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Leading through lived experience, Rachel Friend

Every year in New Zealand, around 5,000 children are born prematurely. Some of these babies come into the world as early as 23 weeks into pregnancy and weigh as little as 500 grams. These tiny new-borns face a tough battle for survival and often need to spend a long time in neonatal intensive care units. While doctors and hospitals take care of their medical needs, there's often a missing piece: the comprehensive support that parents and families require to navigate the many challenges that come with premature birth.


Stepping in to fill this important gap is the Little Miracles Trust. This organisation offers crucial assistance to families dealing with the intricate practical and emotional aspects of premature births. While medical professionals focus on the babies' health, Little Miracles Trust provides the essential help that parents and families need to handle the unique challenges that premature birth brings.


Meet Rachel Friend, the CEO of the Little Miracles Trust, who joins Purposely to talk about her organisation's story and her own experience as a mother of a prematurely born child.


Rachel's journey has been quite remarkable. She used to work in the corporate world, but her path took a new direction when she became a mother. This personal experience motivated her to transition from her corporate career to leading a charity.


Rachel's shift in focus was driven by her own real-life challenges. She had to navigate the complexities of caring for her son, Rueben, who was born prematurely. This experience gave her a deep understanding of the difficulties and emotions that parents of premature babies go through. This understanding and empathy are crucial in her role, where she ensures that her organisation provides the right services to support others in similar situations.


A central part of their mission is to guide parents through the often-challenging journey of premature birth while offering comprehensive support in various forms. Many members of the Little Miracles Trust team, like Rachel, have first-hand experience with this journey, which gives them a deep understanding of both the practical and emotional challenges involved. Their primary focus is on supporting parents whose infants require neonatal intensive care within specialised units in New Zealand. The main objective is to ease the burden and lessen the traumatic impacts on these families. The scope of assistance they provide is wide-ranging, encompassing the sharing of information, as well as practical, financial, and emotional aid.


In addition to their direct support for families, the Trust also contributes to the advancement of neonatal-related medical research. This commitment lays the groundwork for innovations that have the potential to positively impact the lives of both prematurely born infants and their families.

Rachel's journey goes beyond just overcoming challenges; it stands as a testament to resilience and compassion. Her transformation from a mother grappling with the uncertainties of premature birth to her role as CEO of the Little Miracles Trust highlights the remarkable ability to turn adversity into a catalyst for positive change. Rachel's unwavering dedication to her mission has sparked a ripple effect of increased awareness and support, inspiring numerous families to find hope even in the face of adversity.


As the Little Miracles Trust looks toward the future, their determination to expand their influence remains steadfast. Rachel's leadership has played a crucial role in guiding the organisation's growth; however, she is due to stand down from the CEO role at the end of the year (2023) and transitioning to a trustee role on the board.


Rachel will continue to play a role in the Trust's strategic direction, while a new CEO takes the helm to oversee daily operations and guide their future services.

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