At least forty-eight mothers-to-be (and two new mothers) are now resting easier following Monday’s mass baby shower which was produced especially for some of the expectant mothers who were displaced by the recent La Soufriere eruptions.
According to, Latoya Deroche-John, one of the executive producers behind the mammoth outreach initiative, the idea was born after an interesting conversation with one displaced mother several weeks ago.
She told the first of two baby shower parties, “A couple weeks ago I was doing some boxes for some displaced persons in the community – food boxes. And one of the persons that messaged me was Mary-Ann.
“Mary-Ann is here now in this shower. And she said to me, ‘bring some food for me please and bring some fruits.’ That was the first time I was ever hearing such a request and very particular with the type of fruits she asked for … I packed the box and I got Mary-Ann’s fruits and I went to the house and Mary-Ann said to me that, you know, it was really rough for her.
“She was then eight and a half months pregnant and she’d evacuated from Sandy Bay and she didn’t have anything much – ‘I forget me birth paper, I don’t have this and I don’t have that’ and she listed all the things that she didn’t have. But what I noticed about Mary-Ann was her whole outlook.
“Through the entire conversation the smile never left her face. You know, you’re going through something as traumatic as just picking up what you have and just running and she was in such a positive frame of mind. And I went home and I thought of Mary-Ann and I said, ‘well I’m going to take on Mary-Ann as my personal project for the volcano.
“So during this period I am going to make sure Mary-Ann is OK and ready to have the baby. And then I went to sleep and woke up and – tada! I’m saying, ‘I wonder if they have other mommies like Mary-Ann? Who are pregnant, displaced, a little worried about what’s going to happen? And I put out a message on my Facebook account and it was shared over 400 times. And we ended up with 50 expectant mothers, some of them couldn’t wait any longer so you would see some babies here today – we love them just as much.”
Mary-Ann Nero, the first time mother-to-be who was credited as being the muse behind the outreach idea, told Asbert News Network, “I am really grateful to be a part of this venture. And the contributions made were really remarkable and would go a long way because they also saved us from buying various items. So once again a heartfelt thank you to Mrs. Latoya Deroche-John for everything she has done for me and my family. She has all my love and I hope she continue to flourish in her future endeavors.”
Nero remembered evacuating several days before the April 9 explosive eruptions. She said, “when we evacuated I was almost 8 months pregnant at the time, having felt so many earthquakes in one day; that’s when I decided to start packing and see if I could find accommodation before the volcano erupted.
“So I basically evacuated the Monday before the volcano erupted. I didn’t want to have to be in the rush as it relates to transportation etc. because I was in no position to run.
“First I stayed at a private home and was later relocated to Bay Hill Apartment. I wasn’t anxious or scared or anything. I just tried my best to remain calm, my main focus was my child. I want her to be healthy so I tried my best not to stress.”
Although she’s grateful to all who contributed what they could to make her as comfortable as possible given the circumstances, she confessed, “what I miss most about my life before is my poodle.
“I had to leave him behind. And the ability to be in the comfort of my own home surrounded by neighbors who would assist me in whatever I have to do for example making sure I don’t lift heavy items etc. and show me love and support making me feel comfortable during my pregnancy.
“As much I am comfortable where I am now – must say thank you to the management and staff of Bay Hill Apartment for making me feel at home away from home – but still there is no place like home.
“…Special thanks to my little sister Okiesha. She has been going above and beyond. Making sure I am well taken care of. To my big sister, my mom, brothers who would go to look for fruits for me, aunts, cousins and uncles – my entire family who made sure I got the love and support and are ensuring I get a safe delivery – I really appreciate it.”
The Baby Mamas – an adhoc group of 5 mothers who adopted the dozens of pregnant women – worked hard to ensure that each mother was gifted the same sets of baby care supplies. These included playpens, bathtubs, diapers, baby cereal and more valued in excess of $500.
The producers also sought to educate the expectant families about the importance of breastfeeding. To that end Health Ministry officials addressed the gathering in efforts to debunk some breastfeeding myths even as they stressed the need for exclusive breastfeeding for the babies’ first 6 months. The Baby Mamas even provided for a live crib assembly demo at the Sunset Shores Hotel hosted event.
Caricia Taylor, marketing executive for Digicel SVG – one of the project’s corporate partners – told the baby shower that her company’s involvement comes as a natural extension of their humanitarian outreach which was ramped up since the violent volcanic eruptions began.
“We literally dropped everything. We dropped what we refer to as BAU we dropped business as usual and we literally got all of our staff to be involved in some aspect of the La Soufriere volcano relief efforts. We’ve had our staff spend hours after hours packaging and preparing items for persons at displaced shelters and private homes and even so today for you expectant moms,” Taylor said.
Other telecoms-based volcano relief initiatives, Taylor noted, included reduced text messaging costs and free credit top ups.
Also addressing the baby shower was Junior Bacchus of the Lions Club family. He explained that his role was as ambassador for the service organization’s various chapters here since they have all combined resources to be of better service to the local volcano relief efforts.
Bacchus empathized with the expectant mothers, who, as he said, could not possibly be going through an easy experience. “I cannot express to you the frustrations you’ve gone through. Your experience is the only thing that could share that.
“The experience you’ve gone through to pick up and run while pregnant. It’s not an easy thing. And to go through that living in the shelters or even in private homes at least not in the place you expected you should have been. And Baby Mama’s thought it necessary to ease some of the pain and the frustrations that you’ve been going through….”
He further reflected, “I couldn’t imagine how they were going to make this happen… how could you have a baby shower with 50 prospective or current mothers?”
His role included securing funds to purchase some of the donated items. He was also able to source monies to satisfy a slight increase in the numbers of expectant mothers to be catered for.
“I was surprised when I spoke to Latoya and she informed me that we reached up to 50. So I said, ‘how are we going to make it happen.’ So I thought of it and I said, ‘Latoya, every single person would get the same thing that each other got because we had catered initially for about 38 persons.
“We ordered the cribs and all of that but we didn’t know we were going to reach 50…. The St. Augustine University of the West Indies, the [formerly named] Milners’ Hall Alumni, the head of that alumni body contacted me and I told her what we are doing here as Lions.”
This donor pledged US$1000.00 for the first month to supply persons who are in need of food vouchers and a second US$1000.00 to complement the Lions’ involvement in the displaced women’s baby shower initiative.
“So when Latoya said yesterday, ‘we need some more money to get the additional things,’ I said ‘we have it.’ I contacted Ms. Nicholls from the alumni and said ‘your money is going to go directly to buy cribs for the additional 12 mothers that will be here today’,” Bacchus added.
In her brief remarks, Shafia London-Williams, commercial manager at Bank’s Holdings Ltd, expressed heartfelt gratitude to the organizers for following through with their vision and not forgetting the “little things” which could also include the babies.
She also thanked Mary-Ann for “planting the seed” in Deroche-John’s head. London-Williams remarked, “There’s another group and that’s the group with babies and persons who have to either leave with their child and the child might be inside or outside [of her womb]. But that added stress was a tremendous one to even think about. And so I even started my own program and when Latoya told me about this program, there was no hesitation whatsoever.”
Ms. Gooding on behalf of her son Josh Gooding, a professional boxer currently plying his trade in the United Kingdom, also brought brief remarks. According to her, Josh’s efforts raised 6000 British pound sterling via his Gofundme.Org account.
“A good portion of that has been contributed to this event today and I’m sure that these lovely expectant mothers would like to join me in thanking Josh and everyone that donated from the UK,” Ms. Gooding said.
The St. Lucia based German Consulate has also pledged to supply more cribs if necessary.