Local program provides a very different baby bonus

An innovative Blue Mountains-based program that started as a simple idea is now making the lives of dozens of new parents that little bit easier.

Energy-sapped mother Christy Hartlage and community worker Jeanette Crawford were at a playgroup in 2008 when they identified the need for a service that sends volunteers to parents’ homes for a set time each week to help out.

“Two years ago we had three volunteers and my son Arlo and I were one of the first clients,” Ms Hartlage said.

“We now have 12 active volunteers, we’ve supported 26 families and that list is growing, so we are hoping to recruit and train more volunteers.

“It is not a babysitting service — the volunteer visits the family when they are at home.”

Operated through Connect Child and Family Services, the service was a finalist in the 2014 Zest Awards in the category of outstanding voluntary group.

YAWN client Lucy Cooper moved to Australia from England two years ago, she does not have family to help here and her husband needs to travel often for work.

She started having home visits from YAWN program volunteer Sharon Mitchell not long after her daughter Molly Jankowska was born 11 months ago and the family relocated from Sydney to Glenbrook.

“Sharon has been coming for two hours every Tuesday and although it doesn’t sound like much, it’s made such a difference to us and it’s a solid slot you can rely on,” Ms Cooper said.

“Sharon is extremely caring and loyal and has a background in infant massage.

“She is great with Molly and she has become a good friend to me and I think that friendship will continue when I no longer need to use the program.

“I’m hopeful of being a volunteer when the time is right.”

Mrs Mitchell said the experience of volunteering has been equally rewarding.

“Being a parent, the beauty of it for me is just being able to help Lucy come back to her normal self and enjoy the moments of being a new mother and to see both her and Lucy thrive.”

In addition to YAWN, families can come to Heatherbrae House in Lawson and use the play house and possum toy library as a meeting point.

For more information about YAWN or how to become a volunteer, phone Christy or Jeanette on 4758-9966 or visit www.connect.asn.au

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