Alison Baum photo

Alison Baum, CEO and Founder

The CEO and Founder of Best Beginnings, Alison has used her leadership and executive production experience to pioneer the development of innovative resources including DVDs, art and mobile apps to support the emotional and physical transition to parenthood.

In 2007, Alison received the prestigious Sheila McKechnie "Campaigner of the Year" award for her work in creating the Breastfeeding Manifesto Coalition, uniting 40 organisations, including five Royal Colleges and UNICEF, to lobby Government to deliver on seven objectives designed to allow women to make fully informed choices about how to feed their babies. In March 2014 Alison was thrilled to be awarded CPHVA Campaigner of the Year and Woman of Democracy. In January 2017, Alison was awarded an OBE for services to Tackling Child Health Inequalities.

Before launching Best Beginnings, Alison set up an internet-based social enterprise called Express Yourself Mums, providing information and products for new mothers. Prior to that, she worked in the BBC Science department for almost ten years, producing and directing science and health documentaries including Horizon and played a key role in a BBC internal change programme.

Alison has an MA from Oxford University in Pure and Applied Biology and an MSc from UCL in Neuroscience. She is married with two children aged fifteen and thirteen, both of whom were born with cleft palates and significant health problems. She comes from a family of doctors and her husband is a Professor of Paediatrics. 

Alison's paternal Grandpa walked over from Poland and had one year of formal education in his life. It was the nurturing home environment and the instilling of a love of learning that her Grandparents fostered that enabled Alison's father and his three brothers and sister to become highly successful healthcare professionals and academics. This background, and her understanding of the evidence of the benefits of early intervention, fuels Alison's passion for reducing inequalities in child health by supporting parents to maximise their children's development. Another motivator is the memory of her Uncle David, Prof David Baum, the first President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health - an extraodinary man who fought for the rights of the child in the UK and internationally. Best Beginnings was set up in memory of David.

Read Alison's blog and follow Alison on Twitter @alisonbaum

David Pope, Finance & Office Manager 

David joined Best Beginnings in December 2015 after a career in the British Army, where he reached the rank of Captain and was responsible for managing the finances and administration of an Infantry Battalion. In addition to being responsible for maintaining the budgets of the charity and providing financial advice to the CEO and project leads, David manages the office and facilities to ensure all staff receive suitable administrative support to carry out their roles effectively. David has been a keen sportsman throughout his life representing Great Britain at Bobsleigh and playing rugby at a high level, and now passes on his enthusiasm to his son, Daya.

Helen Hunter, Director of Development

Helen joined the team as our Business Development Manager in 2014, with the remit to further develop and promote Best Beginnings commissionable services. She has since taken up the role of Director of Development. Before having her three children Helen worked as a researcher in a management consultancy specialising in HR.  Whilst taking a career break she trained as a breastfeeding counsellor with the NCT and since qualifying nine years ago, she has worked extensively with breastfeeding families facilitating breastfeeding antenatal workshops and breastfeeding drop ins, supporting women on a one-one basis and working on the NCT infant feeding helpline. Helen has a passion for peer support and undertook additional training in order to train and supervise breastfeeding peer supporters in their local communities. She has delivered and project managed several peer support projects and continues to do so in her own time. Prior to joining the Best Beginnings team Helen spent three years at NCT head office, helping to develop and deliver commissioned services initially focusing on breastfeeding projects and then latterly working as the National Partnership Manager. Helen works between the office in London and her home office in the North Yorkshire Dales.

Shabira Papain, Director of Operations

Shabira is a global citizen, born in Portugal, grew up in Australia and made the decision to raise her children in London where she completed her Masters in Health Psychology. She's a passionate community development practitioner, having left a clinical psychology degree to pursue a career in community health development, working alongside grassroots communities in Australia and the U.K.

Shabira has a background in both education and in health. She has taught on social justice modules at Murdoch University working with students in the schools of education and social sciences to explore issues of discrimination, power and identity.

