Every year, more than 15 million babies are born premature, that’s about one in 10 births worldwide. One woman, who herself experienced the ordeal of having her babies arrive preterm has started a project to provide support and care to families with premature and sick babies in neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
World Prematurity Day, which takes place on 17 November each year aims to raise awareness of the unique obstacles and challenges faced by families with preterm babies, issues 33-year-old Ola Adegbenro, from Essex, understands all too well.
Ola began the Colourful Beginnings project after two of her children were born prematurely. Starting as an Instagram page, it has evolved to a strong community consisting of 18,000 followers and Ola is now taking steps to register it as a charity in a bid to help even more families whose babies are in the NICU.
The mother of two, said: “My first child was born at 23 weeks three years ago, with no chance of surviving, but after a very long nine months in five different hospitals, she made it home on home oxygen. My second girl was born at 29 weeks and had her share of the NICU journey. Having experienced the NICU first hand and twice, I can tell you it is a very hard journey with little to no support. This is what led me to start Colourful Beginnings. I want to support other families with premature or sick babies and to bring hope and love in a difficult situation.”
She describes the difficulty of navigating the NICU journey. She said: “I felt I had nowhere to turn to the first time around and the second time, I had to rely on my experience with my first child. I also relied on the ideas and observations of friends who weren’t even preemie mums. The medical teams helped but could only go as far as their line of duty permitted.”
“Seeing how tedious and how mentally, physically and emotionally draining the experience of having a preemie baby was for myself, my family and other families I encountered, it became imperative to have a support group for families of preemie babies where ideas, experiences, challenges and solutions can be shared. That’s how Colourful Beginnings was born.”
“These care packages bring hope and assurance to families and a sense of support, letting them know they are not alone.”
The project sends out mini care packages throughout the year to families that request it, but also provides needed support through organizing events for parents to share personal stories. They’ve even delivered Christmas care packages to families who are having to spend their holiday in hospital.
“We have been able to deliver care packages to three hospitals, but I would like to take it further by reaching out to more families, providing more care packages. From testimonials, these care packages bring hope and assurance to families and a sense of support, letting them know they are not alone.”
Colourful Beginnings has qualified to the next round of the Aviva Community Fund, an initiative that helps small groups secure funding for their projects and goals. Ola said that she hopes to secure the funding needed for Colourful Beginnings so that she can provide even more families with care packages and support but would need as many votes as possible for her aim to be achieved.
Explaining the practical, tangible support that the project can offer, Ola said: “The purpose of the care packages is to bring about normality and essential items a baby and parents can use in the first few weeks after the baby is born and beyond. Having a premature baby means most of the shopping hasn’t been done, and if things had been bought, those things will definitely not be appropriate for the baby.”
“We also arrange for a professional photographer to go to the hospital to take photos of families with their babies in NICU to help families preserve memories from their baby’s early weeks of life.”
Ola described her pride at seeing for herself how the project has positively impacted the lives of these families and their children. She’s received feedback from families that have said that Colourful Beginnings has given them hope as they feel like they have someone who understands them to reach out to. To this, Ola replied: “Hearing this makes me super proud.”
If you’d like to support Colourful Beginnings, visit colourfulbeginnings.com
If you’d like to vote for Colourful Beginnings in the Aviva Community Fund round, visit community-fund.aviva.co.uk