West Shore mom mentors going strong

Pregnant, 15-years-old and in high school can be the loneliest place in the world.

Alicia Pearce and Jennifer Powell lived that life 15 years ago while trying to finish school Belmont secondary. In the process they managed lay the groundwork for a support group that is helping young moms to this day.

At the time, both attended a parenting course at Belmont offered by Maureen Hobbs, a public health nurse who is now a member of the faculty of nursing at the University of Victoria.

Young moms coming together for support was an idea the women knew had to last beyond the school semester. “It was started by stubborn moms,” Powell quipped. “Who wanted to be good moms,” Pearce added.

“It just grew from there. We knew we needed a place to talk about what we are going through,” says Pearce, now a mother of two. The support group became Moms and Mentors.

“Being 15 with a baby, your friends don’t know what you are going through. We met moms, built friendships and relationships. We’re a family now – that’s what it’s given us.”

Hobbs, Pearce and Powell are part of the mentoring team who help dozens of young moms at weekly meetings and over the phone. These days the group meets in a portable classroom behind Ruth King elementary in Langford.

“I get a lot of ‘my baby is sick’ kind of calls,” says Powell, a nurse. “And legal calls (over custody). I often sit in court with a mom because its no fun going by yourself.”

“Mostly the group talks about kids, different experiences and troubles with kids. Things like teething and what we can do to help,” Pearce says. “We still have the same issues. There’s always first-time moms no matter what.”

Despite the consistent number of women who attend group meetings and seek parenting advice, Hobbs suspects there are many young moms in the community who are unaware that free parenting programs are available – such as day care at Belmont secondary.

In co-operation with the Sooke School District and UVic, Hobbs is guiding the Young Mothers Project, a survey of young moms on the West Shore and Sooke. Moms are being queried on what programs they use and what support they would like to see.

“Many moms don’t know about programs in the community,” Hobbs says. “We’re not sure how many moms are in the community not going to school. Being a young mom can be very isolating.”

Stephanie Kopp, 22, and a single mom, says Moms and Mentors helped keep her on track to finish high school when she had her son five years ago.

“Talking about parenting helped with the struggle of being young and in school,” she says. “Moms and mentors helped me get out of the house. A baby can be all consuming.”

She also earned a bursary through Moms and Mentors for a practicle nursing program at Camosun. The program operates on a “shoestring budget,” says Hobbs, and volutneers who help fundraise.

“It’s a struggle going to school and being a single parent,” Kopp says. “The cost is discouraging, bu tthe bursary helped me get back on track.”

For more information for either moms and those interested in becoming mentors, see www.momsandmentors.ca.