Her career in health began in 2003 leading on a community health intervention focused on increasing self management and self care behaviours and supporting the capacity of people to take more control for their health and wellbeing. What followed was a growing appreciation that the voluntary sector plays a pivotal role in supporting the health system to be reflexive and adaptive, and so a commitment to addressing the social determinants of health was born.

Passionate about maternity and mental health, Shabira has designed and implemented several coproduction health projects that have been sighted in NICE good practice guidelines (Tower Hamlets MSLC, 2016). Shabira has also supported and led the development of several user-led mental health networks promoting agency and subsidiarity of communities of people with long and enduring mental ill health.

She is describes herself as a champion of social action with a heart for community and a love of people. Shabira joined Best Beginnings in 2016 and is working with the team to further develop community outreach so that the powerful resources reach more families and impact positively on more lives.

Elizabeth Bayliss, Interim Business Development Executive

Working with homeless women in Soho in the 1970’s opened my eyes both to the personal impact and social policy implications of homelessness.

This led me into setting up a housing association for single homeless people and from there, when I saw the misery caused by the lack of coordination in service provision,  I went to work in the NHS on joint planning.

In my role as the Manager of the Community Psychiatry Research Unit in the NHS, supported service evaluations, developed and managed mental health services, levered in £9m for community care services. Then I realised that the real action of community building was in the hands of ordinary people living in their communities, so I went on to support community action through building a community development agency called Social Action for Health, directly working with people from most of the excluded communities in London, promoting health and wellbeing.

Moving to the country after 16 wonderful years as Chief Executive, I am now working with my husband to build the Peace Place Trust, a rooted, peace-seeking creative community on the land. And keeping in touch with charity life, I am working part time with Best Beginnings on fundraising, which certainly keeps me on my toes!

Sophie Laverack, Content Manager

Sophie manages the content at Best Beginnings which includes film and written content on the app and website, design and digital marketing. A crucial part of her work is ensuring that Best Beginnings' resources are endorsed by the Royal Colleges, Department of Health and other organisations.

Sophie's degree in Biomedical Sciences underlines her career in development. Through her work with children with physical and mental disabilities, WASH, and education inequalities she found that so many roads led back to the importance of the health and education of mothers. This made Best Beginnings a great fit and she joined the team in May 2016. 

Natalie Woods, Programme Manager for Commissioned Services

Natalie has a varied background working with children with disabilities; providing 1 to 1 support to children and young people of all ages, as well as managing a 'siblings' project, supporting young carers with a disabled brother or sister. Natalie is also a trained Portage Home Learning Practitioner, working as a Project Coordinator and line manager within a London Portage service for 4 years. ​Prior to joining Best Beginnings, Natalie managed a Department for Education grant funded project to pilot an online Level 3 qualification for practitioners supporting children and young people's speech, language and communication development. Within this time, Natalie volunteered and travelled around South America, spending a month in the Ecuadorian Amazon teaching English as a foreign language. Natalie joined Best Beginnings in May 2016 to coordinate the embedding of the charity's resources into mainstream health services across the UK.

Esther Sharma, National Facilitator

Esther joined Best Beginnings in 2014 and works closely with the Director of Development on the strategic development and future direction of the charity.  Her team works on scoping, developing and facilitating the embedding of the charity's resources and paractice tools.  Esther qualified as a midwife from King's College London in 1999 and worked in a range of innovative clinical settings across London.  Subsequently, she went on to complete Masters in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and managed a number of Public Health initiatives.  Esther also lived in Afghanistan where she worked to support maternal health.  She is a member of the Royal College of Midwives, Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health and is a board member for Women and Children First (UK).  In her spare time, Esther is busy running after her toddler and occasionally gets to enjoy London's rich arts and culture. 

Fiona Dry, North of England Regional Facilitator

Fiona is the North of England Regional Facilitator. Before joining the Best Beginnings team she worked as an Infant Feeding Coordinator for the Acute Midwifery services in County Durham and Darlington.

Fiona has worked as a Midwife in Hospital and Community settings and also worked as a Sure Start Midwife for nine years embedding Services in County Durham.

