About Project MAMA

Project MAMA is a charitable organisation launched in March 2018 that offers a free, confidential and individual-focused support. Having spent the past few years working with asylum-seeking survivors of human trafficking, founder Fiona Mann became aware that most of the women she worked with had experienced sexual exploitation or violence, resulting in pregnancy. Women seeking asylum in the UK frequently give birth in hospital on their own, with little understanding of the maternity process in the UK and no support networks around them. Thus, Project MAMA was set up to respond to the need for women to have solidarity and support through their journey to motherhood.

We support women refugees, asylum-seekers, those with uncertain immigration status and survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking. We are focusing on this demographic because of the extreme difficulty women can have accessing the NHS, the language barriers they are facing and the extreme social isolation they experience.

Project MAMA is a hive of midwives, activists, doulas and birth companions as part of a peer network of skills, support and solidarity for these women and their children.

What do we do?

Project MAMA’s ethos is to encourage independence and resilience in women by providing a safe and nurturing space. We aim to promote women’s choices, enable access to peer support and to promote an understanding of a a woman’s rights and entitlements surrounding maternity healthcare.

Project MAMA offers two programs of support. These are:

Mother Companions

Project MAMA matches peer support Mother Companions (MC’s) with pregnant women who otherwise lack a birth partner. Women therefore have one-to-one support ensuring companionship and a nurturing presence during this challenging time.
Women are assigned two dedicated volunteer Mother Companions (MC’s) with a doula or midwifery background, experienced in working with women from migrant populations. MC’s will provide the space and support to encourage women to empower themselves, equipping her with the tools to understand her pregnancy, the NHS system of healthcare and her rights and entitlements so she can make informed birth choices. MC’s provide an emotionally supportive space to un-pack ideas, concerns and wishes along with robust antenatal support exploring comfort measures and exercises that promote a positive labour and birth.
During a woman’s labour, MC’s will be by her side for the duration, offering emotional, practical and advocacy support and MC’s continue to be present in the following weeks after childbirth to ensure both mother and baby are thriving.

Bumps & Babes Without Borders

Women are invited to attend Three B’s – Bumps and Babes without Borders. Our hub is for expectant and new mamas for support throughout pregnancy until baby is a year old. Three B’s is a place that promotes solidarity and support for mamas and their babes to come socialise with other mamas, share birth stories and talk through your pregnancy journey with others.

To ensure mamas are able to access the service, we reimburse travel costs.

Every week we have different activities available such as:

  • Infant feeding & sleep support
  • Pregnancy group
  • Guidance on being a new mama
  • Pregnancy & baby yoga
  • Pregnancy & baby massage
  • Relaxation sessions
  • Crafting items for baby and you
  • Complimentary herbal remedies
  • Mama nurture sessions
  • Perhaps most importantly, tea and cake!

There is no need to refer into the project, please just come along every Friday from 12pm – 3pm
at Salvation Army Citadel, 6 Ashley Rd, Bristol BS6 5NL.

Why we need to do this

The trauma women experience on their journey to the UK and often once they have arrived can cause many to suffer from extreme mental health issues. Additionally these women often have no family members or community around them during pregnancy, labour and the crucial weeks after birth. This can be a terrifying and lonely experience.

Women who are seeking asylum and have uncertain immigration status have difficulties in accessing healthcare in the UK. As such, these women are three times more likely to die in childbirth and four times more likely to suffer postnatal depression than other women in the UK. Their babies are more likely to be stillborn or born prematurely, to have a low birth weight, or to have birth defects.
(Source: Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2015).

Furthermore, two thirds of women refugees are the survivors of sexual assault as a direct result of forced migration, of which pregnancy can be a consequence.
(Source: Reproductive Health Matters, 2015)

Project MAMA address’ these issues and bridge this gap so women will have the support they need during the maternity period. Project MAMA provides crucial antenatal, birth and postnatal support to asylum-seekers and refugees in Bristol.

Who are we?

Fiona Mann – Founder & Coordinator

Fiona set-up Project MAMA after several years working with women seeking-asylum in the UK who were survivors of human trafficking and modern slavery. Fiona has worked within the context of women’s support services for 10 years in the UK and further afield. She completed a masters degree in Gender Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) with expertise in sexual violence amongst vulnerable populations. Fiona comes from a background of supporting survivors through grassroots movements and solidarity projects.

Louise Mensah – Donations Coordinator

Louise completed a Masters Degree in Health Promotion and Psychology in 2005, and has since focused her work in mental health services, moving into working directly with survivors of human trafficking in 2012. She is an advocate of responsive parenting and breastfeeding and following personal challenges with this became a recognised ‘Mother Supporter’ through the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers in 2018. Her impassioned belief in supporting mothers – particularly those who have experienced trauma – has enabled her to devise Project MAMA’s peer support group; ‘Bumps and Babes without Borders’ with dedicated and specialist support in mind.

Dr Loubaba Mamluk – Trustee

Dr Loubaba Mamluk is a Senior Research Associate in Epidemiology at the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care West at the University of Bristol. Until recently, most of her research concerned early-life influences pregnancy and childhood. She comes from Syria and has worked to lead and support the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Bristol through Citizens UK. These efforts led to formulating the hypothesis for and developing of a multi-country project on the mental health and well-being of Syrian refugees in the UK “Syrian mental Health Assessment and Migration Study”.

Jenny Joseph – Chair of Trustees

Jenny has been involved in environmental and human rights activism throughout the past 20 years. In 2009, she left the self sufficient small holding she founded in rural France to work in the Gambia where she focused her efforts on sustainable farming practices and livelihood diversification. After moving back to the UK, Jenny took on the role of volunteer coordinator at Embercome, an environmental education charity in Devon. In 2016 she used her skills and expertise to support her sons in founding a refugee support centre in Athens, Greece.

Amy Garrett – Trustee

Amy is a Birth Doula and a founding volunteer Mother Companion with Project MAMA. Following the birth of her 2 children she pursued her interest in childbirth and parenting by establishing a parenting support group in Bristol.
Amy studied Antenatal Education with the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) and then went on to
train as a Doula and is a recognised birth doula with Doula UK. She has a background in marketing and sales for social housing projects and has completed voluntary placements for a number of Bristol based charities.

Rebecca Vincent – Associate Trustee

Rebecca is a tattoo artist and activist living in London. She started working with refugees in 2015 and over the last 3 years she has coordinated collections of aid to distribute in Calais and Dunkirk. Rebecca is an advocate for women who experience postnatal depression under significant immigration pressures. Rebecca brings to the role her own personal experience of postnatal depression along with ensuring that no woman should go through the postnatal period unsupported.

…last but not least, our Mother Companions!

Project MAMA would not exist without the hard, dedicated and compassionate work of Peggy, Alison, Amy, Jay, Suyai, Wendy, Claire, Ceri and Grace. THANK YOU! xx

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