Michelle Barry: Westfield Local Heroes 2019
Giving food and comfort to parents of sick babies
Life's Little Treasures Foundation
Passionate. Empathetic. Tireless
Driven by a deep sense of caring, former nurse Michelle Barry has found a way to provide much-needed support to families with sick or premature babies at the Royal Northshore Hospital in Sydney.
These families can spend many months in hospital with their babies, with only bread and a vending machine available to them within the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
So Michelle created a donation-led breakfast and snack food table, the Brekkie Bar, at which families can help themselves to easily accessible nutritious and treat foods.
She is delighted that the Brekkie Bar has also become a comforting gathering place and facilitates peer support for exhausted and overwhelmed families.
Many visitors to the Brekkie Bar find comfort in simply sitting in silence together.
“Parents share their experiences, celebrate milestones and lend an ear,” says Michelle.
She is “incredibly humbled” that her local community voted her a Westfield Local Hero. “It feels really rewarding as I have worked for a couple of years to provide this support for families. I’m really thankful and appreciate that so many people voted for me.”
The Brekkie Bar is part of a program called NICU Food From The Heart run by the Life's Little Treasures Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting parents of premature and sick babies.
Despite a time-consuming job and a family of her own, Michelle spends numerous hours a week working on the program and she collects food from various locations to stock the Brekkie Bar.
Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities, with the three top finalists per Westfield centre each awarded a $10,000 grant for their affiliated organisation. The Life’s Little Treasures Foundation will use its grant to fund the Brekkie Bar for a further six months, covering the cost of food, parking, a casual staff member, insurance and administration.
“One of the great aspects of the program is to create a social environment with food to bring people together. That’s the unexpected benefit of the Brekkie Bar,” says Michelle.
“The dream will be to open more breakfast bars in NICUs across Australia.”
For further information on the Westfield Local Heroes program, click here.