Inspired by her own experience of a ‘surprise’ pregnancy and finding little support available, Lara Malin Wynyard is passionate about promoting the Pregnancy Help Australia (PHA) network and helping other mamas-to-be who for whatever reason, are experiencing a difficult pregnancy. With years of education and experience as a counsellor, educator and NFP director, Perth-based Malin Wynyard encourages the creation of ‘little hubs of love’ (pregnancy help centres) in every neighbourhood so that everyone can receive the help, encouragement and authentic community they deserve throughout pregnancy and beyond. We spoke to Lara to learn more about what the Pregnancy Help Australia network does and their future vision.
The passion: What inspired you to lead this national charity?
It was a hot summer day in January 1999 when my world froze… The pregnancy test flashed positive for the 3rd time. I’ll never forget the sheer panic and terror of those first few weeks. I was in an unstable relationship, part way through uni, completely broke and disappointed in myself. How could I have let this happen and what was I going to do?
One evening, my Nonna came to visit me and did a ‘small thing with great love’. She sat down silently beside me and simply held my hand while I sobbed and poured out my heart. Eventually, she began to speak in her broken English – “You can do this, it’s OK” – and in that moment, my heart started singing…”Maybe I can do this!”.
The next 9 months were hard, scary and lonely but when my son Finn was born, everyone (even those who couldn’t bring themselves to speak to me for the whole pregnancy) erupted with pure joy. It turned out that what I thought was the end of my world was actually the most beautiful, grace-filled event of my life.
Today, I lead a national pregnancy help network in the hope that every mama-to-be (regardless of the circumstances) can receive real love, help, encouragement and connection to a community who know what it’s like to experience a ‘surprise’ and/or difficult pregnancy and come out the other side.
The Launch: How did Pregnancy Help Australia (PHA) begin?
PHA is a national charity that was born in 1979. It was founded on Christian values by directors who had a heart for supporting and bringing relief to women who were pregnant and in distress. Together, they aimed to unite and grow pregnancy help centres across Australia to make it easier for anyone in need to find and access hope-filled support at no cost. Thanks to the founding visionaries, today, we have a network of 19 centres operating across the nation, a giant hub of love that anyone can call or text 24/7 and receive referral to local support.
The Drive: What challenges has PHA overcome?
PHA operates entirely on the generosity of private donors and so we’re constantly challenged to fundraise. With these donations we focus on finding innovative and creative ways to provide love in response to the complex realities faced by those who reach out for help.
Often through tears, women share their personally heartbreaking and impossible looking circumstances surrounding pregnancy. They share their concerns, be they worries about finances, an unstable or abusive relationship, feeling too young or old to have a baby, rejection and homelessness, a potential or confirmed prenatal diagnosis or the fact that their visa subclass doesn’t make them eligible for medicare.
In response, our centres provide some or all of the following services at no cost: pregnancy testing, counselling, information, peer support, practical support (clothing, nappies, wipes etc., nursery furniture, food hampers and vouchers, maternity clothing, toiletries), accommodation assistance, advocacy, referral to immigration experts, parenting support groups and education programs, mentoring, home visits, birthing support, baby showers, congrats hampers, pamper packs, a free baby photo shoot (yes there are generous professional photographers volunteering their services to give this free gift too!) and most importantly, specialised counselling and programs for those seeking healing after reproductive loss.