Building momentum toward Brain Bags

  • February 24, 2017
  • /   Shannon Nickinson
  • /   early-learning

Credit: Sacred Heart Hospital.

You never know how far people are willing to go until you ask.

And when you do ask, the answer may just surprise you.

In my former professional life as a journalist, both here in Pensacola and in West Virginia, it was easy to be cynical about human nature. Many news stories start with the bad news.

Not that many readers call you to say, "I just wanted to tell you that the paper is delivered on time every day, the bill is always correct and the service I get from everyone in your company is fantastic. Thanks and have a great day!"

Indeed some of my colleagues at Studer Community Institute often chuckle about the need to "deprogram" me from assuming the worst in people and situations.

The work with the Brain Bag project could be going a ways toward accomplishing their goal.

Brain Bags are early literacy kits given to new mothers before they leave one of Escambia County's three birthing hospitals. The bags aren't just a stack of freebies — they are accompanied by "teaching points" that are meant to help new parents understand the critical importance of language in early brain development.

The bags include a copy of the children's book P is for Pelican: The ABCs of Pensacola, a Baby Book to help parents track brain development in the first three years, a rattle and a binder highlighting community resources that can help support moms and dads build healthy brains for their young ones.

ARC will be a great help to us in this project — they will assemble the bags for us.

After meeting with the staffs at Baptist, Sacred Heart and West Florida hospitals' mother-baby units, I can tell you that their enthusiasm for the project is almost equal to ours.

My greatest concern at the outset of this was that the staffs would view the Brain Bag as more work foisted upon them by some outsider who was giving them another thing to do in what is already a very busy day.

My greatest happy surprise is that none of them have seen it that way. Because every day, they see the potential it has to do good.

Based on birth data for the three hospitals, nearly 5,000 babies were born in our county last year.

The women and men who care for these newborns and their mothers truly want the best for every single one of those babies. You can see it in their eyes — as I have — while watching them work, touring their facilities and talking with them about the project.

You can also see that sometimes they suspect that every one of those babies isn't going to get an equal shot at a great start in life. But they don't waiver in their commitment to each child.

So neither should we, as a community.

The Brain Bags may be just a small step in that direction. But every journey begins with a small step. if we don't take it, we're just standing around watching the world pass us by.