September 2017 | Next | Article written by Sharon Stephenson
April 28 2017 | The Weekend Sun | Article written by Cayla-Fay Saunder.
It was a way of helping others when she couldn’t help herself. A way of filling the bellies of those in need when hers was always empty.
Brigitte Mouat started the meal-delivering charity Arms of Angels because she is unable to eat.
“I have gastroparesis, and my stomach is paralysed; it doesn’t actually do anything.”
Instead of letting the situation get her really down, Brigitte started making large amounts of food and dropping it off at a local koha (donation) centre in Kapiti for people who can’t always afford to put a good meal on the table.
“I started making all of this food to give away. People started lining up on a Friday when I took the food down and one girl asked how I made the food.”
So she decided to go one better – the next time she was at the centre, she brought with her the ingredients and the recipe for the girl.
“She cried actually. She said: ‘Nobody has ever done something like that for us’.”
That was the first one. The first time Brigitte supplied someone in need with everything needed to prepare the food themselves.
Brigitte isn’t just providing people with food, she’s teaching them to cook for themselves. But she didn’t set out to start a charity.
“It wasn’t deliberate. It was because I couldn’t eat food myself.”
She made the huge quantities to stay connected to food – she could touch and smell and see it, but she couldn’t eat it.
“I mean I have to admit at the beginning, when I was doing that, I would cry sometimes because I would be making it and think: ‘I want to eat this so badly!’.”
Eventually, Brigitte was feeding seven families through the koha centre, all on her own dime.
She would push two trolleys full of food around New World Kapiti.
“One day the supermarket owner said: ‘Gosh you get a lot of groceries’ so I told her and she said: ‘We’ll make all of the packages up for you’.” Brigitte started telling people what she was doing, how much it cost, and people started signing up.
“All of a sudden I had a charity.”
So Arms of Angels started in Kapiti and has now migrated to Tauranga.
Arms of Angels feeds local families in need and is sponsored by local families – a real community mission – and it’s delivering good nosh. Think pork and apple cider sausage bake, mince chow mein, Mediterranean meatballs.
It’s a similar concept to Nadia’s Food Bag but for families in need. Good food, delivered to your door; that you learn to prepare yourself.
“We’re all volunteers, every single cent goes on the food.”
It works through anonymous nominations – people can nominate a family they think are in need, Arms of Angels will give them a call and see if they could use a little help, and then somebody sponsors that family for six weeks. But it’s not expensive – six weeks of sponsorship amounts to a $90, or $15 a week.
That $15 a week will provide at least one hearty, healthy meal for a family, and teach them how to cook it.
“My condition is for life, but I’ll always want to eat food because I know what it’s like. I know what it tastes like. I’m always hungry so I know what hunger feels like!”
To eat, Brigitte connects up to a feeding tube that slowly drips small quantities of nutrition-packed liquid into her intestines, bypassing her stomach.
“It just drips out at 100ml an hour and I have to do 1000ml.”
“When I get dehydrated, I have to fill a litre bag of water and put it through the machine and that’s another eight or nine hours, so I’m on it for up to 18 hours a day.”
She can’t use the feeding tube lying down because she runs the risk of aspirating, so on long days Brigitte will have to try and sleep sitting up.
“You never sleep, trust me; you’re awake all the time.”
“Every now and again I won’t put a feed through at night; I’ll do as much of it as I can during the day so I can lie flat and sleep.”
A charity that has come at a great personal expense. Brigitte can’t go out for dinner and catching up for a coffee and a chat is difficult.
But despite all this, Brigitte remains upbeat and positive. She’s thrown herself at the opportunity to help others enjoy food, even if it means working from a hospital bed at times.
“But I always think: ‘Y’know what? I can get out of bed every day; do my hair, do my makeup and get dressed’ and nobody knows. You just carry on.”
For more information and to get involved, volunteer or sponsor a family, visit: www.armsofangels.co.nz
April 12 2017 | Kapiti News | Article written by Cloe Willetts.
October 27 2016 | Article written by Anne Whyte.
Brigitte Mouat, founder of the charity Arms of Angels, which feeds families in need. Brigitte is unable to eat and spends between nine and 20 hours. Photo/George Novak
A woman who is unable to eat herself is launching her charity in Tauranga which feeds families in need.
Brigitte Mouat spends between nine and 20 hours a day hooked to a tube which feeds nutrients into her intestine, meaning she has to sleep sitting up. She also vomits every time she eats.
