4 June 2020 at 11:16 am

Our families need you more than ever

Can you imagine how it would have felt? As the nation goes into lockdown to protect our safety you realise the limited support network you have to help you and your children while you deal with personal crisis, was being taken away.

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I can’t even begin to describe the anguish I felt when we closed the doors at Cholmondeley Children’s Centre due to the worldwide pandemic, COVID-19. Knowing our already vulnerable families were faced with being socially isolated further due to level 4 lockdown and coping with personal crisis, and their children, alone. At Cholmondeley we support children and whānau who have experienced trauma. Trauma comes in many forms, from the experience of family harm, mental and physical illness, to the loss of a loved one and addiction. By closing our doors due to COVID-19, I was acutely aware that we were taking away the crucial respite care that supported these families and in doing so, potentially exposing the children to increased vulnerability in stressful home environments. I knew we needed to ensure Cholmondeley continued to be a light in dark times for these children and their families and that we maintained a vital connection with them throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

Can you imagine how it would have felt? As the nation goes into lockdown to protect our safety you realise the limited support network you have to help you and your children while you deal with personal crisis, was being taken away.

Some children and families have coped well in Level 4 lockdown, whilst the vulnerability of others has been laid bare. With the lack of a break that school often affords and with normal routines changing, the pressure on already strained families has been compounded. We have seen an increase in family harm and some pretty emotionally and physically exhausted parents. Parents who are desperate to give their children a safe, happy home but simply don’t have the ability or the emotional and physical support to do so. Thankfully our team at Cholmondeley were able to stay in close contact with our whānau during the intense four week lockdown period, both online and on the phone. By staying connected we were able to get a good picture of the impact of isolation. Whānau spoke to us about the challenges they were experiencing including increased loneliness and anxiety amongst both children and caregivers. Increased pressure to educate and entertain children within overcrowded housing. Children who were developing an addiction to technology and suffering from a lack of social interaction with other children. Our families also experienced financial challenges and difficulty accessing food and other essential items.

Struggling families in Canterbury are now more vulnerable as a result of Covid-19. We were grateful to be able to re-open our doors at Level 3 and provide much needed respite care and support to some of Christchurch’s most at risk children and their whānau at such a critical time. Providing ongoing essential respite care means these parents and caregivers can have time to focus on themselves without the demands and worry of having to look after their children. It’s a chance to recharge, recover and regroup and address the needs of their own physical health and mental wellbeing.

This urgent and immediate response for families is just the tip of the iceberg and we are expecting a strong, long-term demand for our services as the impact of COVID-19 continues. Many of the parents and caregivers we regularly support are desperate for respite care for their children, however we also expect the number of new families needing our service to increase just as it did following Canterbury earthquakes.
Due to the financial impact of COVID-19 it’s possible we could face the heart-breaking decision of prioritising the children and families we currently support over those seeking non-emergency help from Cholmondeley for the first time. Cancelled fundraising events and a decrease in donations has meant we have a $240,000 drop in fundraising revenue impacting our budget and are faced with scrutinising the long-term sustainability of our organisation at a time when we believe demand for our service will be at an all-time high.

Despite the challenges we face, Cholmondeley Children’s Centre remains 100% committed to our vision of being a Canterbury haven that creates a meaningful and enduring difference for every child and their whānau. Now, as always, our aim is to ensure that every child leaves Cholmondeley with an enhanced wellbeing and we continue to provide our essential service to the Canterbury community for many years to come.