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Off to a good start: Healthy Beginnings early childhood ambassadors boost the next generation

Off to a good start: Healthy Beginnings early childhood ambassadors boost the next generation
If you ask Kyeshia Lewis about Healthy Beginnings through Carle Health’s Community Health Initiatives, she can fill you in not only as one of the first early childhood community ambassadors for Healthy Beginnings but also a graduate of Healthy Beginnings Home Visiting Services..

Working two part-time jobs, she had a 7-year-old when she moved from Peoria to start anew. She landed in Champaign where she was working two jobs and about to give birth to a baby girl. One of the biggest changes, however, was there was no family support living close to her in Champaign.

“The resources, the help, I just didn’t have,” Lewis said. “When I moved to Champaign, I built my own healthy village.”

Before giving birth to her daughter at Carle Foundation Hospital, she completed an application for Healthy Beginnings.

“I kind of wanted to know what it was like to be a mom to a newborn again, seven years after the birth of my first child,” she said. Even more than that, Healthy Beginnings helped Lewis with the support she needed for herself and the next generation of her family with guidance on budgeting, and finding employment.

“We are fortunate to have an ambassador like Kyeshia who has gone through the program and knows of what she speaks. Her positive outlook shows through immediately to our families trying to manage several day-to-day living issues and she helps deliver solutions for families trying to provide a better life for their babies,’’ Kristen Farney, RN, Home Visiting Services, Community Health Initiatives, said.

The first service launched through Community Health Initiatives nearly six years ago, Healthy Beginnings provides prenatal recommendations and support from a nurse home visitor for the first two years of a child’s life through a home visiting nurse and an early childhood community ambassador. The early childhood community ambassador can follow the child with support to the family until the child reaches 5 years of age. Funding for early childhood community ambassadors is provided through Carle Health Center for Philanthropy by Rick and Jeanene Stephens and the United Way of Champaign County.

Lewis said she particularly appreciated receiving a free book every month to read to her children as well as guidance about the physical and emotional milestones she should be looking for with each child.

On her own journey as a Healthy Beginnings mom, Lewis grew to know Allison Wright, RN, her home visiting nurse, who encouraged her to apply for the community ambassador position.
One of Lewis’s first clients holds a special place in her heart as the mom had a small baby with many medical complications.

“To watch her grow through that made my heart light up and feel very appreciative of my own life,” Lewis said.
As a community ambassador, Lewis is there to support nurse home visiting clients for two years. A community ambassador will visit the homes of Healthy Beginnings families for 30 to 45 minutes nearly every other week depending on the client’s needs. Some families may need more support, for instance with a child with low developmental concerns, and the community ambassador is there to advise for another three years after the in-home nursing care ends, or until the family decides to leave that support.

 “The information we give them gives them something to look forward to whether it is help in finding day care, referrals for speech therapy or help filling out child care applications,” Lewis said. “It only costs a little bit of trust.”

Categories: Redefining Healthcare, Community

Tags: Carle, Carle Health Center for Philanthropy, Champaign-Urbana, Community, Foundation, giving, Health, Hospital, Initiatives