Our work in NZ

A Kiwi mum explains the importance of food parcels

Maya Vai Bourne has a massive heart – she supports her husband Anthony who is on dialysis for ten hours a day as well as her three children and five nieces and nephews. She tells UNICEF NZ why food parcels have been so important for her family during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Lockdown has been very hard but the toughest day of my life was eight years ago when we found out that Anthony had to go on dialysis. The doctor gave him a choice between taking a pill to make his heart stop or to be on a machine.

My husband chose to be around for his family and the machine is what's keeping him alive.

In lockdown it’s pretty stressful because he can't go to the doctors so we are really careful about hygiene. Every time the kids play outside, they always wash their hands before they come in. We’ve got ten people living in one house – we get through a lot of soap!

I have three children but I’m also looking after my nieces and nephews. So all up, I have eight kids under one roof. The kids think I’m superwoman!

When my nieces and nephews first came to live with us they ate really fast like there was never going to be dinner on the table again. I kept telling them “You don't have to eat that fast! There’s going to be food all the time when you want it.”

I only ask for food parcels when I really need them. When the food is dropped off at the gate, the kid’s faces all light up and they run in screaming “there’s a parcel at the door!” The young ones tear it open and sometimes there are a few treats that they spot very quickly.

I know some families are whakamā, they’re too ashamed to ask for help and they try and do it on their own. They’re worried about being judged. I was really shy and felt judged asking for help initially too but you have to put your kids first. Their tummies need to be fed.

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I’ve been baking scones in lockdown because I have heaps of flour and the little ones love the carrots and apples in the food parcels. Without this extra food, we would be really struggling to put enough food on the table and I would notice a huge change in my kids.

Right now it is hard to save money. I had to give up one of my jobs as a Māori Warden about a month ago but when this lockdown is over, I want all these kids to have what they need. I want to buy bunk beds so none of the kids are sleeping on the ground and I want them to have their own drawers and their own clothes. My house is pretty hot with all these kids running around so at least it’s not cold!

There’s a positive side to Covid-19. Before the lockdown, no one would say hello to the kids outside, but now neighbours are always asking us if we need anything.

Anthony was a truck driver before he was diagnosed with kidney failure. Last week an elderly lady walked past and left a plastic truck for my nephew. It was so thoughtful, although I said straight away “You better wash your hands first, then you can play with it!” To see my husband playing with his kids is awesome.

There has been so much support from Te Papapa school in Onehunga. Principal Robyn Curry is right there if we need anything and she often phones to make sure that our family are ok. The kids can ring their teachers for advice too.

It’s amazing to know that UNICEF New Zealand, The Salvation Army and people from all around the country are helping families like ours. Despite all the challenges at the moment, my kids are happy. I watch them dancing to TikToks in the hallway and it’s great to see them having so much fun, even in lockdown.

I want my kids to have good jobs so they can support themselves. Then when they have their own families, I want them to think of others. It’s important to always give back so everyone has food on the table.


To donate go to: https://covid19.unicef.org.nz/