From sleeping on the floor to a bed of their own

For Diane’s three little boys, bed was a heap of old foam mattresses laying on a particle board floor in a cold damp corner of their home. There they slept in a tangle of blankets.

Living in the countryside where the surrounding land became waterlogged and nighttime temperatures went below freezing during winter, Diane’s fibrolite home was prone to moisture and rapid mold growth. It was no wonder her boys suffered skin conditions and an endless succession of colds.

It is a situation that Healthy Homes Initiative provider Nik Gregg sees all too often as he visits low-income households around the Bay of Plenty.

“Our tamariki and pepi are sleeping on floors, couches, shared beds, shared mattresses, chairs and broken bunks and beds. Without their own bed, they are exposed to a greater range of viruses, bacteria, and respiratory illnesses, they are more exposed to mold and dust mites, sleep deprivation, allergies, eczema, and skin infections.”

Every year in New Zealand, 28,000 children end up in hospital with preventable illnesses because of where they are sleeping. These children are three times more likely to return to hospital and ten times more likely to die.

Winter is a particularly difficult time of year, especially for children whose families are struggling financially, says Susan Glasgow, CEO of Variety, the Children’s Charity.

“Children living in poverty bear the brunt of winter illnesses. Often these aren’t just colds but diseases like rheumatic fever which can have a lifetime of consequences.

“Winter can be a risky time for children whose health may already be on the line. With the potential of a rebound surge in winter illnesses that have been contained during the pandemic restrictions, these children need our support now more than ever.”

For the past four winters, Variety has partnered with the government’s Healthy Home Initiative (HHI) providers, such as Nik Gregg, to identify the children who most need beds.

“Our focus is to assist our whānau to live in a warm, dry and safe home. We focus our efforts on supporting whānau with an extensive list of activities, including insulation, repairs, advocacy and more,” says Nik.

“Despite all of the support we can provide, if our tamariki and our pepi don’t have their own sleeping space, the health and social benefits of a warm and dry home are compromised.”

Every year in New Zealand, 28,000 children end up in hospital with preventable illnesses because of where they are sleeping.


Every year in New Zealand, 28,000 children end up in hospital with preventable illnesses because of where they are sleeping.

In Diane’s case, the HHI worked with the landlord to improve the home, including installing a heat pump and making repairs to joinery which was a source of draughts. Variety provided the beds and bedding to give each boy his own space to sleep in off the floor and in warm, dry beds keeping them healthy and out of hospital.

“Her boys are no longer exposed to the threat of damp, cold, and highly contagious conditions,” says Nik.

There are still more families like Diane’s who are in urgent need of a beds and bedding before winter settles in.

Three-month-old Olivia who is in hospital for bronchiolitis and her brother Tim who is monitored for strep throat and sleeps on a foam mattress on the floor. Their mother Maria is in a constant state of worry but knows a new warm bed for her son and cot with bedding for her daughter would help keep her children safe and healthy.

Ben has ADHD and sleeps on a mattress on the floor, while his two sisters Fiona and Sally sleep on a couch. A bed and bunk beds for him and sisters would mean a warm and good night’s sleep so they can stay healthy and concentrate at school.

Now, Variety urgently needs the support of generous Kiwis to help these families and more. This winter 1,100 kids are waiting to have their own bed and bedding. Even a small amount can make a huge difference:

$45 will provide a warm blanket

$80 will provide a bedding pack

$343 will provide a single bed and bedding pack

$688 will provide bunk beds and bedding pack

To help keep Kiwi kids out of hospital by ensuring they have their very own bed and warm bedding, please visit to make a donation.

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