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Spoons was set up by Kirsten in 2015. Initially she started a community support group aimed at parents who had a baby on the neonatal intensive care unit at Royal Oldham Hospital. Kirsten was soon joined by friends Lee & Sarah, who had both had a baby in neonatal care and Spoons was formed. The community group became popular with parents and Kirsten volunteered on the neonatal unit at Royal Oldham Hospital, providing peer support to parents. Spoons started to offer support to parents on the neonatal unit at North Manchester General Hospital and also started fundraising to support both units to improve family facilities. Spoons continued to grow and engage with more families on the neonatal units and within the wider community. As we engaged with more families, more people started to fundraise. In 2016 Spoons became a registered charity and we have continued to grow year on year.

Spoons now has a peer support service in neonatal units across Greater Manchester as well as range of community resources.

kirsten

Kirsten

Founder & Operations Manager

My little boy Tom was born at 24 weeks in 2014 and spent 127 days in neonatal care. I met lots of parents on the neonatal unit, and we all supported each other. I found the transition from hospital to home really difficult. I was very anxious and found it difficult to engage with universal baby groups and communities. I really missed the relationships I had with my peers on the neonatal unit. I felt that I could create something to bring neonatal families together. I am really proud to have grown Spoons organically from a community group to thriving charity. I still offer peer support to families on the neonatal unit and am a trained peer supporter.

Shahnaz family support coordinator

Shahnaz

Family Support Coordinator

My youngest daughter was born at 29 weeks gestation and was diagnosed with Downs Syndrome, she also has Atrioventricular septal defect (ASVD). As a parent on the unit I accessed support from the Spoon volunteers, which was very beneficial for me and my family. I later became a Spoons peer support volunteer and have helped many families. My role is to help parents navigate life on the neonatal unit and support them in the transition from hospital to home. I have a special interest in supporting families from Black, Asian and Minority Communities.

spoons charity group leader

Beth

Community Group Leader

My son Joseph was born at 31 weeks and was admitted to neonatal care for five weeks. Two years later I became a peer support volunteer for Spoons, helping other parents and talking to them also helped me. I absolutely love being part of the charity and I love working with amazing, strong families. As well as my volunteer role, I am now also employed by the charity as a Play Leader and run the community messy play sessions. My professional background is in Early Years. Supporting parents to have fun and build their own support networks with their peers in a safe space.

spoons community group leader

Jen

Community Group Leader

My little girl Indie-Mae who was born at 39+5 weeks after induction. When she was born she experienced an Hypoxic-Ischaemic Encephalopathy (HIE) event and was transferred to NICU for full body cooling. Spoons helped me in the months that followed, so I wanted to do something to give back and decided to become a peer support volunteer on NICU. Alongside my volunteer role, which I love, I am also Community Group Play Leader. I am a teacher with a background in teaching primary school children and have been able to transfer my skills to provide educational, safe sensory play sessions for babies and their parents.

Alona

Volunteer Coordinator

My twin girls River & Willow were born in 2020 at 33 weeks and spent 2 weeks on the neonatal unit at North Manchester. It was a difficult time during the COVID pandemic so their big brother Eric couldn’t come onto the unit to meet them. We received some Spoons packs, including a siblings pack whilst we were on the unit, which was a great way to help Eric understand what was happening with his baby sisters in hospital. I’m a qualified counsellor and my role as the Volunteer Coordinator for Spoons is to empower our volunteers to ensure they have everything they need to support our parents on the neonatal units.

Aimée

Family Support Coordinator

In 2018 my son Leo was born at 29 weeks and spent nearly 2 months in neonatal care. The emotional impact of my experience on NICU didn’t hit home until I had my daughter 17 months later. She was born at 32 weeks and also admitted onto the neonatal unit. As a parent I felt there was little understanding from mainstream groups and services into the challenges and impact around neonatal care. I turned to Spoons for support and found genuine empathy from people who shared similar experiences to my own. As a Family Support Coordinator I help families with any challenges they may be facing. Along with the wider support team I aim to develop and shape Spoons’ services to ensure that families receive the care and support that best meets their needs.

