One out of every five children in Vancouver lives in poverty. These children have a higher probability of dropping out of school, being unemployed, getting cancer, committing suicide, and having unplanned pregnancies. That cycle gets repeated over and over again in a society where the least number of opportunities are given to children who need them the most.
My name is Barbara Fitzgerald. I am a pediatrician and I have worked in inner city schools for 16 years. I have watched as children who need the most support are somehow expected to rise above adversity without proper nutrition, housing, access to recreation and with mothers who are stressed just trying to feed them and keep them safe. People who have to worry about whether their kids will eat that day aren’t writing resumes or getting trained for jobs. I started to wonder what would happen if we put all the well-researched theories about how to change outcomes for children into practice. What if their moms weren’t always stressed? What if there was enough food? What if their moms had the time, confidence and support to go back to school or find employment?
Mom2Mom Child Poverty Initiative was started in October 2011 with a few women and an idea about how to improve outcomes for children living in poverty. We started pairing volunteer mentors with moms who were looking for some help to change things for their families. Friendships formed, and moms were supported in all kinds of practical ways: groceries, beds for their kids, bus tickets, etc. Mentors were there when moms needed someone to talk to, when they were in a crisis, when they had to move. We became the network of support that most people have but that women disadvantaged by poverty were missing.
For nearly three years, Mom2Mom slowly grew, taking on more moms and children until it became too successful to run without staff. In July of 2014, SVP came along and supported the hiring of the first Executive Director, Melinda Markey. SVP Lead Partners helped write a business plan. Hamlet Abnousi stepped in when the treasurer position became vacant on the board. Judy Gale, Marie-Claire Howard and Alanna Donahue stepped up to help with fundraising and communications. The website needed some work and an SVP contact helped to update it. SVP Executive Director, Tanya Oliva, assisted with a much needed capacity assessment. A charity called the Children’s Foundation donated a house for our use!
With this boost of time and expertise, and especially with the work of a dedicated executive director, we now have an expanding group of moms and have suddenly entered what we are calling Phase 2! With all of this support and the trust that has built over years of mentoring, our moms are doing all kinds of wonderful things that we never expected to happen so quickly. Children are at school, ready to learn because they have been fed and their mom is less stressed. Some of our moms are getting help going back to school or vocational training and some are entering the work force. We are desperate to hire another staff person. With SVP’s support, a small grassroots organization has grown and consolidated. Stay tuned for Phase 3 – we have some interesting ideas!
Visit Mom2Mom today.