AmeriCorps is celebrating older Americans in service – those adults and Baby Boomers who are continuing to stay involved in their communities through volunteering. Beth Keenan (Spokane, WA ’13-’14) is a JVC Northwest AmeriCorps member who gets to serve alongside some of these dedicated volunteers. She writes about the enriching intergenerational experience below.
I am beyond lucky to be serving with the Childbirth and Parenting Assistance Program (CAPA) of Catholic Charities Spokane in Washington. CAPA is a wrap-around program, serving vulnerable families with children under age five with free, confidential, and non-mandated pregnancy and parenting support services. These services include counseling, support groups, parenting classes, doula mother mentors, a father mentoring group, and emergency diaper/clothing resources. Our mission is to create hope, strengthen families, and transform generations through comprehensive, compassionate care for each parent and child who walks through our doors. CAPA is a unique place, one where parents and their children come to feel known, loved, and safe.
One of the most life-giving aspects of my time serving with CAPA has been assisting with case management for the Doula Mother Mentor Program. Through this program, new moms are matched with volunteer mother-mentors called doulas from the Spokane community. The doulas and mothers spend two hours a week together, for one year, creating a relationship bonded through non-judgmental and unconditional love, friendship, and motherhood. Together, they navigate the twists and turns of parenting, celebrating all of the joy-filled and challenging moments of motherhood. When a new or expectant mother walks into CAPA, she has courageously made the decision to seek out additional support as she begins her parenting journey. She is then matched with a doula, who honors this bravery by getting to know her as a woman, a mother, and an individual who is worthy of love and belonging. This doula-mama relationship is based in accompaniment, which allows the doula and the new mom the space to grow, love, and experience life together, rather than feeling like they need to fix or change one another. Doulas model positive parenting behaviors, teach through actions, and share wisdom that they have cultivated throughout their own years as mothers.
CAPA doulas are some of the most giving, big-hearted women that I have ever met. They lead busy lives often juggling work, being present with their own children and grandchildren, yet they make it a priority to carve out two hours each week to accompany their new mother. I am in a constant state of awe at how they can share their hearts with not only their own children/grandchildren, but with their new mom as well. Often, doulas have children who have left home and established their own families, so they bring perspective and wisdom in remarkable ways.
Many of the doulas bring over 25 years of parenting experience to their relationships. One of our doulas, Kathleen*, has been matched with a CAPA mom, Bridget* for over ten years, walking with her as she brought her first little one into the world and is still along for the ride with the birth of Bridget’s fourth child. Bridget’s children think of Kathleen as their grandmother, as she has been a consistent, loving presence their whole lives.
Doulas are an invaluable aspect of the CAPA program and of the Spokane community as a whole. There are many different ways that these women could have chosen to given their time to the community and all of us at CAPA are so grateful that they have elected to walk with our CAPA moms. Through their service of accompanying these young families, our doula mentors are truly transforming generations.
* Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality