The face of Good Beginnings, one of YWCA Hamilton’s more hands-on programs, has changed a lot over the past two years. Volunteers supporting new mothers in the home faced the challenge of adapting to COVID-19 health and safety restrictions. We spoke with Liliana Figueredo, Program Coordinator for Good Beginnings, about how YWCA Hamilton continues to support mothers in their first months as a new parent, through the ups and downs of the pandemic.
“When COVID hit, we stopped home visits. I encouraged the volunteers who were already matched with clients to keep in touch with phone, text, video,” said Liliana.
Liliana herself took over people on the waiting lists, sending texts, checking in, and asking after their well-being. She also organized care packages which included mental health resources, information on support services, as well as donations of chocolate, candles, clothing, diapers, food, and handmade quilts. “It was a holistic thing – I tried to make it so they felt that we really care, not just a bunch of papers.”
As the pandemic continued to drag on, Liliana implemented a mindfulness break model with built in flexibility to suit the needs and availability of clients. She would help mothers practice mental health skills by conducting 10-minute phone meditations, and training volunteers to provide the same service. This model worked on a 12-week schedule, changing up the meditation or mindfulness break every two weeks.
This summer, Liliana began piloting a new set of COVID safety procedures to return to in-home supports with volunteers. The new procedures include a risk assessment tool for both the volunteer and the parent, to provide insight how great the need or the risk is for each person. Naturally, some clients have higher needs than others. She also extended the criteria to include mothers with babies under one year of age, provided the emotional support was still needed. This has brought the wait list up to 39 mothers. At the end of the summer, she connected with the participants to determine whether they needed continued support. 32 files were closed, with the mothers back to work.
Liliana emphasizes the importance of creating a safe space for mothers to voice whatever is on their mind, and to share things they might not feel comfortable sharing with anyone else. It’s not just about just asking how they’re doing, but going deeper into complex emotions and experiences: feeling scared, struggling, forgetting to eat or not being able to sleep. Through guided meditation and thoughtful check-ins, mothers have a chance to think about and ask for what they need.
Liliana and the Good Beginnings volunteers remind these mothers that they’re doing a great job. To have a baby is hard, but to have a baby during COVID is harder.
Want to support mothers and families? Volunteer with Good Beginnings or JOIN Mother Support for Newcomers.