You’re a new mom trying to adjust to the stresses of being a new parent and you need a non-judgmental, supportive ear. If you live in Greater Boston, Central Massachusetts, or Boston’s North Shore, you can call the Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms® program of JF&CS. Soon, you’ll be matched with a trained and supervised volunteer Visiting Mom who will visit you in your home.
But what if, in addition to the stresses of being a new mother, you live in a climate of political unrest? What if you are a new mother who lives in Dnepropetrovsk (“Dnep”), Ukraine, who needs that same maternal support and empathetic listening? Who do you call?
Now, you can call Mentor Moms in Dnep and receive the same type of support that new moms in Eastern and Central Massachusetts have been so fortunate to have in their lives.
A joint effort between JF&CS, the CJP Dnepropetrovsk Kehillah Project, Project Kesher Ukraine (a Ukrainian social action project to empower women), the Dnep Mentor Moms program (known in Dnep as “Momma to Momma”) got off the ground last September and is based on the JF&CS program. In both programs, the role of the visiting or mentor mom is to establish a nurturing and supportive presence to recognize and reinforce the new mom’s strengths and to listen and provide guidance in order to enhance the mom’s own capabilities.
With financial backing from CJP’s Dnepropetrovsk Kehillah Project, JF&CS serves as the primary contact for Project Kesher Ukraine, the program’s facilitator, answering questions and providing advice and insight on how to best facilitate the Mentor Moms program in Dnep. JF&CS has already put together a team, headed by Debbie Whitehill, director of JF&CS Visiting Moms, to provide support, mentorship, and encouragement through Skype phone calls to Project Kesher Ukraine leaders. Project Kesher administers all aspects of the program and determines how to best implement the spirit of the JF&CS program for the Ukrainian audience. Eventually, Project Kesher hopes to roll out the program across the entire Ukraine.
In just the first six months, the program has attracted nine new mothers and a second cohort will be starting imminently. Demand is high and the Mentor Moms (who are all Jewish) are ready to take on more new moms. More than 70 percent of the new moms are Jewish. Materials such as fliers and leaflets have been distributed throughout the Dnep Jewish community and through psychiatric, pediatric, and women’s clinics.
Barbara Gaffin, director of the CJP Dnep Kehillah Project, shared, “We are delighted that JF&CS is partnering with us through Visiting Moms, which has brought so much comfort and support for many new, young mothers in Dnep.
“Every staff person has been enormously helpful, from the CEO [Rimma Zelfand] to the social workers to the project managers. Everybody has been extremely generous with their time in making this project a success, and they have really improved people’s lives in Dnep and changed things for the better.”
“There has been a deep connection between JF&CS and Dnep over the years,” added Debbie Whitehill. “There was talk about starting up the visiting or mentor moms program 10 years ago, but we didn’t think they had the infrastructure back then and we placed it on the back burner. Now, they’re better situated and they get what we do at a level that amazes me. They’ve sent us great questions and we have been there for them. We hope to make more connections between their volunteer moms and ours in the future. They’re doing amazingly well.”