A charity started by a Taree family five years ago born out of their personal experiences of grief and helplessness, tenderness and love, is helping countless other families having the same experiences.
Books for Bubs in the NICU was formed in memory of little Bodhi Harper, son of Taycee Jones and Owen Harper, and grandson of Arona Gibbons.
Bodhi and his twin brother Jarrah were born prematurely, and Bodhi sadly passed away one month later. Jarrah spent three months in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) at John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle.
During that time, Taycee and Owen bonded with the twins by reading to them, as they weren't allowed a lot of physical contact. It also created special memories of their time with Bodhi.
"We would always cherish that memory, because on days when you couldn't touch him or hold him, by reading to him he could still hear your voice, and you could still feel that you were able to do something for him and connect to him," Taycee said.
Arona was the one to dream up the charity, wanting to provide books to other parents in the same situation.
We would always cherish that memory, because on days when you couldn't touch him or hold him, by reading to him he could still hear your voice, and you could still feel that you were able to do something for him and connect to him.Taycee Jones
The charity has grown from just providing books, to giving families a book bag which includes two books, a lullaby booklet, an information flier on services, and two cuddle hearts. The cuddle hearts provide another chance to bond. One is put in the crib with the baby, with the other on mum's skin, say in her bra. The hearts are then swapped over, so bub can smell mum and vice versa.
As a major aim of the project is starting literacy from birth, the lullaby booklet provided a way for parents who might not be comfortable reading a book to be involved.
"It was aimed at the Indigenous families so they could flick through the lullaby book and sing a little song. But it's also encouraging participation even with low literacy in families," Taycee said.
They now provide a range of bags - girls, boys, Indigenous families, and gender neutral. They take a trip down to Newcastle every two to three months to deliver around 300 book bags
Books for Bubs in the NICU has a small army of volunteers that help with sewing (they also provide crib covers, at John Hunter's request) around the State.
Financially, they are helped by being in partnership with another literacy charity, Paint the Town REaD, who match donations to Books for Bubs in the NICU dollar for dollar.
The community donates books, fabric for bags and hearts, sewing, and funds for printing booklets.
"At the moment we can financially manage it, but now the lullaby booklets have run down, that's when we go 'oh, we need help!'", Taycee said.
Books for Bubs need help with funds to print more lullaby booklets and have a fundraising page at www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/paint-the-town-read/b4b
All donations are tax deductible.
For donations of supplies message the Facebook page Books for Bubs in the NICU or call or text Arona on 0408 656 624.