Professor Avima LombardProfessor Avima Lombard was HIPPY’s original founder back in 1969, in her home country of Israel. When she passed away in 2008, Dame Lesley Max wrote a piece in appreciation of Professor Lombard for the HIPPY Israel blog. Here are some excerpts from it, which give a glimpse into the legacy Professor Lombard left here in New Zealand...

I consider myself immensely fortunate to have had the good luck to have Avima Lombard as mentor, colleague and friend.

My association with her began in 1987. In the course of researching for my book, I interviewed Dr. Zoe During, who had given much consideration to pathways out of poverty for children and families.
Dr. During mentioned to me a monograph she had read about an early childhood programme in Israel in which parents played a key role. I was about to attend a conference in Israel so made contact with Professor Chaim Adler, who referred me to Dr Avima Lombard.Avima, 1991

The telephone conversation I had with her was the beginning of a connection which was able to be made concrete following the establishment of our Trust, formed on the basis of the evidence in the book.

(“Children: Endangered Species? How the needs of New Zealand children are being neglected: a call for action”, by Lesley Max, Penguin 1990)

So I found myself waiting for her to arrive at Auckland airport one February day in 1992. That was the first of nine annual visits Avima made to New Zealand. Avima and I were together for long days as we travelled around the country, and she trained coordinators and tutors.

Change Agent

My first experience of Avima as change agent was unforgettable. Following the ceremonial Maori blessing of our new Family Service Centre, Avima began teaching the very first women who displayed courage in offering themselves as paraprofessional home tutors for this totally new proposition, HIPPY.

The women were all Maori or from the Pacific Islands – the two groups who together still comprise the majority of HIPPY families.

Avima in New ZealandThat very first piece of learning is arguably still the most important concept.

Avima was role-playing the first week’s HIPPY activities with the women. “What do you do if the child’s answer is wrong?” she asked.

One woman mimed a whack around the back of the head. “Never”, said Avima. “You never do that.”
“You tell them – NO!” said another woman. “Never”, said Avima. “You don’t use ‘no’.” And she role-played for them the process of affirming a right answer and supplying an answer where the child was unable to.

I was watching a revolution at that moment. Laughter erupted around the table – the laughter of liberation. Out tumbled the stories of their own experiences. In a sentence, the women were on the path to liberation from their childhood fear and shame from not knowing or being wrong, the fear and shame that created an ever-present obstacle to their own learning.

For nine years, I watched and listened as this woman brought new ideas and released women’s potential to be their child’s warm, responsive, encouraging guide into the world of learning.


Role Model

Avima exemplified the role-modelling which lies at the heart of the HIPPY method. “What you do with the mum is what she is going to do with her child,” she would say.

Avima also modelled for me how to patiently but firmly insist that HIPPY’s integrity should not be jeopardised or diluted. Avima’s stature, and her calm, quiet but authoritative demeanour were of immense value in dealing with Government officials who, faced with a more pliant personality, may have fatally diluted HIPPY in New Zealand.

“One thing is clear. Parents care and, given the opportunity, parents are ready to invest in their children’s education. Our work with HIPPY is designed to make that possible.”  
- Avima D. Lombard, HIPPY Then and Now: A Retrospective, 1994


Dame Lesley with the HIPPY Team honouring Prof. Lombard in 2008New Zealand Legacy

Avima’s influence has been utterly extraordinary in New Zealand, as in so many other countries.

Young people moving into their independent years with solid school accomplishments behind them, with plans for their future, with good relationships with their families – these are Avima’s New Zealand ‘grandchildren’.

Mothers who discovered a new joy in parenthood, who are able to walk alongside their children in their educational progress, mothers who have blazed pathways to further education and career progression for themselves – these are Avima’s New Zealand ‘children’.

And so the torch, crafted by Avima, is passed from hand to hand.

We in New Zealand HIPPY, and at Great Potentials, are determined that the light she ignited will illuminate the path to brighter futures for many more thousands of children and parents in our country.

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