Big ideas make a difference in little lives

    08 Jun 2015

    Jo Alderdice is a woman with big ideas and a heart to match.  Mother of three small boys, ex-lawyer and total enthusiast, she is the powerhouse behind Little Sprouts — a charity that supplies life-changing baby packs to vulnerable children. 

    According to Jo, the seed that grew into Little Sprouts was planted when she received a reminder of her own vulnerability while pregnant with her first son.  “It looked like my husband was going to be made redundant and we were a one-income family.  We were lucky enough to have financial and emotional support – but it made me realise how extraordinarily hard and stressful having a new baby is for some Kiwi families.”

    And here’s the difference between Jo and most of the rest of us.  Once that thought took root, she saw no reason to sit and navel gaze.  “I have a deep-set belief that every child deserves the best start in life – that first year is so important.  As I see it, we have two choices:  we can sit around and wait for things to change or we can make change happen.”

    So that’s exactly what she did.  Jo took her idea of how to help and set up a team of generous crafters (now known as Craft Angels) and some like-minded volunteers.  She also set up a distribution network of worthwhile charity partners and a small group of commercial sponsors like Earthwise, Merino Kids, Baby Online, Baby First and Kennards Self Storage.  The first ten Little Sprouts boxes were made up and despatched to families in need in October 2013. 

    By 2014, ten boxes had become 220 — delivered straight into the hands of grateful families in the greater Wellington area by organisations like the Neonatal Trust, Red Cross, Barnados and the Women’s Refuge.  Jo and her team of tireless volunteers are aiming to give away more than 500 boxes this year. 

    A Little Sprouts box is packed with the needs of the tiny recipient in mind.  The contents will vary according to the season, sex, size and age of the baby it’s intended for.  However, each box always includes a whole wardrobe of clothing, everything needed for safe sleeping (including a merino sleeping bag), disposable and reusable nappies and wipes, toiletries, towels and flannels, books and toys, a smoke alarm, digital thermometer and much more. 

    Packed with more than 80 different kinds of practical items, each box contains over $1200 worth of gear and supplies everything a baby needs to stay warm, safe and healthy during the first year of life.  The box itself is around the size of a coffee-table and so heavy that two people have to be on hand if you want to move one. 

    Not content with that, Little Sprouts also provides a safe sleeping space whenever one is needed, as well as extras like strollers, baby baths and high chairs. 

    In the past couple of years, Little Sprouts has grown from its Wellington base to run three regional branches - Wellington, Auckland and, most recently, Christchurch.  This expansion allows the organisation to bring practical support to a greater number of families and, along with it, more than a little hope.

    According to Jo, it’s a dream come true to have Little Sprouts expand into other areas of New Zealand, thanks to Libby Priscott and Ruth Nelson in Auckland and Katrina Hood and Eliza Waszczak in Christchurch.  In time, she is hoping that there will be branches of Little Sprouts right across the country.

    “We are so grateful to our volunteers.  We have people who knit, sew, wash, press, donate time, clothes, equipment, give money and encouragement – and every little helps.  Little Sprouts is a true collaboration and people are so very generous.  Everything we receive goes straight to the people who need it most,” said Jo.  “We’re going to be able to offer boxes to around 5% of the babies born in the Wellington area this year and many more in Auckland and Christchurch – and that’s just amazing, especially for a totally volunteer-run charity.”

    Not surprisingly, this passionate purpose in Jo’s life means an end to lawyering for good, but she has no regrets.  “I enjoyed my time as a lawyer, it was a good job but it just wasn’t fulfilling enough.  Now I feel as if I am doing something good and worthwhile that’s bringing joy into our lives.  We’re very lucky.”

    Earthwise has been involved in supporting Little Sprouts by donating baby and laundry products right from the start – they are included in every single Little Sprouts box.   Their approach fits in with the Earthwise ethos that ‘every little bit helps’ and we’re proud to do our little bit for an organisation that has so much heart.  

    If you are interested in supporting Jo and her team, go to the Little Sprouts Facebook page to find out more.   There are many ways that you can help: including the donation of new or second-hand baby items (in excellent condition) for their packs or by supporting Little Sprouts work via their Give A Little page.