Family, staff and volunteers will gather at the Jewish General Hospital on Sunday to celebrate the one-year anniversary of a program dedicated to helping premature children.

The anniversary coincides with World Prematurity Day.

Among the families who will take part is the Vasquez clan. Triplets Tiago, Rodrigo and Ignacio were born at just 28 weeks – each boy weighed just one kilogram and they spent 22 hours a day sleeping in an incubator. Mother Johanna Vasquez said the memories are still painful.

“They were wee little, little tiny people and you see them and ask yourself how they’re going to survive outside of you,” she said.

The triplets were patients in the Jewish General’s neonatal intensive care unit.

“Not knowing if your baby is going to survive and not being able to hold them or breastfeed them or put them in those cribs that you purchased and having those cribs empty at home was extremely difficult,” said Vasquez.

Today the three boys are healthy and happy but doctors say premature babies often have developmental issues and fragile lungs. The triplets came with their own set of difficulties, said Jewish General Chief of Pediatrics and Noenatology Apostolos Papageorgiou.

“The challenge is three times instead of one because every minute babies have small problems,” he said. “They need more attention and you go from one baby to another. You reassure the family for number one and suddenly number two has problems and before they have a chance to breathe you have more problems.”

A year ago a new initiative was launched to help the little babies. Volunteers began coming by to read stories to them.

“It actually stimulates their oxygen intake and makes them  calm and it’s soothing to hear a voice talking to them,” said volunteer Beatrice Lewis.