Before coronavirus changed our world, Mercy Community held an uplifting event for the mums in our New Families Program: a “Pamper Day” during Queensland Women’s Week 2020.
Mums laughed and chatted as hairdresser Caitlin Dallas (Dallas Hair) and beauty therapist Brooke Eades (Bayside Bliss Mobile Therapy) treated them to a “full face” of makeup, and trimmed, curled and straightened their hair.
Thanks to generous Caitlin and Brooke, the complimentary makeovers were followed by brunch and a professional photoshoot for the women and their babies.
As participant Leah* said afterwards, she felt “awesome. When you look good, you feel good!”
New families, new hope
With this year’s Qld Women’s Week theme being “Celebrating our diverse community of strong women”, it was a good fit for the New Families Program.
As coordinator Breanna McCoy explains, the service supports women from a diverse range of circumstances, who have been through difficult situations.
“Women are referred to New Families for extra support with their babies,” she says.
“In the first 12 weeks, women come into the Mercy house in Brisbane where we support, guide, educate and ultimately do an assessment on the assistance they might need in the community once they leave the program.”
Valuing diversity, the program helps a wide range of women and families, many from complex social backgrounds.
“The women we support may be survivors of abuse and domestic violence,” says Breanna, “or they have experienced childhood trauma, live with disabilities, or are disconnected from community, often due to stigma placed upon them by a privileged society through circumstances beyond their control”.
After the initial 12 weeks, there are another 12 weeks of community visits before the team makes further recommendations.
The program links families in with services and resources to make sure they and their children are safe, nurtured and connected to family and community.
“The Mercy house is a godsend”
As well as diversity, strength is a big theme in the New Families program. Women are empowered with the skills and tools for effective parenting.
For Leah, who came into the program with her baby boy, this was a “godsend”. She says, “when I first came into the program I was a bit of a mess, and I didn’t know what I was walking into.
“But it’s like being in your own house, with your mum and your sisters helping you out. You get set up with what you need to know about raising your children and the stages of development.
“It just makes it so much easier for you, to be able to cope and do everything you need to do for your children to grow up and be healthy”.
The New Families Program has made a huge impact on the women involved and the broader community. As well as Dallas Hair and Bayside Beauty, the program has been supported by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Trust and the QUT Staff Fund.
Through their compassionate donations, women going back into the community with their babies have been set up with essentials like baby clothes, nappies and wipes. It makes life just that bit easier while they are putting in place their newfound parenting skills in the community.
For Breanna as program coordinator, the generosity of the Brisbane community shows that no matter who we are, where we come from, or what we’ve been through, there is always help available. And there always people who want to see others thrive.
Strength & diversity – in style
In planning the Pamper Day event, Breanna says she wanted to celebrate the strong women who have been through so much with a day of being spoiled. As she puts it, “we all get that instant boost in confidence when we leave the hairdresser or have a makeover. You feel like a million dollars!”
Caitlin and Brooke came on board because they believe in empowering women and wanted to contribute their skills to a good cause.
“I work with a huge network of women,” says Caitlin, “and I love helping women to be the best version of themselves. I became a hairdresser to make people feel good, so this fits in with what I do and was an opportunity for me to give back”.
Breanna explains that practicing self-care and allowing oneself to feel pampered and beautiful links to an improved sense of self-worth. This is one of many aspects of women’s lives that New Families strives to improve.
“These mums are already so strong and incredible,” as she puts it, “and with Caitlin and Brooke’s help, I hope they feel as strong, brave and worthy as we know they are”.
Strong communities, standing together
Leah certainly did. Not only was the day fun for her and the other mums, but they walked away with a big confidence boost and greater sense of connection. As Breanna says, “there’s something about looking your best that makes you feel your best”. She is proud that the day reached its goal of helping Leah and others feeling empowered.
Breanna reflects that she “used to be a midwife, which literally translated means ‘with women’, and that has been the basis of my professional practice.
“I want to empower our mums by working with them, walking beside them, and cheering them on as they go from strength to strength. It is a privilege to work with these amazing mums every day, watching them grow and supporting them to be the best they can be”.
COVID-19 won’t last forever, and Mercy Community will hold more “Pamper Days” and other events in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, we thank Caitlin, Brooke, and the other local businesses who stand beside Mercy and the strong, diverse people we support.
To support the New Families Program or other Mercy Community programs, please consider volunteering your time, or making a donation.
* Name has been changed for privacy