Maurethe Little sought Bellyful’s help twice when struggling with her two young sons and chronic ill health. Two years later she’s blooming, and is putting her own time and effort back into the organisation that supported her.
Maurethe Little’s seven-year-old son Patrick is home from school so he can go to a health appointment with his mum. And that’s all good.
“Actually, it’s quite nice to have a day of quiet together, enjoying each other’s company and a bit of peace and quiet while Kian is away at school,” says Maurethe.
It’s a different scenario to what it would have been two years ago, when Maurethe reached out for Bellyful’s support for the second time.
Bellyful cooks and delivers meals to families with newborn babies or young children who are struggling with illness. That includes mental illness, such as post-natal depression and anxiety. The organisation has 18 branches throughout the country, fuelled by over 450 volunteers who cook, pack and deliver meals.
Maurethe first received a couple of very welcome meals when Kian – now five – was born. Having babies only 15 months apart was anything but easy, and harder than Maurethe could have imagined, especially with post-natal depression.
Then, three years later, Maurethe asked for support again when her relationship with the boys’ father had broken down, she was ill with two reoccurring autoimmune conditions, and her depression had returned. Originally from Ireland, she had no family living close so support was hard to find.
Bellyful last reported Maurethe’s story a year ago. Since then she’s faced other health challenges but says life is so much better than she could have imagined.
“With depression you just can’t see ahead. You take each day as it comes. Looking back, being a solo mum, working, two kids, doing everything that I do, I’m quite surprised I’ve come out as well as I have. I wake up moderately happy most mornings, which is about all you can ask!”
Her autoimmune conditions are in remission but she battles chronic pain each day. However, it’s not enough to stop her working 24-hours a week as a rheumatic fever nurse, visiting 16-21 year olds to ensure they have their health-preserving injections.
It also doesn’t stop her getting on the pitch with Kian’s touch rugby team – a sport she’d never played and had to hit the books to learn. “Kian wanted to play and I thought, ‘ok, I’ve been with the school two years, it’s time to give back,’ so I put my hand up to coach.
“It is like herding cats, coaching five and six year olds. The manager stands on the sideline with a loudhailer constantly yelling, ‘Spread out! Spread out!’ But it’s a lot of fun and I get some exercise, running up and down with the kids. Patrick helps co-coach.”
She also keeps busy volunteering for Bellyful, still thankful for the help she received in the past.
“It’s tricky to get a babysitter so I can’t do the cookathons, but I’ve taken over training new volunteers about health and safety. It’s fun because we do it in a group, so I get to meet other volunteers and the volunteers get to meet each other. It’s really nice to sit together and chat.”
The health and safety requirements are mostly commonsense. “In the kitchen it’s about spills, slips, covering wires, burns, the usual things. And for people doing deliveries it’s about not drinking and driving (obviously!), not smoking in the car because you have meals in there, and making sure the house you’re entering is safe.
“It’s also about securing the meals – they’re frozen so if you have to stop suddenly…”
Maurethe herself shows no sign of stopping. She’s moving on and moving up – exactly what Bellyful intends for the families nourished by its meals and nurtured by its support.
Words and Photo be Lee-Anne Duncan of Community Comms Collective