Neil O'Styke

There’s no problem too small for Neil O’Styke – self-confessed jack of all trades. As Executive Director of The Neonatal Trust, he helps to provide a precious service for people both big and very, very small. The Trust supports families with sick or premature babies by providing services in intensive care units nationwide. With over 1,000 babies coming through the Wellington unit in 2014 alone, Neil lets us in on why he got involved.

I volunteered at The Soup Kitchen in Wellington for a number of years from my early 20s. It was a great experience helping people and I met a lot of like-minded volunteers. It taught me a lot about observing, listening and that it’s the small things that matter.

I decided to quit my last corporate job three days after my daughter, Penny, was born. I recall waking up early, with Penny a drive away in hospital; I thought it was time to do something different, something with more flexibility to spend time with my kids.

For any expectant parent, the best-laid plans don’t always happen. Having a baby early or having one with complications can happen to anyone. Age, income, job – it doesn’t matter, it can impact you. There is such stress and anxiety involved. I often hear people downplay that they were only in the Unit for a week, when at the time it was the longest week of their life. It’s far from what they were expecting and hoping for. We also get parents of extremely premature babies who have 100-day plus stays in hospital before going home for the first time. They truly experience a rollercoaster ride while they’re in there.

I really love working in the social-profit space. It’s a fantastic way to teach values to my kids. Without going over the top with them, we make it a regular topic of conversation at home. We’ll pause the news if there is a story on a natural disaster, or a family doing it tough, and have a quick chat about it.

If there is a mufti day at school, we’ll talk about what they are collecting money for and how it will help. We often share about how lucky we are as a family. My wife and I decided to take a particular approach with pocket money too. We help our seven-year-old manage his own pocket money, which has an element of philanthropic giving. It’s pretty cool to see him think about others.

Fundraising is a very competitive space and it’s important to have a range of approaches. We love ones that give back to our partner charity and remind people what great supporters of the community they are – like the annual World of Wearable Art dress rehearsal show, which is always a massive hit.

The One Percent Collective model of raising awareness and facilitating continual giving is perfect for a charity our size – as this type of support enables us to free up time and focus our efforts on the thing that matters most: supporting those going through the stress of a neonatal journey, one Kiwi family at a time.

Words by Larissa McMillan. Photography by Pat Shepherd.


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