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Ensuring a positive future for new mums from refugee and migrant communities

Having a baby at any time is a momentous thing, but giving birth in a strange country when you don’t know the system or even the language can be traumatic. Manor Gardens Welfare Trust has secured a three-year grant of £361,168 from the Big Lottery to support 1,500 of these women in North London through bilingual Maternity Mentors.

We have recruited five Maternity Mentors from local refugee and migrant communities to develop links with women in their communities and provide accessible and culturally appropriate workshops and information in collaboration with specialist agencies. The Mentors will work with women who require additional assistance and provide bilingual support, including advocacy in healthcare appointments, information on what they are entitled to and referral to specialist services.

‘It’s really important that every woman gets the chance to look after their own, and their baby’s, physical and mental wellbeing during this crucial time, and that they get the right support to be able to do this,’ says Eleanor Tomlinson, Manager of Manor Garden’s Health Advocacy Project, which has been working to improve the health and wellbeing of local refugee and migrant communities for 18 years. ‘We’ll be helping women to stay well during and after their pregnancy as well as how to understand and navigate the UK maternity health system. We’ll also be raising awareness of post-natal depression and how best to look after a new baby.’

Mentors deliver bilingual community workshops for women and their families in various local accessible venues including mosques, churches and community centres. ‘Our mentors will also provide individual support to 170 women and their families,’ says Eleanor. ‘Support will be in the woman’s own language and will tackle issues such as why they are finding it difficult to access health care, gaps in knowledge, issues surrounding poverty, poor housing and social isolation and will help them get referrals to other specialist services such as counselling, legal advice or ESOL classes. Women will also get the chance to take part in peer support groups so they can share knowledge and experiences and build long-term social support.’

Manor Gardens’ Health Advocacy Project 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.’

Bright Beginnings can work with women from the beginning of their pregnancy up until their child’s first birthday. There will be some assistance with travel and childcare costs for those facing financial difficulties in getting to the workshops.

Manor Gardens Welfare Trust has well-established local partnerships which will enable us to support these women, including the Islington Faiths Forum, the Islington Poverty and Mental Health Network, Haringey Domestic and Gender-based Violence Network, Islington Refugee Forum and Islington BAMER Women’s Network as well as statutory services such as Midwifery (including FGM specialists), Children’s Services and GPs.

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

If you want to refer someone to our service please use this form referral-to-bright-beginnings-form