In the Karosta neighborhood of Liepaja, Latvia, new hope is being offered to single moms and their little ones. The Family Support Center Miera Osta provides holistic care for families and children residing in Karosta and the neighboring communities of Tosmare and Lauma.
That care now includes Baby Classes.
“The families we serve are low-income families in the area,” says Dace Rence, Director of Programs for MIera Osta. “Oftentimes, the parents are unemployed, and addiction is common. Living conditions are not proper for the healthy growth and development of the children. Unfortunately, many of the homes do not have proper heating or hot water.”
“We saw that there was no program in the area that specialized in ministering to the entire family. Our goal is to minister to the children by working with their parents or caregivers on a deeper level. The Baby Classes are another way for us to provide that care. Similar classes do exist, but they are too far away and too expensive for local mothers to attend.”
Zanda Bomfina-Oliveira da Silva is the director of the Family Support Center, and she has been instrumental in the launch of the new Baby Classes. Dace says the classes will do more than teach the basics of infant care. The classes are also open to mothers from healthier home environments – those who want to know how to better care for their children and to connect with other new moms.
“We see it as a possibility to mix together, integrate our “special” moms (meaning under-privileged families) with other mothers who with their own example and stories would challenge them to think, evaluate and learn new ways to connect with their babies.”
Dace says the goal of Zanda and the Family Support Center Miera Osta is to see more physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy families in Karosta. “Parents who have managed to heal their past traumas to connect with their children. We strongly believe that this connection and bond with parents can change the child’s future. We want to see the young mothers being able to connect with their babies and provide not only practical but also emotional care that would interrupt the vicious cycle of poverty, lack of education and unemployment. For the older children in the program we want to see their education goals reached. We want to see them finishing not only 9th grade but also 12th and thinking of further studies.”
The Baby Classes have been made possible through a grant provided by a local charity shop called Otra Elpa.” The funding ensures a slate of qualified professionals to offer guidance and wisdom – pediatricians, doulas, physiotherapists, and psychologists. Mothers may attend classes until the child is 3 years of age.
Both the Baby Classes and the work of the Family Support Center Miera Osta are set to have long-lasting impact on the people of Latvia. Dace shares, “We want to be known in Karosta and other socially deprived regions of the city of Liep?ja as a place of safety, encouragement and support. We want to see the children we work with graduate from high school and perhaps even going to a college. In next five years, we want to conduct Baby Classes in other parts of the city. We want to develop our cooperation with the local Social Services, and become a bridge between mothers who are scared to cooperate with institutions in fear of losing their children and the institutions who have many useful resources for the mothers and their children.”
Both Dace and Zanda look forward to developing sustaining partnerships with churches at both a local and international level. Providing ways for families to know, love, and serve Jesus Christ, covering every family in prayer and encouragement, and walking alongside families through mentorship are essential to the programs’ success. Volunteer opportunities include leading classes and workshops, providing activities for children and toddlers, leading fitness and dance classes, and providing humanitarian aid.