Smart Start was created and evolved to serve at the intersection of birth support and refugee resettlement in order to meet the unique perinatal needs of refugees and immigrants in the Pittsburgh area. Moving to a new country comes with challenges. In the U.S., birth culture can look and be very different from our families’ home cultures and birthing practices. It can be isolating, overwhelming, and/or confusing being pregnant in a foreign land.
Compounding the difference are language barriers and separation from one’s culture and family can further contribute to feelings of isolation during pregnancy and postpartum.
Smart Start's primary services are:
- Pregnancy and newborn care coordination, postpartum support, pregnancy and/or infant loss support as needed
- Facilitating connections to community resources and support items needs for mom and baby
- Working with the birthing person to create a comprehensive labor plan including planning for a doula, childcare, documentation preparation, and discharge assistance
- Culturally-tailored perinatal education regardless of language capacity
Hello Neighbor Smart Start volunteers play a crucial role in ensuring that our Smart Start clients get the support they need throughout the birthing process. Martha Boward, a wonderful Smart Start volunteer, has assisted with accompaniment and transportation for countless pre and post-partum medical appointments, cooked and delivered culturally appropriate meals for new moms, and raised funds + gathered supplies to support Smart Start. Read her interview below where she talks in more depth about how she got involved and what volunteering for Smart Start has meant to her.
Can you kindly introduce yourself to the Hello Neighbor audience?
I am Martha, mother of three grown children. My part-time accounting work for my husband’s small business allows me the freedom to volunteer in the community.
How did you learn about Hello Neighbor?
I can’t be certain whether I first learned of Hello Neighbor via a news article or from something shared by Western PA United Methodist Church in their e-news.
What attracted you to volunteer for our Smart Start Program?
I was already interested in volunteering to welcome refugees/immigrants, but I do love babies so I thought that I would try to help our new neighbors have good care in their pregnancy and postpartum period. I had hesitated to volunteer, as I thought that the moms might be better off with someone who was more recently a new mom herself.
Can you share some examples of the kind of volunteer work you’ve done with Smart Start?
I have driven for prenatal and postpartum appointments, as well as pediatrician appointments. Some families have needed transportation for other medical needs. I have also prepared or purchased meals which I then delivered.
What has been the most rewarding feeling that you experienced while volunteering for Smart Start?
I just like knowing that I have done my best to advocate for the moms and children. I remember being overwhelmed with my first child, who ended up in Children’s Hospital as a newborn. I could have used someone to speak up for me, as I was not used to that. It is hard to know what to ask at appointments, and I would imagine even harder in a new country with different practices for pregnancy and newborn care.
Can you share with us a favorite story or experience you’ve had while volunteering?
Almost all of the people whom I have driven offered “tea”. For a variety of reasons, I usually decline, but I had promised one expectant mom that I would have “tea” after Ramadan (which would also be a few weeks after the baby was born). As I live fairly far from most HN clients, I signed up to take the new mom a meal on the same day that she had a postpartum appointment. I did accept the offer of “tea”, which turned out to be the meal that I brought plus another meat dish plus snacks plus tea. Baby had not gone to the appointment, so I got to meet the baby, as well (I did mention that I love babies). While mom does not speak much English (though she may understand more than I can tell) and I know no Pashto, we did have a nice visit. The mom had an I-pad brought to the living room and we saw video of current conditions in Afghanistan and of various aspects of where the family had lived. Mom and I shed some tears together, as it was clear that the family misses their home country and know that they may never be able to go back.
If you have to encourage someone to get involved with Hello Neighbor, what would you suggest?
While I have a lot of flexibility, someone can volunteer as little or as much as their schedule allows. There are also lots of needs that can be met without being a person who drives for appointments.
Are you interested in becoming a Smart Start Volunteer?
Please register for one of our virtual or in-person information sessions.
Virtual Info Sessions:
- Thursday, August 10, 6:00 PM
- Sunday, September 1, 1:00 PM
- Register for Virtual Info Session
In-Person Info Sessions:
- Thursday, July 27, 6:00 PM EDT
- Sunday, August 20, 1:00 PM EDT
- Thursday, September 21, 6:00 PM EDT
- Register for In-Person Info Session
If you have any questions or concerns, please email Volunteer & Community Engagement Manager Aubrey Parke, at firstname.lastname@example.org.