Rotary Community Breast
Milk Bank Charitable Trust
The Gift of Liquid Gold
Last Thursday night a small group of us visited the RCBMB (Rotary Community Breast Milk Bank) where midwife and Chair of the Milk Bank, Rotarian Yvonne Hiskemuller, gave a very informative talk while enjoying a glass of wine and a delicious array of finger food.
The RCBMB was initiated by Yvonne 5 years ago when then District Governor Liz Courtney, asked clubs in our District to look for projects that were centred on the Rotary International Maternal and Child Area of Focus.
It was begun by a dedicated group of Rotarians with the support of Lactation specialists and Midwives in Canterbury to help mothers supplement their efforts with milk donated by other women.  This group of women took up the challenge and formed the Rotary Community Breast Milk Bank Trust.
The aim of the Rotary Community Breast Milk Bank is to provide easily accessible, short term donor breast milk to mothers while they establish their own milk supply. The donated breast milk is frozen, pasteurised, checked and given to parents and caregivers free of charge.
It took almost 4 years of negotiating with the Canterbury Health Board and the Neo Natal group to finally be taken under the wing of St. George’s Hospital support. This is the first free community Breast Milk Bank in New Zealand offering breast milk to new-born babies up to 6 weeks to help mothers establish a good milk supply.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Health recommends babies ideally are exclusively breast fed until aged six months.  Breast milk is full of antibodies which help to develop a baby's immune system making it such a special commodity.  Breast might be best for babies, but getting feeding underway can be a struggle.
Previously, the only babies in the country with access to a pasteurised milk bank service were premature or sick babies at Christchurch Hospital's neo-natal unit. The Rotary Community Breast Milk Bank extends that service. To date we have provided 360 babies with 300 litres of Breast Milk from 63 Donors since 2018.
The Rotary Community Breast Milk Bank opened in July 2018 and was given a room at St. George’s to work from.  Specialised temperature controlled freezers, computers, donor kits and furniture were all supplied and sponsored by four Rotary clubs, Christchurch Garden City, Papanui, Riccarton and Christchurch Rotary clubs who gave funds to begin this free service.
A large fundraising dinner and auction began the $ 30,000 required to set up the initial first year of running costs with a concert, specially printed tea towels and quiz nights following on. 
It is completely staffed by over 20 volunteers many are Rotarians, nurses and retired midwives.
What do we Need and Why?
The Milk Bank is situated at St. George’s Hospital and with their support, and an anonymous donor, they recently provided a pasteuriser for the Milk Bank which means that donated milk can be sterilised immediately. Previously, all the donated milk was pasteurised through the Neo Natal Unit run by the CDHB.
This has reduced our running costs but has increased our volunteer time. We are now looking to raise funds to staff the pasteurising of the donor milk and to extend our reach to encompass a wider geographical group in the community.
How can you Help Us?
The Trustees of the Rotary Community Breast Milk Bank now include a number of Medical and Scientific based Specialists who give their time free of charge to assist us with growing this free service.
Rotary would like to grow this free service throughout the country but can only do this with public and corporate support. It costs us approximately $ 25,000 pa to run this service to meet the growing need for mothers and babies who want to breast feed.
For more information on the Rotary Community Breast Milk Bank Charitable Trust visit their Facebook page or their Give a Little page.