Our People

 *** This page is a work-in-progress and is actively being worked on - more details to follow ***

Light on paid staff but heavy on volunteer commitment and resources, we strive to find the right balance to maximise the support to families and their precious babies.
As we're all about people (helping and supporting people), we felt it was the right thing to give you an insight into the team - read the details provided by the people themselves.

In addition to the below, you can read about some of our great volunteers on this page.

Hayley Lavender 

Support Co-ordinator (Part-time)
Hayley helps out in the Auckland Neonatal Trust shop on various Saturdays.  She is a full time mum to four year old twins, Cooper & Archie, who were born at 34 weeks and spent 4 weeks in Auckland NICU.  She is thrilled to be part of the Neonatal Trust family and enjoys giving back to an organisation that helped her in a time of need.  When she can find time she enjoys a good book and getting out to some of Auckland’s great restaurants. 


Jen Rohac

Support Co-ordinator (Part-time)
Jen is a mum of two gorgeous children Cole and Charley.  My daughter, our youngest, was born at 24 weeks and 3 days and spent 4 months in the Auckland NICU under the care of the most extraordinary NICU team and parent could ask for. Originally I come from Vancouver Canada but call New Zealand home and enjoy being able to help out other families who are currently in NICU.


Justine Brooker

Operations Manager (Part-time)
Justine is a born and bred Wellingtonian and mother of four boisterous boys.  The Neonatal Unit became like family to Justine with all of her sons being born early.   This has fed Justine’s motivation to help others in similar situations.   Her passion for The Neonatal Trust truly developed after the early arrival of her youngest son Harlow, who was born at 24 weeks. Being able to support families during what can often be a daunting and stressful time is why Justine is now devoted to raising awareness for The Trust and supporting neonatal families.
In her spare time when she isn't busy with her family, you can usually find her exercising at boot camp, running or enjoying a coffee with friends.  

Prior to joining The Neonatal Trust, Justine shared the story of son Harlows arrival as part of the 2014 World Prematurity Day awareness activity. You can read the article here.


Samantha Bennett

Fundraising Co-ordinator (Part-time)

Sam is mum to 11 year old Oliver and 9 year old Ava, who was born at 34 weeks weighing 2100g and spent just over 2 weeks in the Wellington NICU. Being able to use her marketing and fundraising experience to help families going through the rollercoaster of a neonatal journey was the key reason Sam joined The Neonatal Trust team.  

Previously Sam has worked in a variety of marketing and research roles, predominately for banks and financial institutions.  In her spare time Sam is a bit of a gym bunny and enjoys spending time with family, especially supporting her kids in the activities they love - cricket, netball, football and dance!


Kathryn Akozu 

Developmental Playgroup Co-ordinator (Part-time)
Kathryn is the Developmental Playgroup coordinator for the Auckland branch which meets fortnightly to provide support to parents who have had a baby in NICU or SCBU. Kathryn and her husband Simon have two children, Amelia and Ethan. Amelia was born in September 2015 at 31 weeks gestation and had quite a rocky time in NICU, despite that she is a happy and healthy little girl who is the boss of their household.
Kathryn regularly attended the developmental playgroup with Amelia and describes the playgroup as being a ‘life saver’, especially in the early months when you need the support the most. It is a group of like-minded parents who just get it, and you don’t have to spend 15 minutes trying to explain how old your baby is. Kathryn loves being a part of the playgroup again and helping families navigate the journey after NICU. Kathryn works part time as Town Planner and loves to spend her free time with her family, baking, going to the gym and drinking coffee with her friends while their kids play.


Melissa Gray

Support Co-ordinator (Part-time)
Melissa is a mum of two beautiful boys Oscar and Hunter, and her journey with the Neonatal Trust and NICU began when her youngest son Hunter, was born unexpectedly early at 26 weeks.  After spending 96 days in NICU, Melissa and her family got to take Hunter home!  Melissa is very passionate about the Neonatal Trust and the work it does to support families in and out of NICU, being a part of the team post NICU has given her the opportunity to help new families on their own journeys.

When she’s not working or wrangling boys, Melissa loves being creative with textiles, cooking and spending time in her garden. 


Sandhya Lala

Support Co-ordinator (Part-time)
Sandhya is married to Mahesh and Mum to Milan, Dhruv and Sajel. Sandhya's journey with The Trust began in 2007 with the birth of Milan who was born at 34 weeks weighing in at 1850 g and later continued with the birth of Sajel born at 33 weeks weighing in at 1500 g. These two experiences with their combined highs and lows formed the desire to give back to the Neonatal Trust and support other families going through their own NICU journey.  When she isn't busy with her family, Sandhya likes to hang out with her friends eating chocolate, drinking coffee and doing the odd bit of exercise.


Neil O'Styke

Executive Director (Part-time)
Neil is the father of two children, both who spent time in the NICU due to arriving early. This, along with the experiences of multiple friends, gave an insight into the disruption, stress and anxiety of neonatal journeys. 
Spare time is taken up with family activities from coaching and supporting kids sport to creating unique items in a small workshop in the corner of the garage.  
Prior to The Neonatal Trust, the background was wide and varied, from work in banking and telecommunications, mixed with volunteering with organisations like the Soup Kitchen and other charities. 
“It’s an absolute privilege to work in the Social profit space, knowing your efforts help others going through a tough time”.


Rachel Friend

Executive Manager (Part-time)
Rachel works part-time at the Auckland Office/Shop of The Neonatal Trust, is married to Phil, Mum to Reuben and Step-Mum to Marlow and Henley.  

Rachel was introduced to the neonatal world thanks to her son, Reuben who was born at 24 weeks gestation in January 2013, weighing-in at 665g, who despite an initial rocky start is the life and soul of their house.  Since then Rachel has been a dedicated supporter of The Neonatal Trust, baking goodies for the Mother’s Morning Tea, raising money through running “Round The Bays” and now works for the Trust in order to pay it forward by helping to support those families that are travelling the NICU road.  More details are included in this story.

When she’s not at work or chasing around after her boys and their pets, Rachel likes to exercise when she gets the opportunity as well as indulge her love of coffee, chocolate and red wine!


Sarah and Dave Blaney

Volunteer - Newsletter + general support
In 2013 Sarah and Dave Blaney had a daughter Holly Blaney who was born at 23 weeks and spent 14 weeks in the Wellington NICU and 10 Weeks in Lower Hutt SCBU. You can read Hollys story here.  
After completing the NICU journey they wished to help The Neonatal Trust to further support families.  In 2013 & 2014 they helped organise the Wellington Neonatal Ball to raise funds for the Trust.  They have moved to Auckland and continue to help raise awareness and support neonatal families.  In their spare time they enjoy spending time as a family and visiting new places.

Thank you to The Neonatal Trust's Partners