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Delft MaMa’s 10th anniversary August 2017

Ten years ago together with some of the Delft MaMa’s original board members, I signed a notarial act officializing Stichting Delft MaMa (The Delft Maternity And Motherhood Assistance Foundation) to serve the Delft international community of pregnant women and mothers of babies.

As my own son who is born in 2003 grew up, Delft MaMa gradually expanded to mothers of children up to the standard age of the end of primary school in The Netherlands, ie  12 years.  Our goal has been to promote the well-being and participation/ integration of international mothers (-to-be) by sharing information about the local system related to healthcare, daycare, education and service providers to make you feel at home and empowered. Another very important concept has been to bring mothers together to share their experiences and doubts in a safe and open-minded way. Parenting is not easy, especially when you no longer have your relatives and long time friends around.

Delft MaMa has grown into a very dynamic and supportive  community, with so many cultures and languages. Facebook and email newsletters have replaced our original email messages and magazine in PDF thanks to Vanessa Later. Information fairs are no longer needed as other organizations in Delft ended up taking them over. In our first year, we received funding for what was innovative at a time : an information fair about prenatal and postnatal care (two thirds in Dutch and one third in English with over 30 participating organizations and service providers). Three months later, we were organizing a multicultural baby festival at our then new public library DOK at Vesteplein 100. We had amateur artists from several countries who lived in Delft show off their artwork about maternity using various media for three weeks. This was a partnership with Stichting Kunzt and artistic Delft mamas. The opening had live lullabies from classic music to folk songs. A representative of Indonesian museum Nusantara came to tell us about traditions when a baby is born and how to protect him/her form evil spirits.  Several Delft mothers created large posters with texts and pictures about what the  original traditions of welcoming a child into this world are like in their countries. It was very well received by DOK visitors and staff.

This could not have happened without Sjoerd from the Delft volunteer office, Irina Thio from Foundation Voor Delft, top trainer El batoul Zembib and Hafida Azouagh coordinator of the Gemeente Delft leadership programme Stuurvrouwen for highly educated women born outside of the Netherlands who wanted to become board members of local non-profits, associations and political parties. Brenda Kooy-Grootscholten from Bedrijf en Samenleving Delft was later an important supporter of Delft MaMa, just like Elinor Abramson, Tonya Tolmeijer, Myra Hillebrink, Bianca Blaak and Sephine Laros. A special thank you to our original board members Suchandana Roy, Nushaba Mirzazade, Grace Akebe, Shenandoah Evans and Renee Veldman-Tentori.

Foundation 1818 and the municipality of Delft were crucial financial supporters of our yearly city wide events. Delft MaMa would also not have been possible without the involvement of many volunteers from workshops to board meetings, to fairs and second-hand markets we have organized for the last ten years. I no longer have to convince institutions that any parent Dutch or international finds it nice and useful to get information not only about products but about knowledge and finding experts when things become more complicated, whether it is picking a primary school or a special needs specialist. With the recent makeover of our beautiful website we share a lot of practical information on web pages, an online calendar and the very popular blog expert. Our newsletter still highlights fun things to do or useful things to know about what is going on in Delft and becoming an active Delftenaar.

Together we are happier, more in balance and have more fun! All your contributions through donating your time, ideas and occasionally funds has made this exciting community a reality, and I keep marvelling at all your strength, resilience, creativity and being honest and vulnerable too.

When I moved to Delft on January 1st 2003 and became pregnant within 3 months, no one ever told me about resources for international parents in the region. I made friends with local mothers, then with international mothers who had traumatizing experiences, and once my son turned one and a half I launched what became a year later Stichting Delft MaMa meeting hundreds of mothers every year first in person and now mostly online as a moderator now that my son is almost 14. Delft as a city has much to offer to us: low criminality and many intellectually interesting things to do, sports, jobs and beautiful architecture where riding a bike is made easy. Looking back, I can only be proud of this wonderful experience that I hope we will all keep maintaining and adjusting for many years to come. This year we have special activities such as our upcoming mosaic and barbecue and can’t wait to see you there!

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Pieces of us

When you move places, countries, cultures, you know pretty much what you leave behind, but you never truly know what lays ahead. You get a bit excited, you gather information, you make plans. And no matter how good you prepare yourself, you find yourself at a certain point in this new place, away from what feels familiar, struggling to put back all the (missing) pieces in your life.

When I moved to Delft, I knew I needed an international community to help me with what I needed back then: to help my daughter the best in her international transition. For me, finding Delft Mama was just a few clicks away. I immediacy found gatherings and get togethers which made me meet interesting people. Later on, just a question here and there, and many Delft mamas were always eager to share their knowledge and information with others.

Building such a vibrant and strong community does not just happened by chance. But I am sure when Lucie Herraiz Cunningham started Delft MaMa 10 years ago, she could not imagine where it stands now. All the international parents involved in so many projects, helping each other, and helping the city of Delft as well. Because, there is what we all have in common,  the beautiful city we live in.

