For Patricia Martinez, what should have been a joyous time was filled with stress. Martinez, her husband and daughter just moved to Calgary as refugees last year, escaping a dangerous situation in Mexico when she found out she was pregnant.
“To be honest, it’s very expensive,” Martinez said through an interpreter. “Before I gave birth we were already very worried about how we would meet all the baby’s needs and being here, new to Canada as refugees and with no jobs, that was really tough,” Martinez said.
That’s where Basically Babies stepped in. The Alberta charity has been operating in Edmonton for 25 years but is just wrapping up its first year in Calgary.
Volunteers gather new and gently used baby items worth around $1,400, package the layettes and bring them to local agencies that distribute them to families in need.
“Edmonton was certainly hit by the recession but not in the same way that Calgary was. Calgary, because there is such a huge amount of oil and gas reliance and the services around that, we were seeing an extreme need,” said Shannon Stewart, president of Basically Babies.
Last year, Immigrant Services Calgary served just under 25,000 newcomers. That’s a drop from around 30,000 the previous two years. There was more demand in those years in part because of the influx of Syrian refugees.
“It was very good for people to have a larger awareness of programs that help support both native-born Canadians, as well as people who are newcomers but it doesn’t decrease the demand. Supports like these are very much needed,” said Colyn DeGraaff, director of communications and marketing with Immigrant Services Calgary.
Supplies like those given through Basically Babies will likely be needed even more next year as more refugees are expected in Calgary from Venezuela, as Canada eases rules on refugees and immigrants from that country.
“We can expect a growing demand in the coming months and years,” DeGraaff said.
As for Martinez, she’s able to enjoy her time with her six-month-old baby boy with a little less stress thanks to receiving the layette from Basically Babies. She said she’s grateful for the year’s worth of baby supplies.
“This helps a lot. I never expected that. I was really surprised that I could receive that here because I am a newcomer and people are helping me. It is a blessing,” Martinez said.
New mom Katrina Hatch is also thrilled with the layette that was delivered to her Calgary home.
“I cried a little. It was so beautiful. The baskets are just beautiful and the clothing and everything is very nice and it even came with a little teddy bear,” Hatch said.
Basically Babies serves between 800 and 900 families every year in Edmonton with demand growing as the city does. The charity’s future in Calgary is still uncertain as they look for volunteers and donations.