Caroline

Trustee

My background is in neonatal nursing. I have progressed up the career ladder from staff nurse to sister and now to practice educator on the neonatal unit at Royal Oldham Hospital. In 2017 I joined Spoons as a Trustee. I was impressed with Spoons' commitment to supporting families throughout their neonatal journey, especially as I understand parents play a key role in their baby's care on the neonatal unit. The success of Spoons is very much owed to the commitment of volunteers and fundraisers and the strong relationship it has with the neonatal units it supports.

Sarah

Trustee

My daughter was born at 31 weeks gestation. What had happened didn’t really hit me until after she came home and I felt isolated and 'different' to other new mums. To have been able to talk to other parents who had been through a similar experience would have made all the difference to me but there was nothing like this available at that time. When Kirsten first talked to me about setting up Spoons I was keen to be involved as I wanted to help make a difference to other families going through what we had. I have been able to apply my management skills to my role as a trustee.

Lee

Trustee

My daughter Hollie was admitted to neonatal care straight after birth and was diagnosed with Downs Syndrome. Our stay on NICU was just under 5 weeks and it was a tough time for us as new parents. We met Kirsten and her family on the neonatal unit and became great friends. When Kirsten said she was putting Spoons together to support parents and families on NICU, I knew I wanted to be onboard and help out. I work in finance and have taken the role of the treasurer on the board. I am glad I am able to use my skills and knowledge for the good of the charity.

Khadija

Trustee

My daughter Alizah was born 8 weeks early and admitted to neonatal care straight after birth. My brother was born premature 25 years ago so my only experience of premature birth was based on this. During our 5 weeks on the unit I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions. The Highs of Alizah having her first breast feed or coming out of the incubator paled in comparison to the lows of not being with her. I was supported by Spoons on the unit and we continued our journey with Spoons once Alizah left NICU by attending coffee mornings and weaning sessions. I love the passion that Spoons trustees, fundraisers and volunteers have to support parents and families. I feel that I bring my personal experience and skills gained through working in the NHS to support the charity.

Portrait Photo of Pamela

Pamela

Trustee

My second son was born almost ten weeks premature at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and he spent a month and a half on a neonatal unit. The start of the pandemic was a scary time for the whole world but to have a baby on a neonatal unit during this period where we didn't really know anything about the virus was nothing short of terrifying. I was in survival mode and my mental health suffered. When we finally got to take our son home I realised we were victims of the healthcare postcode lottery and that the area in which we lived did not commission neonatal outreach services. Thankfully a member of the nursing team had given Spoons details to my husband and, through the charity, we were able to access information that helped us care for our son in those early days and I was personally able to receive trauma therapy. My professional background is in marketing, communications and fundraising and I am incredibly proud to be a trustee of Spoons and to be supporting a charity that has given my own family so much.

Tracey

Trustee

I became a Trustee with Spoons in 2019, after becoming aware of the great work delivered by Spoons when I was developing the clinical service strategy as part of my role with the Northern Care Alliance. I am a clinician by background, but latterly in my career went into leading transformation across complex health and care systems. My daughter was born at 34 weeks gestation, and spent 6 weeks in NICU in Buckinghamshire in 1991 - without any of the amazing support offered by Spoons. It was an emotionally difficult time and I felt quite isolated and ill-equipped. I am constantly blown away by the selfless work the peer volunteers provide and the difference it make and will makes to parents experiencing neonatal care across GM. My role as a Trustee is to apply my lived experience, management and leadership skills to help shape our strategic plans and operational delivery, inline with the national directives and local need.

Spoons Peer Support Volunteers

Our amazing volunteers are at the heart of everything, here's a little more about them

Cat

Hi, my name is Cat. I have beautiful twin girls, Isla Rose and Sophia Ivy. Both born at 32+5 weeks at Wythenshawe. Isla weighed 3lb 13oz. Sophia weighed 3lbs 6oz. The neonatal experience was very surreal. The focus was solely on the babies’ progress and getting them to their next milestone. The milestones were our source of hope, the ticket to get our precious babies’ home. The extreme of emotions was very overwhelming. I needed an outlet to say, “I’m actually finding this very hard”. Especially to somebody that had gone through the same experience. I am now that support for somebody else and I am here to listen to parents who might feel how I did.

