In her work with Early Head Start, a federally-funded family support program, parishioner Thelma Bacxa has seen the immediate needs of many families here on the Hawai`i Island. Due to her expertise in this area, she is an invaluable resource for our parish Moms and Tots Ministry, which serves these families in need.  “I got involved in the ministry because of the work I do — Monday through Friday, my job is to work with poverty, so I see the needs of these families with little kids,” she says.

“We really get a feel for them and their struggles, and the lack of education they might have with regards to the needs of the children, knowing how the economy works, budgeting and how to make it on a daily basis.”  Through her job, Thelma helps provide families with crucial education to help them avoid emergency financial situations. She helps them learn how to problem solve on their own, and teaches them skills to help them save funds so they’re not running short at the end of the month. However, she doesn’t hesitate to lend a helping hand in emergency situations — and that’s where Moms and Tots comes in. The ministry collects diapers, wipes, hand sanitizers, and disposable garbage bags, creating baby care packs for these families.  

“I have seen moms keep babies in their diapers until they have soiled them two or three times, because they can’t afford to buy more, and this causes health issues,” Thelma says.

“When we expressed this need, people at our church started to donate diapers and wipes. We pre-bag these items so they are ready to go, and we have five major areas that we stock. We provide them for the families in our program, but we also reach out to other agencies. They call us and say they need refills of certain sizes, and we’ll load it up and deliver to them.” Moms and Tots has been a huge help to the families with whom Thelma works, and she sees their gratitude on a regular basis. Going forward, she hopes to continue to teach these families skills that will help them to be proudly self-sufficient.

“Sometimes when I arrive, they’re down to maybe two diapers, and they say, ‘Thank you so much — how did you know?’” Thelma says.

“They are very grateful for the help and they express that. We also work with them so that they can learn how to problem solve and rethink the ways that they spend money, so that at the end of the month they don’t have to ask for help because they already have what they need on hand. It’s all about teaching them the basic skills.” 

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