A Bright Beginning

  • 27
  • Jul

Imagine giving birth to your baby in a strange country, far away from family, where you don’t even understand the language. This is the frightening reality for many refugee and migrant mums every day.

Bright Beginnings is a new project launched by Manor Gardens Welfare Trust that will support refugee and migrant mums in Islington, Camden and Haringey during pregnancy and birth.

It has employed five Maternity Mentors to provide bilingual support, including advocacy in healthcare appointments, information on what expectant mums are entitled to and referral to specialist services.

Aynur Ozdemir, Liliana Diaz-Ramirez, Najuma Ali, Natalia Spassova and Mariam Suliman are all mothers themselves and can relate first-hand to many of the experiences refugee and migrant mums face.

Mariam, a refugee from Sudan, came to live in this country 11 years ago because of the crisis in Dafur.

She said: “It’s brought all my memories back from when I had my first baby. What I remember and now what I feel is that I want to help women who are going through a similar experience that I had.”

The Bright Beginnings project is funded for three years by a £361,168 Big Lottery grant.

Eleanor Tomlinson, Manager of Manor Garden’s Health Advocacy Service, which has been working to improve the health and wellbeing of local refugee and migrant communities for 18 years, said: “The idea came from work that we were already doing.

“Having a baby is challenging at any time, but especially so if you don’t speak the language, are new to the country, and don’t have your extended family with you.

“Our Maternity Mentors provide support in the woman’s language so they can really get to grips with the information,” she said.

Social isolation is one issue that many refugee and migrant mums face, especially after having a baby. To tackle this the Maternity Mentors are running peer support groups and community workshops where women can come together, share experiences and learn about things that might be helpful for them.

Manor Gardens’ Health Advocacy Service also leads the London-wide forum tackling Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). “Many of the women we work with have also experienced domestic violence or FGM says Eleanor.

“Mentors will be trained in key messages on maternal and child health, safeguarding and child protection, and gender-based violence and harmful traditional practices including FGM, allowing them to provide holistic support, tailored to the needs and experiences of each individual woman,” she said.

For more information about the project contact Jana Gigl, Project Coordinator (Mondays-Wednesdays only) on 0207 561 5297 or email jana@manorgardenscentre.org.

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