Becoming a mom is a transformative time for any woman. Add to this the feat of doing so when you are working towards—or have recently obtained—your high school diploma, and the financial, social and emotional pressures can quickly become overwhelming.
Thanks to Rose of Sharon in Newmarket, these women don’t have to choose between being a mom and being a student. The charitable organization is on a mission to empower young mothers to embrace their strengths and support the future they envision for themselves and their children. They do this through offering individual counselling, group programs, education, basic necessities—such as diapers, formula and clothing—and on-site childminding.
“We meet moms where they are,” explains Caitlin Gladney-Hatcher, Rose of Sharon’s Fund Development Coordinator. “It’s never about fitting into some idea of what a perfect mom is.”
“There are no perfect moms,” adds Executive Director Anna Pavan. “It’s an ever-evolving identity. And we need to make sure we’re giving them the opportunity to explore that for themselves.”
Creating a sense of belonging is one of the organization’s key values, amongst other equally important principles surrounding courage, responsiveness and inclusivity. “If you feel belonging, that alone can integrate into all the other areas that come with the joys and challenges of being a mother,” says Pavan.
Each year, approximately 600 young moms and babies come from across York Region to receive the much needed care and support Rose of Sharon provides. Many of the pregnant and parenting moms who come here have faced judgement and rejection from family, friends, peers or partners. Often, they are struggling with feelings of hopelessness, a lack of self-worth and an incapacity to advocate for themselves and their babies.
Nearly 100 percent of these women live below the poverty line – 64 percent are living on less than $1,000 per month. Five percent are currently homeless and 30 percent are unsure of where they’ll be living three months from now.
As soon as a young mother arrives at Rose of Sharon (by taxi service provided), the weight of these financial and emotional demands grows a little lighter. Here, her baby is able to explore and play at the Child Development Centre (CDC) while she attends a workshop or counselling session. She can “shop” Rosie’s Closet at no expense, where she’ll find a selection of adult and kids clothing, diapers and other parenting necessities generously donated by the community. She can stop by the kitchen to grab a nutritious bite to eat – perhaps the first meal she’s had all day. In addition, she is given the opportunity to connect with fellow young moms who can relate to the unique struggles she faces on a daily basis.
“Reducing isolation is another really big part of what we do here,” says Jill Jambor, Community Engagement Coordinator. “That’s a barrier for a lot of the moms – they feel isolated either geographically or by virtue of the fact that they don’t feel supported [at home]. So they come here and our staff does an amazing job of making them feel safe and welcome.”
Rose of Sharon relies on volunteers to help with programs, administrative tasks, fundraising and more. In order to keep its doors open, the organization also depends on financial support from its community. Community members can make individual donations, or support the upcoming benefit concert featuring Chicago cover band Brass Transit on Saturday, October 19th at Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts.
By helping the young mothers in our community not just survive, but thrive, you are creating a stable and healthy home environment for the generations of the future. “One of my greatest roles in this lifetime is being a mother,” says Pavan. “Now, I have the ability to support other moms who take that courageous step to ask for help.”