After 18 months of planning, the Stella Bella Children’s Centre is almost ready to open its doors, offering Canberra’s seriously ill children and their families access to affordable, high quality respite care.
The Fyshwick centre, due to open later this month, is believed to be the first of its kind in Australia. It will give babies and children the chance to spend time in a happy and inclusive environment, with extra care from early childhood educators and specialist nurses.
Places are available for up to 57 children across two units: a special care unit for respite for seriously ill, non-contagious children, and a mainstream long daycare unit.
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The centre is operated by the Stella Bella Little Stars Foundation, a non profit organisation that brightens the lives of children in the ACT and region with serious and long-term illnesses. Its founder, Suzanne Tunks (pictured above), started the foundation after her nine-month-old daughter, Stella Isabella Judy Anne Tunks–Frawley, lost her life to a congenital heart disease in 2010.
Stella spent half of her short life in hospital, and the other half at home in palliative care. In caring for Stella, Suzanne and partner Matthew learned to appreciate how difficult it can be to look after children with serious illnesses – both emotionally and financially.
To keep respite care affordable, revenue generated from mainstream care at the Stella Bella Children’s Centre will help cover the extra costs in the special high care unit.
“Many families with very sick children have little or no income. They will not be able to afford much, or anything for their respite care – even though the costs associated with the special care unit will be higher than mainstream due to medical equipment, nursing staff and higher staff ratios,” Suzanne explains.
“All of the children in the centre will benefit from our centre philosophy and our extra high standard of care. The mainstream families will be important members of our Stella Bella community, helping us to support the little ones in our special care unit and being in such a unique, beautiful and very inclusive environment.”
Suzanne says she has been overwhelmed by support from local businesses including P2 Advisory, Construction Control, YP Painting, Harvey Norman Commercial and the Barton Grocer.
For those keen to get involved, Suzanne says the centre is grateful for extra pairs of hands.
“We have lots of extra little jobs that we could use a hand with from sewing play silks, sheets and cushion covers, donations of plants for the gardens, helping to set up cots and equipment, cleaning the centre before children are welcomed and many other tasks.
“We would also love it if people could help spread the word so that families know there is an awesome new children’s centre opening in Fyshwick. We would love to welcome new families into our centre.”
For more information on the centre, enrolment enquiries and offers of support, get in touch with Suzanne on the Stella Bella Children’s Centre Facebook page.
The centre’s grand opening is on 23 March 2017.