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A charity that started in the lounge of a South Auckland woman’s home is expanding to help more pregnant mums

Alualumoana Luaitai

It began with banana boxes in her lounge and a big open heart for pregnant mums

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

It began with banana boxes in her lounge and a big open heart for pregnant mums.

Now Melissa Dobbs (Ngā Puhi) is growing her charity Pro Love from her home in the South Auckland suburb of Manurewa to other parts of the country.

She says she’s given out about 360 baby love boxes containing essentials including baby blankets, booties, clothing, nappies and baby wipes.

The charity doesn’t receive any government funding and she relies on donations from the community and other organisations.

“It began with me and my daughters packing baby essentials into banana boxes with what I had leftover from my babies and eventually my five daughters collecting donations from family and friends.”

The essentials in a baby love box

Regional volunteers from Northland down to Canterbury collect and sort donations, deliver when people can’t pick items up, have karakia (prayer) if needed, and lift the spirits of the families they’re helping out.

Dobbs says she’s seen an increase in poor mental health and anxiety because of the strains of the world, rising costs, and an increase in broken family units.

She says parents want the best for their children, families, and the next generation, and often need more assistance.

“More help when mums become pregnant, practical needs, free services for motherhood tools to help them and the whānau unit.

Dobbs said the families who reach out are under big financial pressure and can barely pay for baby essentials.

“The lack of practical support for mums across our nation, and parents that are expecting a newborn baby and have no support from anywhere else touches my heart.”

Inside Dobbs’ home, she’s storing nappies in one of her daughters’ bedrooms.

A power cord runs from inside the house to a temporary shed where donations are also stored.

Outside her gate there’s a table where mums can pick up baby supplies and donations can be dropped off too.

New mother Hazel Tukariri used the service and says she’s now volunteering her time because Pro Love was there to help in her own time of need.

Melissa Dobbs with Hazel Tukariri’s baby

“Their awhi (suppport) is beyond amazing.

“One thing for sure, I know Melissa needs space as there’s not the capacity in her whare (home) to hold the donated goods, but yet she does it out of love for people in the community.”

Another mum who reached out for help was Asoiva Paulo from Clendon in South Auckland.

She says if it wasn’t for her midwife’s advice to go to Pro Love, she would have been really stuck as her husband was job searching at the time.

“This amazing lady Melissa, she’s the one who replied to my Facebook message and gave me a form to fill out.

“Next day, it was my daughter's birthday on December 24 and Christmas day Pro Love came to deliver all the baby things, Christmas presents too for my other children, and we got food.”

“Our words are not enough to explain how Melissa and her team at Pro Love help the people in the community.”

Melissa Dobbs says she and all her volunteers exist to help the vulnerable, ko te mea nui, ko te aroha (but the main thing is love).

“It’s so hard for families, it’s such a fight… families can be left to defend themselves, they need uplifting, encouragement and guidance, they need hope.”

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