Hi, my name is Melanie James and I am the Creative Director of Mamalove Connect. I am a Mother of four, Approved provider of Cranebrook Community Preschool and a final year Bachelor of Counselling Student. I am a proud Aboriginal Woman from the Yorta Yorta mob and live in Sydney. As a therapist in training it is my passion to support parents and their little ones by promoting attachment, empathy and early intervention.
Before I tell you about what we do, I just wanted to share a very personal but necessary story so you can understand why we opened our doors and where our passion began.
When one of my children was born, my first instinct was that something wasn’t quite the way it should be. I often hear parents talk about discovering concerns more around the age of 2, however for myself it was immediate. The difficulty to feed, sucking issues, lack of growth which then led on to other more diagnosable conditions. The diagnosis came not so much a surprise but one which lead to a great sense of grief, loss, confusion and then the need to take action. I might also add, we had two day care centres who also didn’t support that there were additional needs despite medical reports. It was a situation where I as the Mum, was the number one advocate outside of the medical professionals.
My little one needed help so we embarked on rigorous journey of Speech Therapy. Four months after we began Speech we introduced an Occupational Therapist, then a second Occupational Therapist to deal with separate issues. Psychology, two swimming lessons per week, a neurologist, cardiologist, sleep specialist and a Paediatrician were soon added to the long list of appointments. We had no idea which direction we were going in. Was some of it overkill, absolutely but we just wanted to do the best we possibly could for our little one.
We were so blessed in that we could support our little one’s needs however the appointments, the financial expense and the emotional stress did begin to creep up on us. I did my calculations and in a seven month period, we had spent something close to $30,000 on therapy, therapy tools and medical appointments. I woke up one day and said to my husband “What about all the families that don’t have a car, don’t have the finances or even the ability to apply for the NDIS?”. It was in this moment that I realised we had the power to really create something special and make some change in some very special and deserved families lives.
Now a Mum to not only one but three children who have some extra needs, we felt it imperative to share our story to spread awareness and show that our centre strongly advocates for affordable and accessible therapy. At our service, parents pay lesson, therapists are paid more and work less to promote possible work/life balance. We are a not for profit with charity status and we are excited to be able to self fund multiple projects within the centre which will be fee free for the community and beyond.
OUR HUMBLE BEGINNINGS
Mamalove Connect was born in my lounge room. A room that had become our bedroom due to our little one’s sleeping difficulties. My mission was to promote therapy tools for children who didn’t have access to them, support for parents who like us hadn’t had any sleep in years and to find a place within the community where we could really make a difference.
From everything we had experienced as a family, we realised the need for complex early intervention. The NDIS isn’t always accessible and what we found was that often therapy tools such as weighted blankets, therapy trampolines and such imperative medical coordination such as Paediatric direction were not supported or funded through this system.
We began by raising funds to supply individuals and support units/preschools with Mini Trampolines and Weighted Blankets. We then found donors to cover appointments for Paediatric assessment / coordination appointments and some pampering for Mothers in the form of facials donated by a very kind local business. At the end of 2018 we donated 60 Christmas sensory packs throughout Western Sydney (See photos on our Achievements Page).
By the end of 2018 we had reached roughly 100 families in the individual items we had donated and group items to organisations such as Cranebrook Community Pre School, Nepean Speech and OT and the Penrith Community Health Centre. Our final gesture for 2018 was to deliver 60 sensory packs put together for additional needs children throughout Western Sydney for Christmas.
In 2019 we embarked on the Leadership at Cranebrook Community Preschool. A Preschool which now has a full multi disciplinary team, excels in additional needs inclusion and every child who attends receives fee free swimming lessons at Nepean Aquatic Centre.
Our new Jordan Springs Hub we hope will bring community, togetherness and a soft place for people to land, belong and evolve.
Welcome to Mamalove Connect.