St Kilda Mums connects new and pre-loved baby goods with families in need, and was founded by a group of mums with the very simple idea that local families can help each other out.
With a little helping hand from funds raised through our DineSmart campaign, this volunteer powered organisation has grown to include Eureka Mums in Ballarat and Geelong Mums. Jessica Macpherson, founder and CEO of St Kilda Mums now oversees an organisation with over 2,500 volunteers. But it started with just a handful of goods she donated to the St Kilda Maternal and Child Health Centre.
“When my son was newborn, I was visiting my maternal health centre very regularly. I started to offer some of the things my son had already outgrown. The nurse asked me to pop these things into the photocopy room, and I went in and saw that there was lots of donations like mine.
The nurses were taking these goods, and doing their best to distribute them. But they had no time to organise it all, which also meant they were struggling to find things when they needed them.
So I volunteered to organise all of the donations, to make it an easy pop in to find what was needed. I felt so good, and the nurses were so grateful, I just wanted to do more – and that was it.”
It was the beginning of a very small community project, that has now grown to service across Victoria and has been 100% lead by local mum’s. “Each of the projects has been set up by mums all working together, helping each other and sharing the load”.
While the core of their work is material aid, Jessica is quick to point out that there’s no such thing as a typical family that needs support, but there are some people that are more vulnerable than others.
“The majority of people we support are migrants and asylum seekers, women who are homeless or escaping family violence. We also help many teenage mums, indigenous families, women with poor mental health, disability or experiencing a crisis. While there’s no ‘perfect time’ to have a baby, some women will be facing this huge life-changing event under really difficult circumstances.”
Homelessness comes at great cost to an individual’s health, and for a pregnant woman her own health and that of her unborn child are at risk. Untreated chronic disease, risk of infection, malnutrition and exposure to violence are just some of the risks pregnant women face while homeless, with many presenting to maternity wards with nothing but the clothing on their backs.
“Everyday, families who are presenting to the maternity ward with nothing. No accommodation, no idea where the next meal will come from. We know many of these women are in that situation because they are escaping violence, which escalates when they fall pregnant. Absolutely no one should be in that situation, let alone at such a critical time in their life. We are really glad to be able to step in and offer some immediate relief.”
Not everyone who needs help from St Kilda Mums would be immediately recognisable as vulnerable. Life can throw you a curveball at any time, and people are welcoming a child into the world every day amidst some very real, very big challenges.
“I will never forget one family we helped who had very premature twins – born three months early. As you might imagine mum and her babies needed to spend a lot of time in hospital. That was already a massive and unforeseen challenge, but over the course of the pregnancy dad’s health deteriorated and by the time of their birth, he was in palliative care. Whatever plans they had made were out the window, with dad’s illness and then such a premature birth the challenges for that family were huge.”
A new baby will often come at a time when everything seems to be in chaos, but I honestly believe it can be overcome with support, and that’s what we try to do – help in whatever way we can.”
There is an optimism and genuine care that underpins what St Kilda Mums’ does – supporting families when they need it and without judgement.
We believe that ending homelessness starts with local people creating connected communities, and that’s why we’ve been proud to support their work with almost $70k in community grants since 2012. As Jessica explains…
“DineSmart grants have helped us launch in all three of our locations, and supported a number of our small projects and pilot projects, which have now gone on to become part of our core service. We could not have got these projects off the ground without that initial support.”
You can support St Kilda, Geelong and Eureka Mum’s by dining at a participating restaurant in those areas. Just check out our map to find your local.