Image: Nan Deardorff McClain

One of the activities this year, to mark the 10th anniversary of Delft MaMa, is the nicest community project of making a beautiful, big mosaic on an “ugly”, empty wall. One of our Delft mamas, Nan Deardorff MacClain, who you might know from various mosaic art projects in the city centre, will be coordinating this project.

Image: Nan Deardorff McClain

The mosaic project is going to be a wonderful tribute to the awesome organization that Lucie started 10 years ago to help international women connect and support each other during the demanding years of mothering babies and young children. The mosaic, once approved by Gemeente Delft and funded, with a combination of grants and a crowd-funding effort, will be installed at the Achtertuin playground, a place that has a large, vandalized wall. We will be including neighbors, hopefully during their annual straatfeest, as well as Delft Mama members and their families at a picnic at the Delftse Hout on June, 25th. Other workshops will happen in May during the mama’s nights out and at the weekly playgroups. The installation of the mosaic, once it is completed will happen in August, if all goes according to plan!

Keep an eye on the calendar and the different events on our Facebook page. You all can participate, and add the little pieces of your own personality and artistic skills to this amazing collaboration. Because Delft MaMa is all of us. And this mosaic will be an unique, urban, work of art. Made by pieces of us.

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Delft MaMa takes The Hague

Delft MaMa, represented by a group of kind-hearted volunteers, was one of the 140 institutions present at the largest expat fair in the Netherlands.
This annual event organized by The Hague Online in partnership with ACCES  celebrated its 10th edition.

“… have you heard about the most thriving parenting community in the South of Holland? … ” “Delft MaMa is…?” “New in town..?”

and so the day went by at the Feel at Home International Family Fair past Sunday the 5th of February.

From 11 am until 5 pm the City Hall of the Hague, hosted over four thousand people coming from every corner of the world.

Many were the visitors that stopped by to meet and greet a small representation of the people that build our community. Amongst crayons, boxes of raisins, bubble blowing bottles and face painting, our Delft MaMas got engaged with families coming from Canada, Italy, India, China, Japan, England, Hungary and The Netherlands, to name a few.

Complicity smiles and tips about parenting in a third culture environment where joyfully shared.

We hope we will see new faces in the upcoming events real soon!

A big thanks to everyone involved in making this fair a success, before, during and after.     

 

 images of the video by Ildikó Wooning and Eva Sabina Amaral, editing by Ildikó Wooning. Pictures Shadi Parsa, Eva Sabina Amaral and Agnès Batllori

 

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Delft Mama of the week: América

She has a delicate voice, but a lot of power behind her words. She talks about politics, her enthusiastic boys, her upcoming wedding and about her love for running. You might have hard time guessing this elegant lady used to be a lead singer of a punk band and loved skateboarding and judo, but the fire and passion that has seemingly always resided in her becomes clear quite fast. And she’s our mom of the week, América.

Brazilian América met her Dutch soon-to-be husband Robert at a wedding of a Brazilian and Dutch couple. Two years later she found herself living in Delft and starting a family. At eight weeks of pregnancy the couple went to see the midwife for a sonogram. “Oh, I see something”, said the midwife and paused for a second. América and Robert both saw it on the screen; their wishes had been answered – twice. At first América got worried, because she had no immediate family around her, but eventually got used to the idea. Identical twins Sven and 16 minutes younger Thomas were born some 28 weeks after the first sonogram in 2014.

I ask América the question she probably has answered a thousand times by now: have you always been sure which one is which? “I was worried about it when we got home from the hospital, because they had been wearing the bracelet tags all along. My kraamzorgster helped me a lot though. She said “now let’s take a good look at them, you’re their mother” and ever since I’ve known which one is which”, América says. Now it even seems funny to her she could have ever felt confused in the beginning, because as identical as the boys may be, there is a big difference in them in her trained eyes. To make it easier for everyone else around, the parents dress the boys differently and gives them different haircuts too.

Our mom of the week fills her days with her boys by mapping the over 200 playgrounds in Delft (yes, you read that amount correctly) and soon she’ll start blogging for DMM, too. Alone with two toddlers, going out to a playground became a challenge, so she started making notes about her favorite ones. “I started to look for playgrounds that were closed with a fence, small and that didn’t have huge climbing racks”, she says. América was open at the consultatiebureau about the challenges going outdoors with her fast twin boys and to her aid, the consultatiebureau offered a volunteer grandma through their Home Starter program. América, Sven and Thomas have been enjoying the company of their Dutch grandma for half a year now for three hours a week. She speaks Dutch, helps América with things she needs the support in, but respects her ways of raising the children. “You’ll tell what kind of help you need. In the beginning she would not interfere, but now I ask her advice and she helps me. The volunteers respect your parenting and are there for the support”, América explains. The boys are very strong-willed and as a mother, América needs to be very strict and consequent with them. “By becoming a mom, I found out I’m really strong”, she rejoices.

