23 March 2017

Stella Bella opens child respite centre

| David Tuckwell
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Suzanne Tunks Stella Bella

Having a sick child is hard enough for any parent—and the child. But what about the chronically sick and the incurable?

As reported last week on The RiotACT, Canberra charity Stella Bella Little Stars is opening its doors today, offering an oasis for extremely sick kids and their parents.

The centre offers childcare facilities in an environment with hospital level hygiene.

Chronically ill children often can’t hang out with other youngsters because if they catch a bug they can land back in hospital for months. Their illnesses can be restrictive and mean they don’t get to live a normal childhood.

Its founder Suzanne Tunks, whose nine-month-old daughter Stella died of heart disease in 2010, learnt first-hand how hard caring for sick kids can be.

“For parents, if you have a child with a monitor going off all through the night it’s exhausting after a while,” says Ms Tunks.

“So to be able to drop your little one off and go home and have a sleep is a big help.”

There are many different children’s charities operating in Australia. But what makes Stella different Ms Tunks says is the direct line of help it offers.

“Stella gives these youngsters the chance to have the experiences other kids do in a safe and protected environment. We have chickens, a veggie garden and craft activities in a child care centre.

“Our foundation does a lot of practical support for parents. We have given out more than $150,000 in food, petrol vouchers and emergency accommodation.”

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