Fiona lives in rural Teesdale with her husband Steve and four children and enjoys running, participating in events whenever possible and being involved in a local Amateur Dramatics group,  as both an actor and choreographer of their annual pantomime.   

Stephanie Kronson, Out of the Blue Launch Director

South African born Stephanie Kronson entered her career as a producer of television and radio commercials for Young and Rubicam, having completed a Bachelor of Arts degree (English, Drama and Film with a sub major in psychology) and a two year stint as an actress in theatre and day time television. She was then lured into the more gritty world of production, producing commercials for internationally renowned directors, Miles Goodall, Ian Gabriel and Peter Pohorsky, and winning awards in New York and London over a 9 year period. After moving to London 18 years ago and giving birth to her first child, she decided on a “career-break” to diversify and expand her horizons. Among her numerous endeavours she spent a year in Health and Beauty PR at which time she became pregnant with her second child. She also enjoyed working for Bartle Bogle Hegarty in London and spent four years in children’s book publishing, during which time she volunteered for Parent Gym as a trained parenting workshop facilitator in schools and community centres in London while furthering her education with studies in Psychodynamic counselling and the Three Principles of Innate Health. Subsequently, following an eventful two years as a donor steward and events director for the London office of an international charity, she joined Best Beginnings in March 2016 as Programme Manager for the Our Chance campaign, Out of the Blue, and Heads Together projects.

Laura Ross, Executive Assistant to the CEO

Laura joined Best Beginnings in the summer of 2016 and provides executive support to the CEO and project manages the Parent Panel.

Laura has a degree in Public Relations and has a background working in international science and health related organisations.

Nilushka Perera, Evaluation and Impact Lead

Born and raised in Sri Lanka, Nilushka joined the Best Beginning’s family after completing her masters in Public Health [International Health] in September 2016. With a strong interest in research, behavioural health and a background Psychology, Nilushka is the Evaluation and Impact Lead for Best Beginnings where she explores the impact of all the charity’s work through a public health and well being lens. Nilushka has worked with multiple communities that includes children, parents, health professionals and corporate organisations. She also has experience in teaching and working with rehabilitating communities that are dealing with conflict and disaster in Sri Lanka. She spends her free time singing, traveling and reading.

Bonnie Omikorede, Finance and HR Officer

Bonnie has been with Best Beginnings since November 2015. Originally joining as an administrator her role has developed to encompass a wide range of duties including HR and financial responsibilities, administrative support to the entire organisation, fundraising support and support to the directors. Bonnie's degree in journalism,  background in HR and office management in the corporate sector, and interest in the third sector makes her a great fit at Best Beginnings.

In her spare time she is a keen cook and crime novel enthusiast.

Thomas Hawthorn, Digital Officer and Salesforce Administrator

Thomas joined Best Beginnings end of summer 2015 and provides support to the app team. Thomas studied at the University of Reading and has taken on the responsibility of Salesforce administration within the organisation.

Dayna Silverman, Interim Fundraising and Events Manager

Dayna has been involved in events almost all her life - first performing and then hosting and organising.

Her professional background ranges from dancing for Disney through event management hosting everything from small intimate dinners to large scale events with thousands of visitors

She has worked with major corporations, SMEs and politicians as well as managing multiple companies at the same time.

She started as the Events and Fundraising Manager at Best Beginnings in Oct 2016 to help plan the charity's 10th anniversary celebration events and has already delivered a major donor event, worked with multiple partners of Best Beginnings to help plan and execute their fundraising events this includes working closely with a team of 20 fantastic fundraisers running the London Marathon in aid of Heads Together and our charity. Dayna hit the ground running! (pun intended) and is currently delivering multiple events from fundraising to profile raising and is always happy to meet for a coffee with partner organisations or individuals wanting to work with us.

When she is not thinking up creative events ideas or getting her hair dyed blue, she enjoys reading, private karaoke and learning new gymnastic tricks in an aerial hoop class.