What is it like to be a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellow?
I applied for a Winston Churchill Fellowship in Early Years Prevention and Intervention in 2011. It is a funded travelling sabbatical that allows you to visit other countries to learn from their initiatives. I wanted to go to the Bronx in New York and look at HeadStart, an early intervention project, to see how they engage. I also attended ‘Semana do Bebe’ (Baby Week), a grassroots event in Brazil. My research project was ‘Enabling Parental Engagement in Urban Areas of Social Deprivation’.
What was the most important thing you learnt from the sabbatical?
In both the US and Brazil, the services were targeted towards those in most need, immigrants and unemployed people. A lot of people would not qualify for it and the service is used 100 per cent. Both areas had a network of close-knit community organisations who work with each other and local universities. All the organisations share resources and have one combined health visitor and family support/outreach worker. Semana do Bebe educed infant mortality, raised awareness about breast feeding and influenced policy.
How are you implementing what you learnt?
Working with a local steering group, we have now organised our own Baby Week in Leeds, which starts on 12 September. We will have a conference, networking and community events, exhibitions, stalls and a giant pram push and baby rave in Millennium Square. We have some excellent services in place, so we plan to celebrate these. We want an increase in attendance in non-registered families.