Portrait of Alison

Alison

I have 3 children and they have all been on the neonatal unit. Katie, Sophie and Oliver. All three were born prematurely and Sophie has cerebral palsy. Despite her daily challenges, she faces life with the biggest smile and the largest amount of determination. Having so much experience in the world of neonatal has encouraged me to want to share my experiences with other parents and help to support you on the unit and beyond as best I can. You are not alone in this journey and we are all here for you, whether it be a chat, a text message or an email.

Katie

My eldest son was on NICU at St Mary's due to IUGR and a condition called Posterior Urethral Valves. It was a difficult time and I think it so beneficial to have emotional and practical support from others when going through something like this. I really want to be able to provide that help and support to families experiencing NICU. Please don't hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or would like help in anyway. We might not always be on the unit but we are here to offer support!

Gemma

I am a teacher and mother of 2 boys who are now 8 and 4. Both my boys experienced neonatal care for a relatively short time, but we still found this a really stressful time. Both boys had breathing problems after being born by c section at 37 and 36 weeks. I am type one diabetic and both boys had to be early before they got too big - a common issue with diabetic mums. My experience at North Manchester neonatal unit was before Spoons and at the time I felt very alone, although the nurses were absolutely amazing and so supportive. I wanted to become a volunteer to help and support other parents who might be going through the same thing and to hopefully prevent them from feeling isolated.

Michelle

My first experience with NICU was just over 10 years ago when my first daughter Anya was born at 41 weeks a very tricky labour. Anya spent 7 days in Wythenshawe NICU and was treated for Sepsis. 9 years later, and another baby in between (born at term and able to come straight home). Eden was born at Wythenshawe hospital 4 weeks early and unresponsive. Eden spent 16 days in Wythenshawe, being treated for jaundice, feeding issues, and brain scans. Two very different experiences for me, from being a first time mum who had reached term in pregnancy and expected everything to be ‘fine’, to being a mum with two older children at home trying to divide my time up between NICU and home.

Samira

I am mum to a little boy who was born prematurely at 26 weeks. We spent 5 months in neonatal care across three different hospitals. Our little boy is now 3 years old and he is doing really well. I had a lot of support from the Spoons volunteers on our neonatal journey and this really helped me. Now I have become a volunteer for Spoons so I can be there for parents in a similar situation and offer them help and support.

Claire

I'm a mum of 4 children. In April 2019 I went into spontaneous labour with my twin boys and they were born at exactly 27 weeks. We spent the next 85 days in the NICUs in Oldham, St Mary’s, and North Manchester. I can honestly say it was one of the hardest times of my life. I work in adult critical care, and having medical knowledge, I found it hard being on the other side. I was juggling multiple hospital trips every day, sometimes at 2 separate hospitals and we had 2 young children at home. I'm thankful every day for my little miracles who are fit and healthy and thriving! The support and love we received; I will never forget.

Portrait of Emma

Emma

The four months we spent on Oldham NICU were the most difficult of our lives and nothing could have prepared us. But throughout it all, the one constant was the continuous and unwavering support that we received. I hope as a Spoons volunteer, I can somehow give something back by supporting families who are going through a similar experience.

Janine

My son Jude was born in January 2015 at 29 weeks. He weighed 2lb 14oz. We had an 8 week stay on NICU at Royal Oldham Hospital which became my second home. It was a complete rollercoaster of a journey. The support of the nurses and doctors was nothing short of amazing and Jude is now a healthy 5-year-old and full of beans! I wanted to become a volunteer for Spoons so I could give something back and support other families who might feel the way I did on NICU.

Bahera

I’m mum to 3 children. Tala who is 11, Zeena who is 8 and Yousef who is 4. Yousef was born at 29 weeks and 6 days at St. Mary’s Hospital and spent many weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit. Spoons offers neonatal family support from admission to the NICU and beyond, and I really wanted to support that by becoming a volunteer. We are here to support you and make your journey that little bit easier. I also speak English & Arabic , so you can talk to me with either of these languages.

Danielle

My twin boys were born at Royal Oldham hospital and spent 9 weeks on the NICU. I also had another two children at home so I understand how difficult that can be. We had many ups and downs in our NICU journey. I absolutely love my role as a Spoons volunteer on Oldham NICU. I love being able to meet other parents and reassure them they are not alone.

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