Teen mums repay acts of kindness

18:36, May 10 2014
teen mums
SWEET REWARD: Julie Dockerill, Jean Todd maternity unit manager, is delighted to receive Mother's Day gifts for the unit's new mums from the head girls in the Timaru Girls' High School teen study, Patience Cobb, with Charlie, 11 months, and Mishani and Ryder, 18 months.

New mums at Timaru's Jean Todd Maternity Unit received a special gift yesterday - in the name of paying it forward.

And the gifts came from other mums, students at the Timaru Girls High School's teen study unit.

The unit was set up at the beginning of last year for teen mothers who wanted to complete their schooling.

Recognising how the community has supported them, the students came up with a programme of "random acts of kindness".

Unit head girls Mishani Bennett, 17, and Patience Cobb, 18, delivered gift bags to Timaru Hospital yesterday in celebration of Mother's Day.

"We felt we have had so much support," Mishani said. "We wanted to give something back, and wanted to give something to new mothers."


The plan is to do a random act of kindness each month, paying forward the help they have received. One such act will be holding a Pink Ribbon breakfast.

"We haven't decided who we are going to donate the money to but it will be someone in the community," Mishani said.

Mishani and Patience both decided to complete their schooling while being mothers of young boys. Patience also has custody of her 7-year-old nephew.

They said it was no easy road but were lucky they had the support they did.

Patience and her partner juggle her schooling and his fulltime night shift job.

Mishani has school, her son Ryder, and a part-time job as a caregiver in the dementia ward at The Croft rest home.

Patience wants to study further and be either a Te Reo or English teacher, while Mishani hasn't decided whether to be an entrepreneur or a midwife.

"I'm leaning towards midwifery. I would work with teen mums and make sure they are treated with the same respect everyone else gets when they are pregnant."

They both credit their sons as the reason they try to do it all.

"He is my motivation and determination. I know I have to do this to get a good life for us," Mishani said.



A visit by Prime Minister John Key to Timaru Girls High School's teen study unit last year has led to it becoming an example for the country.

The unit is located on the school campus and integrates teen mothers into the mainstream schooling curriculum.

When it began last year, it was partially funded by the school, the Ministry of Education and from community support.

It is now fully funded by the ministry.

The teacher in charge of the unit, Marina Chelton, said she and principal Sarah Davis had made a presentation to the ministry about the programme last year.

The ministry decided to fund it, and now used Timaru as an example of how to run such a programme.

"I think it's amazing something in Timaru could lead the way for something in New Zealand. I think it's something Timaru should be proud of," Chelton said.

She said there were 100 places funded nationally, and 20 of those places were available in Timaru.

However, at the moment there are only 13 girls in the unit.

Chelton said she considers the students to be good, dedicated mothers who are driving themselves beyond the stigma of being teen parents.

"I think they are amazing," Chelton said.

Davis said the unit was an idea she came up with after attending a conference where Education Minister Hekia Parata spoke.

"She told us how we had to take responsibility for those in our community who had no access to education."

Davis had seen the work done with teen mothers in Rotorua and saw there was a need in Timaru.

The success of the unit was not just about NCEA results but also about attendance and other similar factors, she said.

The Timaru Herald