In October 2013, Caulfield North mum Sandra Jacobs found some leftover nappies her daughter had outgrown. At the time, she was volunteering at a women’s shelter, having met its chief executive, and feeling “a weight of responsibility to help in some way”.
The financial planner knew that the mothers there, many of whom were victims of domestic violence, faced pressures in many aspects of their lives. “I thought about giving the nappies to the shelter,” Sandra says. “It then occurred to me that a lot of parents would have leftover nappies. Babies grow so quickly, it’s not uncommon to have half a box of nappies left over.”
Sandra put out a call on Facebook, asking her friends if they had any leftover nappies to give the shelter, too. The result was a haul of 1500 nappies – and a new organisation, The Nappy Collective.
A friend, Lisa Simon, asked to be involved, and the co-founders recruited fellow mums Moran Dvir, Lauren Blecher and Jessica Layton to help run the collective. “They’ve helped build it into something successful,” says Sandra. “You can’t do things like this on your own.”
A second nappy collective in March 2014 brought in 26,682 nappies in Melbourne and Sydney. Two more drives followed, and the organisation has distributed nearly 500,000 nappies in its short history. By last month, the collective had a network of volunteers in 31 cities across the country.
“The community has really embraced it,” says Sandra. “It’s a simple concept and I think all parents can appreciate how precious nappies are.”
Sandra talks about struggling mums who line their babies’ nappies with paper towels to prolong their use. “If you’re already in a stressful situation, to compound that with an unhappy or sick child just adds to the pressure,” she says.
Once they are donated, the nappies are given to 95 beneficiaries – including charities and refuges – that collect and distribute them to clients.
During the May 2015 collection, 240,000 nappies were donated.
But the benefits go beyond the practical. “To know there are parents around Australia supporting struggling mums is really important,” Sandra says. “It’s like a warm hug.”