Sweet Louise and their Pink Bales

Did you know that the idea of wrapping hay bales in pink started in New Zealand? It’s now spread to the UK and other parts of Europe. All to raise awareness of breast cancer, particularly for rural women.

In New Zealand, Agpac generously donate a percentage of sales of pink wrap to Sweet Louise. The last couple of years they have donated $23k each year, all to help women living with incurable breast cancer.

Farmers got totally onboard with the pink wrap – they pay a bit extra for the wrap and place the bales in eye catching arrangements near the roadside. Really, they’ve ended up with big pink marshmallow like objects in their fields. They certainly draw the eye!
About 3,000 New Zealand women and 20 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year and 15-20% will go on to develop secondary, terminal breast cancer. At this stage, there is an average life expectancy of 2-3 years post diagnosis. During this time, women face repeated cycles of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and the difficult physical, financial and emotional stresses associated with the treatments. Those closest to them – family, friends and caregivers – will also be dramatically impacted.

Sweet Louise is the only charity in New Zealand that supports those with incurable breast cancer. Our aim is to provide hope, support and comfort to our 600 members. We do this in a number of ways. Our Support Coordinators provide individualised support, with phone calls, email and visits to home and the hospital.

Members receive $500 vouchers each year they can use to access a wide variety of services. Our most popular providers are homemade meal and baking deliveries, home and gardening help, and mastectomy underwear.

We hold regular member meetings all over the country where members can connect. When you are diagnosed with a terminal illness, life as you know it changes. Things will never be the same. Sweet Louise is there to help our Members and their families live the best they can with this cruel diagnosis.

Many of our members say being able to meet others who immediately understand what they are going through is a huge relief. They often don’t want to talk about their disease with family or friends as they don’t want to burden or upset them. So having the support of other members and Sweet Louise’s Support Coordinators is a huge comfort. On the other side of that though, is the fact they see their friends pass away. Living with a terminal disease can be a very lonely journey.

Every year for the last 11 years, we have asked our members what they need and want; they overwhelmingly tell us they want to connect with each other, they want to live as positively as possible and they want to support their children. That is what we work towards every day.

Pink bales are a fun, eye catching way to remind women to check their breasts. We’d like to think they also symbolise hope for our members.

Fiona has worked in the not for profit sector for 15 years. Living and managing organisations in New Zealand, USA, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and the U.K. Her years in Africa were spent focusing on projects addressing the twin problems of HIV/AIDS and gender based violence; reporting to international agencies such as the UN, USAID and the EU.

Since 2014, Fiona has been the CEO of Sweet Louise, the only charity in New Zealand solely dedicated to supporting those living with incurable breast cancer. She sits on the board of Communicare, an Auckland based charity helping the aged and lonely. Fiona lives in Auckland with her husband, two young children, and two cats with a bad attitude.