May 2018 Newsletter: Counsellor Spotlight – Alona Hodik

By BMSG Editorial Team

As part of recognising the work of our volunteer counsellors, we will be featuring our counsellors regularly in our monthly newsletter. Our counsellors come from all walks of life, which adds diversity to our counselling team. This month, we feature Alona Hodik, who is also caring for her three young children while studying to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Alona is also a member of the BMSG EXCO.

 

1) Tell us about yourself.

My name is Alona and I am married and a mother of three wonderful children – two girls and a baby boy. I have exclusively breastfed my girls for about two years each and am currently breastfeeding my little baby and hope to continue for at least two years as well. We have been living in Singapore for three years now and previously, we lived in Hong Kong for more than five years.

I am a certified breastfeeding specialist and a childbirth educator and I’m currently studying to become an IBCLC. My passion is to help mothers and babies to have a successful and happy breastfeeding journey. It is not always easy but I strongly believe that with the right support and help, most moms can do it!

 

Alona (seated 2nd from right) at a Mum 2 Mum Meetup with fellow counsellor Siti (front) and participants.

2) How long have you been a BMSG breastfeeding volunteer counsellor?

I have been a breastfeeding counsellor for a year now and I have really enjoyed it.

 

3) What inspired you to become a volunteer counsellor?

Ever since my eldest daughter was born five and a half years ago, I fell in love with breastfeeding and over the years found myself helping a lot of my friends and neighbours with breastfeeding their babies. After doing that informally for a few years, I have decided I want to  pursue my passion more seriously and become involved in the Singapore breastfeeding scene. I couldn’t think of a better way than to become a breastfeeding counsellor with BMSG.

 

4) What were some of the most memorable moments you had in your counselling work?

There were a lot of memorable moments during the course of my counselling work but one of the most memorable ones is when a mum who was really struggling to breastfeed her newborn and asked quite a lot of questions on the BMSG Facebook support group (which I very happily answered), wrote in a separate post that finally breastfeeding was going really well and that it was thanks to the help she received in the group. This is why I love being a breastfeeding counsellor!

Alona is also one of our facilitators for BMSG’s Breastfeeding 101 workshops.

5) How do you juggle between your responsibilities at home, your counselling work and studying to become an IBCLC?

I am caring for my newborn baby and two older daughters on top of juggling my other responsibilities. It’s not always easy to juggle it all but I feel that my counselling work is so important that I just make time for it! I also rely on my amazing colleagues at BMSG who are always happy to help!

May 2018 Newsletter: BMSG 28th Annual General Meeting

By BMSG Editorial Team

It was a cosy affair on 12 May as members of the public, BMSG members and the EXCO gathered together at SCWO for our Annual General Meeting (AGM). As usual, our AGM is a yearly affair where the BMSG team gets to meet our stakeholders, including mothers we have served, people who are invested in the breastfeeding scene as well as family and friends.

BMSG President, Elaine Chow (standing), presenting our Annual Report.

There was an air of excitement in the room as the BMSG team donned our newly-designed t-shirts, which was lovingly produced by our staff and counsellor-in-training JoBeth Williams. As we gathered to hear from our current President, Elaine Chow, while munching on snacks, it was heartwarming to also see the little ones join us. From babies in arms, to sleeping toddlers and chatty preschoolers, it was hard to miss the fact that without these little humans, BMSG would never have come into existence.

We were also heartened to discover that among our attendees was Anna Chin, who was once a Vice-President of BMSG in the 1970s. Anna, who is 75 now, was one of BMSG’s presidents in the 1970s. What was particularly heartwarming to know was when JoBeth, who is a mother of two, shared with us how Anna had been key to helping JoBeth’s mother made the decision to breastfeed her when she was a baby! How life has come full circle is one of the most beautiful things to learn about.

 

JoBeth (left) with our president, Elaine (centre), and Anna (right) who helped JoBeth’s mother made the decision to breastfed her when she was a baby.

As per our usual AGM routine, Elaine presented the Annual Report (AR) which was divided into 4 main sections:

  1. Outreach
  2. Activities & Events
  3. Collaborations and
  4. Media report (mentions of BMSG in the media)

Over the course of 2017 and the first half of 2018, BMSG has delved into several initiatives that were meant to extend our reach to mothers, improve the quality of our services as well as to provide more platforms for mothers to meet.

 

Counselling

Notably, our counselling platforms have increased; while we used to only serve mothers via our hotlines, we have seen a growing demand on our Facebook (FB) group which urged us to streamline our counselling efforts online. We rostered more counsellors to respond to queries on Facebook, ensuring that they were available to comment and help mothers through every Facebook enquiry. Our FB group now consists of over 11,700 members and the numbers are growing everyday. We also saw a demand for fathers and other family members apart from mums wanting to join our FB group to seek knowledge and support, which then led us to open up another FB group called “Breastfeeding Families” to cater to this need. Additionally, we also offer WhatsApp counselling which has seen a huge following since its inception possibly due to the increased privacy that mothers crave especially since breastfeeding can be a rather personal issue.

 

Workshops

With the increase in demand, especially with our Breastfeeding 101 workshop following our huge price change at the beginning of 2018 ($35 per couple and free for Community Health Assist Scheme – CHAS – cardholders), we have also started to offer monthly BF101 workshops. Our workshops have been selling out like hotcakes and we are looking into firming up our resources, especially since we are training a new batch of counsellors, which is our yearly investment to constantly improve our quality of services.

 

Activities

Our activities in 2017 and in early 2018 have been focused on reaching out to mums. We have also been offering our Mum 2 Mum (M2M) meetups since 2017, alternating between weekdays and weekends. We have found repeat attendees and some participants also come along with their family members in order to educate or to involve them in understanding the needs of a breastfeeding family. Our M2Ms are also high in demand but we try to keep the numbers small to keep the meetups cosy. We hope to continue this effort in 2018 with more vigour and variety – we have just recently collaborated with the National University Hospital (NUH) to conduct monthly meetups, and we also hope to target pregnant mothers as well. We are also collaborating with babywearing educators from Babywearing Singapore to provide breastfeeding knowledge in their workshops for parents held at the local libraries over the month. Definitely exciting times ahead!

Our EXCO members and staff (Nabila & JoBeth, in maroon & grey baby carriers respectively) donning our newly designed t-shirts!

Breastfeeding Advocacy

Our presence in the media is also important. As an organisation that prides itself on equipping members with breastfeeding support and upgrading of breastfeeding knowledge, providing information to the public is key in helping to normalise breastfeeding. This is where we are more than a service provider but also the platform for us to advocate for breastfeeding and provide accurate information as well as topple myths and misperceptions towards breastfeeding. Our President and Vice-President (Khatim Hamidon) have been quoted in the media a few times this year on matters related to breastfeeding.

We are also proud to announce that we have been successfully inducted into the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) under its Asian chapter. Our President had had the honour of attending its General Assembly earlier this year and we are now part of a global network of organisations and individuals who are fighting hard and working towards policies around the world that will impact the way young babies and children are fed.

As we look back at 2017, we can’t help but be excited at what’s to come. We have a long road ahead of us and many expectations to fulfill from the mothers we serve. We are excited at how much we have grown but we also know it comes with a lot of hard work, team effort and commitment. We hope that the coming year will see more concerted effort and celebration success big or small.

For a full copy of our AR, click here.

For a full copy of our Financial Report, click here.