• Interview with Gwen Broda from The New Mom Project
Interview with Gwen Broda from The New Mom Project

The New Mom Project is a cause very close to my heart. As a mother and grandmother I know how difficult it is to get the very basics for your babies and your family when you are starting out. So when I saw in person the hard work and dedication that Gwen and the group of volunteers do helping deserving families I knew that I have to help too, that's why a portion of our gift baskets sold are donated every year to this amazing charity.  We wanted you to get to know Gwen a bit more and asked her a couple of questions;  here is our interview:

1) Gwen, you’ve stated that your own life circumstances inspired you to start The New Mom Project, could you tell us a bit about that time in your life, what was going on? How many babies did you have? How did you pull through?

When I had my first son, I was working full time as a nurse at the TEGH (now Michael Garron Hospital).  I had a great home birth with midwives and spent a lovely year at home on mat leave.  I went back to work part-time because I decided to also go back to school to get my degree.  When I had my daughter I hadn't worked enough hours to qualify for EI and I was mad. When I went back to work a year later, still part-time I was prepared to make sure I worked enough hours. Nursing school is tough and has a lot of work placements, which makes it hard to actually balance work, school and a family. To my disappointment, once again I did not work enough hours to get EI when my third child was born. Now I was really mad.  I felt like my contributions to my community through work, school and motherhood were not being acknowledged and appreciated by society. I worked really hard and fell through the crack, twice.  I was lucky that my husband made enough money that we squeezed by, but it felt that I was not valued at all.  I am also lucky that my parents live very close by and have always helped us out in a huge way.  Without being somewhat financially stable and  having my parents nearby, having three kids would have been a struggle. When I saw how hard it was for me financially during this time, I thought about all of those moms without the great social support network that I have, and I wanted to make sure that everyone had the basic necessities for having a family.  The New Mom Project came from the idea of wanting equity for moms by creating a community resource that could provide the essentials for their new baby. 

Donations received by The New Mom Project 
2) We read that the Finnish baby boxes were an inspiration, could you explain a bit about that program for those who may not know about it? What have you hoped to emulate?

In Finland, every expectant mother receives a baby box, which is a cardboard box that is also a bassinet and filled with infant clothing, outerwear, blankets, toiletries and other great essentials. This maternity care package has helped reduce the infant mortality rate in Finland and has created a culture that cares about the wellbeing of families. The New Mom Project has used the Finnish Maternity Care Package http://www.kela.fiweb/en/maternitypackage as an inspiration. Originally NMP created baby bundles that reflected the contents of the baby box program which included clothing, blankets, hats, toys, books, diapers, toiletries and other useful items.  We have been luck that for the past year we have also been able to distribute the actual baby box, provided through The Baby Box Co. https://www.babyboxco.com/ which provides a safe place for a newborn to sleep and is regulated by Health Canada as a bassinet. We hope that by emulating this successful program and bringing the same model to Toronto that we can have an impact on the overall health and wellbeing of newborns and their families. 

3) Tell us a bit about your team behind The New Mom Project.  And how you’ve grown the program, what were some of your biggest obstacles? 

We have the best team running the operations at The New Mom Project headquarters. Our group of dedicated volunteers (some of whom have been with me since the beginning about 4 years ago) make sure that our donation process runs smoothly and that the items we receive are sorted, organized and displayed for our clients. We have volunteers who do every piece of work that NMP gets done, which is incredible.  We have a graphic designer who volunteers her time creating our image, our material and keeping our message consistent.  We have volunteers who write grants and attend events to learn about new opportunities for us. Since we started distributing the baby box in September 2016, we realized quickly that we had grown out of using my living room as a command centre and needed a real space.  We have been at 1450 O'Connor Drive Building 2 Unit 101 M4B1Z1 for just over a year now.  Having this space has been great.  We now operate a 2 day a week drop in for our clients to come and choose items.  Donation drop off is also open at our location during various times. The biggest obstacle we face is always ensuring that we have enough essential items like diapers, car seats and strollers for the moms who receive our help. We provide new car seats only, and use monetary donations to purchase them.  We sometimes struggle to have enough funds so we can make sure that we are able to serve our clients as best we can. We are constantly looking at different funding opportunities and ways to make NMP sustainable in the long term.  

4) What are your growth plans both in-terms of families reached and other affiliates you hope join your mission.  How do you hope to implement these goals?

We have big plans for growth in 2018.  We have noticed that we have a lot of clients coming from very far distances on the TTC to access support at our office, and regular requests from clients in the GTA from places like Brampton, Cambridge and Hamilton. We are in the process of addressing and reducing those barriers faced by clients coming from a distance and looking at different option that would provide innovative solutions. We hope this can expand our reach out to the GTA and allow better access to our items for families in the west side of Toronto.  One of our main goals is to establish reliable funding for our operating expenses and to be able to sustain our programs for long term growth. 

5) What are you most in need of? What would you like donating moms and organizations at large to know? 

We are always in need of the real basic essentials like diapers, wipes, toiletries, nursing pads, formula.  We find that many moms come to us and have literally nothing ready for their baby and are in need of the big three items: crib, stroller and car seat.  These large items are always in demand, need to be in good working order and less than 10 years old.  As I mentioned before, we only distribute new car seats so monetary donations are necessary to purchase those so mom can safely take her baby home from the hospital. We hope that everyone who comes to receive help from NMP leaves feeling great and prepared.  It is our mandate to offer good working quality large items and clean and excellent condition clothing and blankets.  Our mission is to make sure that all families get off to a great and loving start and don't have to worry as much about the financial impact of having a baby.

Thanks for this opportunity to talk about NMP ! 


For your donations in kind contact The New Mom Project or send your monetary donations through Canada Helps 

  • Susana Goldin-Douaire

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