected and secure within their families and communities.

Niamh Wingate is the manager of Thrive. She works along-side a team of people, many of whom are or were young parents themselves, who are employed by Thrive to run programmes and support other young parents. Here she talks about how they help to drive the success of the organisation.

Having been a young teenage mother myself means I understand what it is like for the young people we support and work with. When they walk in the door, I truly get what it is like to be them. I understand the issues they are facing and I can identify with some of the feelings and questions they have about how they can fulfill their dreams and how they will create a better future for their kids.

I was 19 when I had my daughter. She was born in Dublin, where I am from. I know how it feels to have your community write you off – to walk down the street and attract negative attention. I was a smart girl. I had high expectations of myself and so did my family. I was the first person in my family to be offered a place at university. But then I got pregnant and my path changed. But, I am so glad it did because I would not be the person I am today, or be doing what I do if I had become the accountant that people thought I should be. And of course it goes without saying, that I have been blessed to have the most wonderful daughter who I am incredibly proud of.

When I had my daughter 20 years ago, there was no such thing as a parenting class, so I did a course to become a playgroup coordinator. The only way I could learn about parenting was through formal education and that’s how I started my career in early childhood education. Had I not had my daughter, I certainly would not have taken this career path.

I am so glad to see that 20 years on, support for young parents has changed significantly.  Thrive supports young parents so that they can make the best decisions for themselves and their children. We have had great successes in the short time we have been operating as an independent agency and I am so proud of what the charity has achieved.

We have 300 young parents on our database who we connect with via newsletters, Face Book and of course our programmes. The Tindall Foundation, along with our other funders and partners, have been instrumental in our success. What makes the support from The Tindall Foundation significant is that the donation was for three years – for us that’s long-term. This money supported us through the transition process when we began to develop the Teen Parent Centre Project to become independent of the Auckland Women’s Center and become Thrive Teen Parent Support Trust. This investment has given us the space to breathe to be able to think about what we are doing, ensuring we do it well and plan for the future. We have been able to get on and do the job and think strategically rather than spending our time focusing on where our next donation is coming from.  Also, the endorsement from The Foundation has helped us generate other funding, which will support us to be sustainable in the long-term. I have also  benefitted from a Tindall Foundation funded scholarship at Unitec to undertake a Graduate Diploma in Not-for-Profit Management.

We have 15 staff at Thrive and their contribution is outstanding. Thirteen of us either were, or currently are, young parents. This means we have an empathy and understanding for everyone who seeks our support. Every member of our staff team is making a difference to the lives of these young parents.

I’d like to introduce two inspiring young role models who are contributing so much to our organisation and sharing their own experiences to help others. Their enthusiasm is infectious. They bring many wonderful ideas that only young brains can come up with.

Josh Te Rore, 24, works as a Teen Parent Engagement Advisor. Father of two young girls, he works as a Teen Parent Engagement Advisor. Josh first came to Thrive when his first daughter was small and he was an ‘amateur father trying to do his best’. He is now working successfully with our Young Dads Navigator and as a co-facilitator of our Toddler Time sessions.

Josh says that Thrive has taught him how to be a better parent. He has learnt valuable, practical parenting skills and now enjoys working as a mentor to other young fathers. “I don’t try to pass on advice, instead I provide an ear and listen to their issues. I use my own personal experience as a young dad to help change their perceptions and challenge their ideas on certain things. We take a pressure-free approach. It’s a family experience here at Thrive. It’s a place to come, have some food, chat with others and get some support. ”

Alana Pethybridge, is mum to an energetic three-year-old girl. Having had her daughter when she was 19, she first came to Thrive to learn about parenting and take part in training and activities. She then became a volunteer and began working as a Teen Parent Engagement Advisor. She has recently completed her training in infant massage and is co-facilitating our Baby Talk sessions.

Alana says: “Thrive has helped me develop my skills and confidence as a parent. It is a great, positive environment and I have had so many training opportunities that have set my life on a new path. Thrive has opened doors for me and I am now able to teach infant massage, which is exciting, challenging and rewarding. Thrive helped me to figure out what kind of parent I wanted to be, and my daughter is happy because she knows I am happy.”