América has a background in communication design and a vast interest in photography, handicrafts and history. She got her degree in Germany and stayed there for over a decade before returning back to Brazil only to find out she had hard time adapting back to her native land. Brazil had changed and so had América. Life with Robert took her to Delft and the years in the Netherlands have been good for them. However, in the upcoming summer the family is packing up their belongings and moving to Oman in the Middle East for a duration of a job contract. América tells me moving there means the couple needs to get married, fast I might add. When they found out about the need for a marriage certificate in order to move there as a family, Robert scheduled a babysitter for the boys, took América to Paris and properly proposed to her in a place that holds a lot of meaning to the couple. She smiles the entire time she talks about her family or her upcoming wedding, even though it has been one busy schedule trying to make it all happen. Her dress will be mint green, which is also the color for celebration in Oman according to our bride. And the wedding date? No other than Valentine’s Day!

After the wedding, the planning and packing will start. The family will be living in a compound with around 200 other families, but América is already looking forward to Oman outside the neighborhood. “In the beginning I was a little worried about moving to Oman, but then I started to learn about it and now I’m really excited about moving there”, she tells and continues explaining how she’s looking forward to the hot weather and maxi dresses, the outdoors, sand, camels and beaches, but most of all learning Arabic. “It’s a chance to learn it and get new influence of other ways of living. It’s good to open up the horizons”, she smilingly adds. Seeing how América takes up on a challenge and turns even the simplest things into something educational, useful or beautiful, I can’t wait to talk to her once she returns to Delft, a little over three years from now…

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Sparkle

Lights heart Delft
December lights at the Blue Heart (picture by Tarja van Veldhoven)

“What time is it?”, she asks impatientely running through the front door. She glances at the clock and with a sigh she sits on the sofa. Just in time for Sinterklaasjournaal. The presents are still empty, the cake is still not baked properly. I could really get annoyed with these plots, they are every year the same (big spoiler ahead, yes, it all ends well, pakjesavond will be a succes). But I am not. I am nostalgically enjoying the last remains of a childhood mirage. Her eyes sparkle in front of the TV, her remarcs are fun.

Sinterklaas intocht Delft
Sinterklaas intocht in Delft (picture by Tarja van Veldhoven)

I am sure the term Sinterklaas is something most of you hear all the time these days. Even if you are new in The Netherlands you simply cannot miss the Sint Nicholaas celebrations. Even though Saint Nicholas is celebrated in quite a few other Europeans countries, the way it is done in the Nederlands is unique. Your kids might be glued to the TV ever since Sinterklaas arrived by steam boat to the Netherlands and follow the exciting Sinterklaasjournaal like my 12-year-old daughter still does. You probably went and waved the arrival of the Sint in Delft and saw the Piets on their jetskis. Your child might be begging you to put his or her shoe at the fireplace every night and hopes really hard it will be filled next morning.

Just a few more days and December will start. With first Sinterklaas pakjesavond of course. Let’s be honest, it can be overwhelming a bit, there are so many things happening. So many lights and meals and celebrations, Christmas, Santa Lucia, Hannukkah, New Year’s and even Three Kings in January. But besides all the fuss, presents, family outings and travelling, there are so many nice and cosy and fun things to do in Delft. These can bring some amazing sparkle to your December days and nights.

It all starts with the now famous Lichtjesavond, this year on the 13th of December. I remember the first time I went, my daughter was only two years old. I remember her big eyes, her excitement, the red nose and cheeks and the fun we had that freezing night. She looked amazed at the podium performaces and she was extatic when the big Christmas tree got its lights on. A sparkling evening treat.

Christmas tree Delft
The Christmas tree in the Markt, the city’s eye catcher (picture by Tarja van Veldhoven)

What I am most looking forward to is the ice skaing ring that is returnig to Delft this year. Other than the years before, it will be located at the TU Delft, so a bit further away form the old center. But I already know we will have loads of fun, skating, laughing and inhaling fresh, crispy air in our longs. And occasionally enjoying a glühwein or a hot chocolate.

ice skating ring Delft
The Ice skating ring at the Beestenmarkt in 2014 (picture by Oriana van der Sande)

Have a look at all the activities, you will be surprised. See a Christmas concert or a show, visit the new Christmas market, or shop till 23.00 and have some drinks afterwards, on your child free night. Add some sparkle in your December month. We all need that during these long, cold and dark days. Find this sparkle at De Donkere Dagen van Delft

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Delft Mama of the week: Maya

Ten years ago our mom of the week, Maya, met her Dutch husband Erwin. Now they are parents of a six-year-old Naama and Boaz who just turned four. Maya grew up in Israel, studied and did the obligatory military service there before moving abroad. She was familiar with the Netherlands before meeting her husband, but never thought she’d be living in Holland – but as faith would often have it, it’s exactly where she ended up. Just like most expats, being far from extended family has taught Maya other ways of having a safety net around her, and she feels Delft MaMa is now her family, too. “For me Delft MaMa is one of the strongest attraction points of Delft. For all of us who don’t have a family here, this group of wonderful people is it”, Maya declares.

I asked to interview her, because not only was she nominated by some of the previous mothers, but because I found out Maya recently had started studying again. She did her bachelor’s in biology and her master’s degree in immunology back in Israel. This year she enrolled to school to get a degree to become a dietitian. Even though the field is familiar to her, it’s Maya’s first time writing scientific reports in Dutch. Not surprisingly she’s up for the challenge.

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