No matter how 'minimalist' your approach, babies need "stuff". For some families, obtaining that stuff is way more challenging and financially daunting than it is for others. I'm so grateful for Gwen Broda, who started The New Mom Project here in Toronto. I thought interviewing her might be a good way for you (and me!) to learn more about her work. Furthermore, I've invited The New Mom Project to have space at our conference next month, so our attendees can hear from Gwen in person, and get involved -- either as a donor, or a recipient it's the kind of help needed to adequately and safely welcome baby.
How did you come up with the idea for the New Mom Project?
After having my third child, and not working enough hours in my pregnancy to qualify for Maternity Leave (for the second time), I was angry. As a student and a mother, I had fallen through the cracks with no safety net from society. I was grateful for my supportive family and friends, but I wondered: "How do people do this if they don't have the same family support I did?" After a Google search to see what services were available to families who needed extra help, I quickly realized there weren't any.
At the same time, I read an article about the Finnish Maternity Care Package (aka the Baby Box), which is given to every expectant person in Finland and has made a huge impact on the health and wellness of their population. It made sense to me to bring that same idea to Toronto and create a type of package that would provide families with essential baby items like clothing, blankets and diapers. The New Mom Project now supports about 50 expectant and new families every month by outfitting them the best we can thanks to the generosity of the community.
How do families in need access your help?
The New Mom Project is a registered charity. We have a referral process that families need to use in order to qualify. We support low income and at risk families, who are often newcomers, single parents, young moms, old moms -- everyone, really. We have made partnerships with most hospitals, midwifery clinics, community health centres, shelters and Toronto Public Health who all send in referrals for families they are working with. The goal of NMP is to be a community resource that supports health care providers in their struggle to care holistically for their clients, and I think we are doing a great job at that so far.
Can you tell us about a particularly rewarding experience since starting the NMP?
We are very happy to have a location now where moms can come for 5 visits and choose their own items. I think it brings a level of dignity and empowerment to our clients. Recently, a new mom whose baby is due soon came for her last visit. I have seen her throughout her pregnancy, and have been lucky to get to know her. During her last visit, she spoke to us about organizing her items at home, and how much joy and happiness they bring. She has not purchased anything for her new baby because we were able to support her. NMP was able to outfit her completely thanks to the generosity of our community, which lessens the financial impact having a new baby brings. Beyond just the "stuff", we hope that receiving items from NMP impacts parents' confidence, and empowers them with the tools to be great parents. Her gratitude and happiness makes us know we are doing a great job.
What are the best ways folks can contribute to the NMP both on conference day and beyond?
The best ways to help NMP at 4 Trimesters' fall conference and beyond is to stay connected with us through our social media, and spread the word about our services. We gladly accept in-kind donations of baby items, diapers, wipes, toiletries, strollers and anything you found helpful for your own child. Through monetary donations of $100 we are able to purchase new car seats for families so they can safely bring their baby home from the hospital.
What's your dream for the future of the New Mom Project?
The future of NMP will reflect input from the parents who use our services. Currently we have started accepting maternity clothing and we are beginning to provide educational programming based on prenatal and postnatal health, and I would love to see this expand and continue. We endeavour to make our services more accessible to anyone who needs it.