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'A blessing' - Knitting initiative to help families with premature babies attracts global attention

An initiative has been set up to give premature babies the best start in life, and offering families a bit of comfort in their time in need, with a public knitting group creating garments for our littlest Kiwis.

Half of the children in South Auckland live in poverty, with the Middlemore Foundation running several programmes to combat the problem.

Their programme to make premature baby clothing caught attention from around the country and world, going viral with volunteers putting up their knitting needles to help.

One family is rapt to have received a year's worth of donated clothing made my thousands of volunteers.

Harmony Tera unexpectedly gave birth at just 26 weeks and nine days pregnant. 

It was a rough start for the baby girl.

"Her lungs collapsed and she had a haemorrhage in her right kidney, and that was really hard," Ms Tera told Te Karere. "But she pulled through it all and now that you see her she is a very chub-chub."

Every day for almost two months, the couple visited their daughter at Middlemore Hospital. Financially it has been tough.

"It's been really tough, like it's not easy, especially when you have to come to the hospital every day because she's in here and then you have to go home and get things for the house and there's food just still sitting in your cupboards," Ms Tera says.

Her partner and baby's dad, Gotham Parata, says, "It's been a bit of a struggle being young parents, being first time parents, having our daughter in the neo-natal care. We didn't expect that."

It was also hard balancing work during that time as well, he said.

But receiving help with clothing lightened the new family's already big load.

"Especially getting it from people that have made it with their own hands ... it's pretty much a blessing," Ms Tera says of the donations.

Middlemore Foundation's Sandra Geange says it is important to support mums and babies, especially when they have them so early.

To help parents in need like Ms Tera and Mr Parata, Middlemore Foundation assists with their wool programme.

They recently put a call out to Facebook in hopes of getting people interested in knitting prem clothing. After just one week, about 460,000 people that have seen the post.

"We've had comments from people all around New Zealand and then we've had people all over the world - people from America asking where they can knit," Ms Geange says.

There are 650 premature babies born every year at Middlemore Hospital alone, and the knitted garments are being donated to those families in need.

"We are really about removing barriers so the families and whānau and children in South Auckland can thrive," Ms Geange says.

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    Harmony and Gotham’s daughter was born at 26 weeks an with serious health complications, meaning they spent nearly two months in hospital. Source: Te Karere