Nana Marie provides a listening ear and wise counsel; she is empathetic, compassionate and has an incredible warmth. She is trusted by parents and this enables her to provide practical support minding a child while a parent takes a shower, eats a meal, or goes for a walk, knowing their child is not alone, but safe in the arms of Nana Marie.
Marie Jujnovich has been supporting children and their whānau, impacted by childhood heart conditions for the past 30 years as a Volunteer Family Support Taituarā.
She started volunteering in June 1991 at Green Lane Hospital, spending four days per week on the wards. Following the transfer of the paediatric cardiac team to Starship Children’s Hospital in 2003, Marie continued to support Heart Kids NZ members on ward 23b. Up until lockdown 2021, Marie was still on the ward two days per week from 6.30am to 2.00pm - at age 85 years.
When asked, at the end of a day in hospital how her day has been, Nana Marie’s unerring refrain is - “Today has been the best day of my life” - because she loves nothing more than walking alongside those going through some of their worst days, giving her all to the families she supports and expecting nothing in return.
Nana Marie has become the much-loved, deeply respected, constant and comforting face of Heart Kids NZ. Her ability to connect with parents and meet them with an open heart when they arrive at Starship, often scared and overwhelmed and with a very sick child, is invaluable to our organisation.
Over the past 30 years, as many changes have taken place in both Heart Kids NZ and the health system, Nana Marie has been the anchor providing consistent and loving support for our heart children and their families.
On August 17, 2021, Nana Marie was presented with a Minister of Health Volunteer Award for Outstanding Achievement in Long Service.
This award recognised volunteers who have made a long-standing commitment to voluntary work for health and disability organisations.
After 30 years devoted to supporting heart children and their whānau, Heart Kids NZ was thrilled when Nana Marie was selected as a worthy recipient of this award. Marie received her award at the Grand Hall, Parliament in August 2021, just as government was on the cusp of announcing another nationwide lockdown.
“You’re one in a million Nana Marie”
In October 2021, Nana Marie was nominated for a Westfield Local Hero award. After huge support from the voting public, Nana Marie was crowned the Westfield Local Hero. She so selflessly gives her time, care and love to our heart whānau and it is wonderful to see Nana Marie receiving recognition for the commitment, dedication, compassion and love that she has poured into our heart families over decades.