Stories for connection

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    28 July 2023

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The “Storybook” initiative (run as an extension of the Who Did You Help Today Trust’s Mothers Project) is getting children’s books into the hands of tamariki and helping maintain connection between imprisoned mothers and their children.

The Mothers Project, run by the Who Did You Help Today Trust (WDYHT), has been sending volunteer lawyers into women’s prisons in Aotearoa New Zealand since 2015. The aim of Mothers Project is to help maintain positive and meaningful connections between imprisoned mothers and their tamariki, as research has shown this to have benefits for both mother and child. Our volunteer lawyers use their skill sets to help meet this need for connection in all manner of ways, but it can be as simple as making phone calls to whānau members, caregivers or Oranga Tamariki, or helping the mother engage her own family lawyer or explaining aspects of the family court process.

“Most of the mothers we meet are finding their separation from their tamariki distressing and are looking for ways to connect with their children”, says Stacey Shortall (Partner at MinterEllisonRuddWatts and Founder of WDYHT). 

“We developed Storybook as a sister initiative to Mothers Project as another means by which mother and child can stay in relationship.”

Storybook volunteers attend Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility once a month with a range of children’s picture books so that the Mums can choose something appropriate to their child’s age and interests. With the assistance of the volunteers, the Mum makes a recording of herself reading the book aloud which is transferred onto a USB flash drive. The child then receives the book, the recording and a card from Mum. 

“As well as a means of connecting mother and child, Storybook aims to foster a love of books and encourage literacy (for both mothers and children)” says Trust Manager, Sarah Jack (herself an ex-lawyer and current Mothers Project and Storybook volunteer). 

“Many of the wāhine we meet have literacy challenges and the Storybook volunteers are very sensitive to this, encouraging a “practice run” before we record and helping Mums as needed. We are fortunate to have volunteers who are passionate about books and reading to children.”

The Storybook project has had wonderful feedback from Ara Poutama Aotearoa – Department of Corrections and whānau alike. Receiving a book and hearing Mum’s voice lets children know that Mum is still thinking of them despite their physical separation. The project also gets 
children’s books into households that may not otherwise have a lot of books.

If you would like to support Storybook, you can donate a children’s picture book from a list of suggested authors and titles here, or if you have a favourite title that you think would be great for a Mum to read aloud to her child, please feel free to choose that.

You can either:

  • purchase a book online at Choose the option to “Click and Collect” and include a note in the “notes” section that the book is for the Storybook project (or purchase a book in person at Time Out Bookstore in Mt Eden, Auckland and ask them to put it aside for the Storybook project);
  • purchase a gift voucher at Vouchers ( Choose the option to “Click and Collect” and include a note in the “notes” section that the book is for the Storybook project;
  • purchase a book from any book seller and drop it off at MinterEllisonRuddWatts reception in Auckland or Wellington; or 
  • make a donation at “Who Did You Help Today Trust - Givealittle.

Mothers Project and Storybook are initiatives of the Who Did You Help Today Trust (CC53191). If you are interested in volunteering for any of its initiatives (as an individual or a workplace), or would like to support in another way, please contact the Trust Manager at [email protected] or visit and [email protected] for more information.

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