Preparing for the birth of a child should be a joyful experience. For women who have come to Australia seeking safety, however, pregnancy comes with the added stress of having to acquire essential items — like nappies, cots and prams — when they’re far away from family and friends and have limited financial resources.
Omukulthom had only just arrived in Sydney with her husband and three-year-old daughter when she found out she was pregnant with her now 16-month-old son.
'When I arrived, I didn’t know anything about Sydney, even where to go to do shopping. I had very low English and was pregnant," she said.
Originally from Burma, the family sought asylum in Australia and had only recently been released from the Christmas Island immigration facility, so they didn’t have any of the basic items that newborns require.
Omukulthom’s SSI case manager sought help from the Dandelion Support Network — a network of volunteers who accept and distribute items to mothers in need.
"I received everything I needed for a newborn baby, including a pram, nappies, formula and a cot," she said. "My heart was so happy. I was in need and I didn’t have money to buy those things."
Omukulthom is one of the many refugees and people seeking asylum who have benefited from more than 250 donations the Dandelion Support Network has made to SSI clients over the past three years. These items have included nursery essentials, clothes, toys and linen for babies and children, all of which are sorted and safety checked by a team of volunteers, who then distribute them to families in need.
Dandelion Support Network Partnerships and Sustainability Officer Sarah Mross said those donations offered new mothers more than just physical support.
"It’s a sign to someone in their time of need that the community cares about them," she said.
"Our most critical items are cots, bassinets, prams and car seats, which are really hard for families to purchase when they’re struggling. We hear stories of women who have a 10-month-old child and they have to carry them everywhere because they can’t afford a pram."
She said the vision of Dandelion Support Network was that all babies and children had access to nursery items that were essential for their safety, wellbeing and development.
SSI Community Engagement and Capacity Manager Trina Soulos said organisations like Dandelion Support Network supplemented the services SSI offered to people who were newly arrived to Australia.
"SSI’s humanitarian programs help new arrivals to establish themselves independently in Australia by linking them with essential services and supporting them to find housing and employment and forge links in the community," she said.
"Refugees and people seeking asylum, however, face many unique challenges. They often arrive on our shores with little more than the clothes on their back, so it takes cooperation from many different organisations to help them find their feet."
The Dandelion Support Network does not receive government funding so it relies on volunteers and community donations of quality used items to continue helping parents in need like Omukulthom. To find out more about how to support their work, click here.