If the old adage rings true in that it takes a village to raise a child, the Great Expectations program can certainly raise a glass to its success as it celebrates 10 years in the community.
Since launching in Westgrove, Jameswood and Heritage Victoria schools in 2002, thousands of new mothers and their babies have filled the program’s pre- and post-natal weekly support classes to capacity.
For Charleswood resident Darcy Petursson, the organization has been crucial in helping her raise her four children.
"I wouldn’t know half of what I know without them," Petursson said.
The first member of her circle of friends to become pregnant, Petursson came to the free drop-in program in 2003 looking to meet new mothers going through experiences similar to the ones she did raising her prematurely-born son.
What she found was a "nurturing environment" complete with supports including a public health nurse and dietician who gave advice on the development of her son, along with presentations covering childhood sickness, car seat safety, healthy eating and more.
"It gave me more tools to be able to cope with situations I’ve been faced with as a parent," Petursson said.
"It’s a wonderful feeling to be part of a group that cares wholeheartedly and have seen you grow and your children grow," she said.
Mothers like Petursson who return with their second and third children are commonplace in the program, which sees about 60 mothers a week, co-ordinator Traci Wright said.
That’s because the program owes it success to the mothers, who help direct the content of the classes, she said.
"Adults vote with their feet so the topics need to be timely," said Wright, adding mothers gain a sense of ownership of the program.
"If you want to know about sleep or teething, you want to know now."
Hiring more staff and providing similar programming for new fathers are part of the organization’s plans moving forward, said Debbie Love, executive director of the Heritage Park Children’s Program, which co-operates Great Expectations.
The program receives funding from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, and with additional support Love hopes she can add two more staff members to reduce class sizes and keep up with demand.
"Having 28 moms and 28 babies can be a challenge," she said, noting the optimal class size is about 10 to 12 people.
Demand for the program has seen classes move from Jameswood School to the Deer Lodge Community Centre, and from Heritage Victoria Elementary School to the Heritage Victoria Community Centre, she said.
For more, including a listing of classes, visit www.heritage-park.org.