Social distancing, isolation and quarantine caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has left many families feeling anxious and isolated, with fewer opportunities to meet with other parents to share experiences and build up supportive bonds.

As restrictions eased, local Home-Starts shifted gear from staying connected through digital communications to encouraging families to venture outside their homes to reconnect communities.

Camila Fernandez-Mader is a first time mum who moved to Southsea just before lockdown. Moving to a new town, then going through pregnancy and giving birth during the pandemic took a significant toll on her mental health. Camila’s health visitor referred her to Home-Start Portsmouth, who connected Camila to local mums, enabling her to overcome her feelings of isolation.

Camilla said: "Moving to a new area wasn’t a huge issue while I was busy working. But once my daughter Charlotte arrived, in July 2020, I felt very alone and was in a bad place mentally and emotionally. I really needed my mum, but she was back home in Brazil. 

With no outside stimulation, as time went by, I felt lower and lower. I wasn’t meeting anyone and could go for days with little social contact. My health visitor said it was important for my mental health to go out and meet people and recommended the nurturing programme run by Home-Start Portsmouth.

I had no expectations of the group and how it would help turn things around for me in such a major way. With each session my knowledge and ability to be a good parent grew and grew. Even simple things like giving my baby options was really helpful.

I was surprised to see there were so many new mums also feeling lonely and upset. When the course ended we all felt quite sad. It left a hole and we missed it. So when, two weeks later, we were invited to a Home-Start picnic to bring us all back together it really lifted me. At the picnic there were lots of news mums I hadn’t met before. It was so lovely to chat to them and for Charlotte to play and interact with the babies.

A picnic sounds like such a small thing but it’s made such a big difference to my life. The picnic really kicked off the start of a new social life for me and Charlotte. I feel so much more part of the community now. I really needed this. It’s made me feel 100% better.”

To improve the health and wellbeing of new parents, Home-Start Surrey Heath created a Pram Walk & Talk programme. Emma Junior, who has a three year daughter and one year-old twins describes how tough life was until she started attending the Pram Walk & Talks.

Emma said: “Being in the fresh air lifted me more than anything I’d tried since my twins were born. The walk was lovely and afterwards we went to the play area which the kids loved.

The volunteers and other mums provided an extra sets of hands that made being outside with the kids so much more enjoyable and far less stressful. And, most importantly, it gave me an opportunity to make friends by bringing together a lot of local mums. We’ve formed the most wonderful support network and we have set up a WhatsApp group we use to chat or ask for help.

Attending this group has been a big deal for me. When you’ve had a baby it can be so hard to get yourself together and leave the house.”

Read next - A week in the life of a Home-Start volunteer: Nalini

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