When Angelina Edwin arrived in Glasgow from Sri Lanka, she didn’t know that her experience would see her support new parents as they found their own feet in a new country.
The former academic secretary came to Scotland seeking asylum with her husband and three children two years ago. She found Amma through the Scottish Refugee Council.
“When I heard about Amma I was able to connect myself to it – people in a new country with a new language, all alone with other support lacking. You don’t know where to go”, she said.
Amma’s comprehensive training exposed the stark differences between giving birth in Scotland compared to Sri Lanka.
As a postnatal companion, Angelina can work around the needs of her young family. The role is familiar to her after looking after friends and family with their own new babies.
Giving birth to her children with only midwives present has given Angelina insight into what parents might need to feel safe and supported. “Here there’s an opportunity not to be alone, for birth and also afterwards. This is so important, especially in a country where you don’t know much or even speak the same language.”
Now Angelina has walked beside eight people during the intense first days of new parenthood, she recognises that she has to change how she offers support to each individual.
She said: ”Some feel good and others need more emotional support. Some need more practical help. What I’ve learned is that not all the mums are the same, each and every birther is unique and how I care for them is based on their requirements.
The support that Angelina gives out is returned to her through supervision, mentoring and her fellow volunteers and Amma staff.
She said: “When we get together we share our experience and difficulties and challenges; when we speak it’s like you realise you are on the right path and that builds confidence. The support goes both ways.”
Being an Amma volunteer is enriching but not without its challenges, but through staying open minded, Angelina says, everything you learn informs how you work with each new client.
“I thought it would be easy”, she said. “We had learned so many theories in training but applying those theories was different. Step by step, I learned and I will always be learning as not all situations are the same.”
What is key, she says, is staying flexible, and talking to your peers, mentors and managers.
“I have been totally supported. You can talk about anything, there’s no right and wrong. If you don’t have enough information you can always ask and get information easily. Any doubts will be answered.”
Volunteering has been a positive experience for Angelina: “The satisfaction you feel when you support a mum and you see them happy and you know how you helped is amazing.