23 June 2022
Rachel Puru is hoping to lighten the load for grandparents raising their mokopuna in Whanganui, by walking alongside them on their journey.
For many years, grandparents dream of retirement. With the early years of parenting behind them, they start to see glimpses of a more relaxed lifestyle.
However, plans get put on hold when they take on full-time care of their mokopuna. Often unaware where to go to access support, they crave connection with other grandparents on a similar journey.
This experience is not uncommon. The latest data from the charitable trust Grandparents Raising Grandchildren(external link) shows there are at least 10,000 grandparents raising grandchildren in Aotearoa. Collectively, they have over 19,000 tamariki in their care.
Lightening the load
With funding from Tākai, Woven Whānau(external link) is hoping to make things "lighter and easier" for grandparents raising their mokopuna. Rachel Puru is the lead facilitator for the Whanganui-based initiative, which has been developed by parents for parents. Her role is to connect grandparents with others who are taking on full-time care of their mokopuna, as well as helping them access financial support and other resources.
When I meet with them, often there's tears because they've felt so alone and to meet someone who understands them... it's a relief.Rachel Puru
Rachel says in addition to the enormous task of raising tamariki, challenges like behavioural issues and trauma are commonplace in children who have been through the transition.
"At the beginning, the majority of your time is absorbed navigating where to and how... it can be very big and very tiring – that's why I'm trying to reach the grandparents who are just starting on this journey so they don't have to go through all that gruelling stuff alone."
Since taking on the role in February, Rachel has met and supported 18 grandparents in Whanganui whose mokopuna are in their full-time care.
Most of her mahi involves "listening and connecting", but over time she plans to arrange workshops and community grandparents groups.
"It's so important for them to know they're not alone. It's hard and unfair – at times it feels like you're really battling... but when you see these mokos get up with a smile on their face and you know they are loved, safe, well and happy... that's why we're there. That's why we're doing it. "