BrightStart! supports mental health and wellbeing for mothers and preschool-aged children
Location: Saskatoon, SK
- Audience: Settlement workers
- Population of Interest: Newcomer mothers and preschool-aged newcomer children
- The Need: Immigrant and refugee mothers expressed feelings of isolation and of being overwhelmed, which was exasperated by the pandemic.
- What's Promising: BrightStart! allows immigrant and refugee mothers and children to feel a part of community – by providing a virtual safe space to connect, play and learn from one another.
- Key Takeaway: This program introduces new themes and activities each week, that are designed to meet the unique needs of both the mother and the child.
- Being a mom isn’t easy in the best of times, and during Covid-19 it’s a heroic feat. For newcomers, staying home with small children and living in an unfamiliar area without a support network can take a toll on mental health and family dynamics.
In Saskatoon, Global Gathering Place’s BrightStart! program interrupts isolation and feelings of being overwhelmed for vulnerable immigrant and refugee mothers and their preschool-aged children. It’s a reprieve from daily stressors and a safe place to connect, play, and learn from one another. When the pandemic began, clients told us they needed the program more than ever. Over the months our virtual sessions have welcomed many new participants, including dads who occasionally drop-in.
Each week has a different theme that inspires new vocabulary and activities, and stories. In addition, facilitators drop off craft supplies to participants’ homes so everyone can work together to create fun projects. Special guest speakers share information related to nutrition, health, and child development. Mothers practise English, build new parenting skills, socialize, and learn about community resources that fit their specific needs. Many children experience important “firsts” in BrightStart!—their first time with group interactions, first time playing with other children (often an emotional sight for mom!), and first time learning key skills that help prepare them for school.
Being with other newcomer mothers and building a network of support fosters a sense of community. The impact on mothers, children, and their family’s future in Canada cannot be fully measured, though we know it’s significant. At one session, a mother shared that she was going through a major depression because she felt so isolated. Having a weekly opportunity to socialize and learn about her new community was a game-changer. She began participating in other local programs and continued to get together with friends she met at BrightStart!.
As the pandemic continues to strain the mental health of clients and their families, we remain committed to helping newcomers feel welcomed, informed and connected. Here’s a recent quote from a BrightStart! participant:
“Because of Covid we do not go to participate in any programs. But, the BrightStart! program makes our kids happy & joy in this pandemic situation too. I feel this is an educated, mind-blowing, stress release family fun program!! The connection between our kids & the program is a joyful journey!!”