New moms on the Coast have been able to find help, understanding and support at Bellies and Babies for the past nine years, but funding cuts may now signal the end of the program’s outreach initiatives.
“About half the mamas I see at Bellies end up needing more support,” said Kim Oka, program co-ordinator. “Without the funding it will create a huge gap. The outreach component really brings it full circle.”
Bellies and Babies is geared toward moms who are pregnant or have a child under the age of one. It is funded primarily through the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program (CPNP). The CPNP gives a total of $40,000 to the local program each year, which funds two weekly drop-in programs, in Gibsons and in Sechelt.
At each drop-in, new moms and moms-to-be are treated to a healthy, freshly prepared meal and afforded the opportunity to ask questions, bring in relevant speakers or simply chat about their week.
The drop-ins also provide a space for moms to swap clothing and information and form friendships.
Out of about 200 births a year on the Coast, Oka says nearly 90 moms end up at Bellies and Babies. About 45 of those women need more support than the weekly drop-ins can offer.
That extra support is often demonstrated by Oka driving new moms to appointments or being a shoulder to cry on. Last spring, as a special outreach initiative, Oka developed an art therapy course to help mothers through postpartum adjustment.
“That was awesome just to have the mamas together to hear each other’s stories and feel that support,” Oka said, her enthusiasm contagious.
Up until now nearly $15,000 in extra funding from Success By Six and other sources has foot the bill for that support.
“Over the years Success By Six funding has been decreasing in part because of cutbacks and in part because they have mandated the funds be used in specific areas,” said Patrice Pollack, program director of child development services at Sunshine Coast Community Services Society (SCCSS). “Now there is just less funding to support community projects and programs.”
So with the outreach arm of Bellies and Babies on the chopping block, Oka and Pollack say SCCSS is planning a fundraising campaign to save the important service.
While details are being worked out now, expect the campaign to be an online push explaining the importance of Bellies and Babies and asking for donations. Organizers hope the effort will go viral.
If you have a story to share of your time at Bellies and Babies, Oka asks you email it to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She plans to use the stories either in the online fundraising campaign or for applying for grants in the future if necessary.
If you would like to give to the cause before the campaign officially starts, send your cheque (noting it is for Bellies and Babies in the memo line) to SCCSS, 5638 Inlet Ave., Box 1069, Sechelt, B.C. V0N 3A0.