A chat about Awhi Ngā Mātua
So, what exactly is Awhi Ngā Mātua – what is your kaupapa?
Awhi Ngā Mātua is an online community and resource hub for parents of disabled, medically fragile and immune compromised children. We want parents to have a safe place to land as they love, care for, and advocate for their tamariki. Elizabeth Goodwin and I are both parents with disabled children, we know how important it is to have a community around you to care for you and protect you and be there when you're feeling overwhelmed. Awhi Ngā Mātua was created for parents, by parents. We are all about being the village parents of disabled and high health needs children need.
How did this organisation begin?
Elizabeth Goodwin has worked in disability advocacy since the birth of her daughter Jessie. Elizabeth talked to parents of disabled children around the country and what she learned was that they needed support and care, and especially community. I had reached the same understanding from connecting with parents through my writing. Elizabeth founded Awhi Ngā Mātua in partnership with IHC and I came on board soon after. We built the platform from scratch focusing on creating a space that was private and safe for parents. We've received funding from SKIP, the IHC Foundation and the Dines Family Charitable Trust.
As well as being for parents and whānau of disabled people, how are you making sure that the voices of disabled people are included in your work?
We are lucky enough to know many disabled children and they share with us in a number of ways the way they want to be parented - with respect, with autonomy, and with great love. That's our focus - working with parents to ensure they can be the best parents they can be to our tamariki. We feel particularly lucky that many neurodivergent and adult disabled people also share with us the ways they have been parented as children. It's due to their knowledge and generosity in sharing that knowledge that we're for example an ABA-free space and a space that celebrates neurodiversity.
What do parents get out of linking with Awhi Ngā Mātua?
We hope that parents feel safe and heard in our community. We especially hope they feel understood. For many parents of disabled children and immune compromised children they can feel 'left out' of parenting spaces. We want them to feel Awhi is their home - a place to share their joys and challenges in a judgement free space where they'll be given the support they need to thrive. We trust our parents and we want them to feel the strength of connection needed to feel confident in their parenting abilities. Over time we see the opportunity for the community to become a movement for change.
What are your future plans?
We are really focused on growing our community so no parent is left behind. We want every parent who feels afraid and unsure when they get a diagnosis for their child to know Awhi Ngā Mātua is there for them. We also want to build our knowledge and resource base so parents can find the information they need to support their tamariki. We are also looking forward to as a community using our voice to advocate for disability rights and improve support for our tamariki in the medical and education system.
How can people support your mahi?
Tell parents you know about Awhi Ngā Mātua! We want parents to know we are here. We are a tiny organisation - we are doing our best to reach parents but we need help to do that. We are so grateful for anyone spreading the message that Awhi Ngā Mātua is here and free and ready to support parents. You can join the Awhi community here. And we regularly share information, articles, and stories on our website. And our blog .
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