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Leanne Dawson and Sue Pattinson

SPACE NZ Trust (Supporting Parents Alongside Children’s Education)

Since 2003 Wellingtonians Leanne Dawson and Sue Pattinson have made a huge difference to New Zealand families through their parenting and child development programme — supporting first-time parents and their babies to learn, connect and flourish. Today, their 55 partner organisations deliver more than 300 highly regarded programmes to 8000 parents and their babies each year across New Zealand.

1. Why do you do what you do?

SP: The most important relationship in a baby’s life is with his or her parents. What babies experience and feel, and the nurture they receive or don’t receive, shape the rest of their lives. If we can support and encourage parents, we can inspire change for a different life with better outcomes for babies, parents, families and communities.

What babies experience and feel, and the nurture they receive or don’t receive, shape the rest of their lives. If we can support and encourage parents, we can inspire change for a different life with better outcomes for babies, parents, families and communities.

2. What drives you to work for the good of the community?

LD: I think every one of us should be responsible and proactive in our community, because we all have a part to play in the future of our world. There are so many amazing people engaged with community activities making a difference every day, and we have a team of people at SPACE who are passionate about parents and babies. They inspire and drive me.

3. Have you always been interested in making a difference?

SP: Yes – I see things and think about how they can be better. If we just did this, or that … we could create change.

4. Did you come from a family where giving to the community/environment was important or encouraged?

LD: Yes, my parents were always involved in volunteering, and as children we didn’t see it as volunteering but rather our place in the community. So it was natural for us to be involved and support one another.

5. What does giving mean to you and why is it important?

LD: I believe giving is part of our everyday life. We all give in different ways, and they are all important. Kind words might make someone feel safe, a smile could enliven someone’s day, co-ordinating sport can ensure children have the opportunity to play, or being on a school board could assist with the direction of our children’s educational future.

6. How do you feel when you realise you have made a difference to someone else’s life/our country for the better?

SP: I see we are making a difference collectively. It is not just our team, but the many others involved. When we have an idea to make something better, we mustn’t doubt ourselves and we must act on it, otherwise we will never know what change we could have made.

7. Who inspires you?

SP: Firstly, our amazing team inspires me. No one competes; every team member is happy when someone else achieves something. We couldn’t have done any of this if we didn’t work as a team. Secondly, I’m inspired by women and men who have overcome significant challenges and gone on to create generational change for their family and wealth and resources for others.

8. Who have you learned from and what is one key thing they have taught you?

SP: Over the last 13 years I have learned so much from Leanne about leadership, strategic ability and integrity. Leanne has taught me and our team to remain focused on why we do what we do. One of her favourite sayings when we were breaking ground was: “This is not about us.” She always encouraged us to be bigger than the challenges and criticism, and kept us focused on what we were doing and why.

9. What challenges have you faced along the way?

LD: Our biggest challenge currently is the assumption that only a small group of targeted parents need support or services. When all government policies and funding are directed to targeted groups, with a ‘needs-based’ approach, many parents miss out. We believe in a strength-based, universal approach with the community taking responsibility for one another.

10. And what keeps you going?

LD: Hearing the inspiring stories from parents who have attended SPACE, who are confident, feel valued and involved in their community, and who recognise that they are part of an amazing journey of parenting.

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