Despite this, Brigitte is on a mission to make sure families in strife are eating by establishing a charity which ensures they would have the ingredients to one decent meal a week.
“I know what hunger feels like. I never feel full, I always feel hungry. “I raised my three children by myself. I know what its like to go without. “I actually do understand.”
Brigitte moved up to her childhood home Tauranga from Kapiti, where she created the charity named Arms of Angels.
She had gone into hospital for a hernia operation where her vagus nerve was accidentally cut. “It stopped my stomach from working. I lost 30kg, I was so sick.
It’s for life, it’ll never go away.”
She says cooking food was her coping mechanism, and she would give much of it to families in Kapiti who needed it.
People started asking her for the recipes, so she created ingredient parcels with instructions on how to create the meals.
“I kept it simple. It’s leaving people independent.” She says the idea “just took off”, but had become expensive for just her to afford.
Arms of Angels targeted families who were in short-term need and not getting any help from other sources. “It’s an anonymous system, people can go online and nominate a family or can sponsor a family.” “It’s one meal a week for six weeks, just for a break so they know it’ll be happening and sitting on the table.”
Brigitte says one of the inspirations of the charity for her was when a young neighbour in financial trouble had taken their own life a few years ago. “This is a gift. “Food is so important, we sit down and share as a family. Its not a privilege that anyone should not go with.”
July 13 2016 | Kapiti News | Article written by Cloe Willets.
February 15 2016 | That’s Life | Article written by Bridgitte Redman.
January 13 2016
December 16 2015 | Kapiti News | Article written by Cloe Willets.
December 9 2015 | Kapiti News | Article written by Cloe Willets.
Brigitte Redman understands what it means to be hungry.
In fact, she will never again feel the comfort of a full stomach.
The Paraparaumu Beach woman suffers a daily battle with gastroparesis, a condition that prevents the stomach emptying properly.
No longer able to eat any food and allowed just one cup of coffee or coconut water a day, the self-proclaimed foodie lost all spontaneous muscle movement in her stomach after botched surgery for a hernia seven years ago.
“Having gastroparesis has heightened my awareness of food and how much evolves around it,” said Ms Redman, who is using the passion taken from her to run a community meal initiative.
“I understand hunger more than I ever have in my whole life because I can’t physically eat even though my body might be telling me I’m hungry. If I eat one thing, I can end up hospitalised for days.”
Attached to a machine for nine hours a day, her energy draining, Ms Redman had to slow down from work as owner of Paraparaumu Beach’s Queen B Nail Studio. Instead of slipping into doing nothing, today she launches her Arms of Angels charity.
“Arms of Angels kind of came about unintentionally, when I was dealing with the change.
“I found myself making large quantities of food, which I couldn’t eat, so took it to the Koha Centre on Ngahina St.
“The cooking was like a coping mechanism for me, allowing me to stay in touch with the smells and textures of food, while bringing something positive to others.”
Ms Redman used to be a social worker, and has a heightened awareness of the financial battles faced in communities. When a girl asked how to make a meal she had prepared, Ms Redman was quick to jump at the chance to help.
“I offered to get her the necessary ingredients and recipe so she could make it herself, and after she passed on her thanks, volunteers suggested another person I could make a package for. That’s where it started.
“It wasn’t a conscious decision, but the numbers of families in need started to grow.”
Within two months of coming up with the idea for Arms of Angels, Ms Redman had support from New World Paraparaumu.
“This enables you to go online and nominate a family and sponsor that family, or sponsor any family on the database, who will receive ingredients to make a meal valued at $15, once a week for six weeks.”
Distributed as vouchers that can be handed in at New World Paraparaumu, the packs include meat and “could be a family’s best meal all week”, Ms Redman said.
Other businesses stepped in to support the cause. “I’ve even had young people who don’t have much money put in $15 to sponsor a family,” she said. “I’m so proud of the community.”
Focused on a larger-scale sponsor scheme for the holiday season, Ms Redman has also organised a one-off $50 meal pack for in-need families over Christmas.
“Some of the feedback has included people saying how thankful they are, because they hadn’t realised someone in the community cared enough to sponsor or nominate them.
“There’s this whole area of people living in the community who are struggling and other people don’t know. When they receive this gift, they feel really blessed.”
Focused on expanding her fast-growing initiative, which is now becoming a registered charity, Ms Redman’s new hobby is slowly filling an empty void.
“Arms of Angels runs solely on the generosity of the community, and I want to see this initiative grow. I’ve put it at the forefront so people know we’re here to stay.”