Alison Baum CEO and Founder

Alison Baum, CEO and Founder

Alison is an Oxford University science graduate with a background at the BBC where she worked on programmes including Horizon and Tomorrow’s World, communicating key scientific and medical breakthroughs. She 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.

Before launching Best Beginnings, Alison set up an internet-based social enterprise called Express Yourself Mums, providing information and products for new mothers. In 2006, she founded Best Beginnings and wasted no time: within just four weeks, the charity formed and led a coalition of more than 35 organisations, including five Royal Colleges and UNICEF, to lobby for the implementation of the Breastfeeding Manifesto. A year later, Alison won the Sheila McKechnie Foundation award for Health and Social Campaigner of the Year. In 2014, Alison was awarded CPHVA Campaigner of the Year and Woman of Democracy. In January 2017 she was awarded an OBE for services to Tackling Child Health Inequalities.

Twitter: @alisonbaum

Shabira Papain, COO

Shabira Papain, Deputy CEO and COO

Shabira is a global citizen,  born in Portugal, raised in Australia and currently bringing her own children up in London. Shabira has a Master’s degree in Health Psychology and her background combines both education and health. She has taught social justice modules at Murdoch University working with students to explore issues of discrimination, power and identity.

Her career in health began in 2003 leading a community health intervention focused on increasing self-management and self-care behaviours. She became increasingly aware that the voluntary sector plays a pivotal role in supporting the health system to be reflexive and adaptive. Passionate about maternity and mental health, Shabira has designed and implemented several co-production health projects that have been sighted in NICE good practice guidelines. She has 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. Shabira is a passionate community development practitioner and a champion of social action.

Twitter: @shabirapapain

Communications and Digital

Stephanie Kronson

Stephanie Kronson, Director of Communications, Content Digital

Stephanie has a degree in English and Drama and film; and a career spanning 15 years in advertising, film production, PR and publishing; followed by studies in psychodynamic and other types of counselling. Stephanie has also worked as a parenting skills facilitator.

She joined Best Beginnings in 2016 as co-lead on the Our Chance safer pregnancy campaign for the Department of health and represented Best Beginnings in the Heads Together campaign partnership. She also directed the launch of the Out of the Blue mental health series at the RCOG in March 2017.

In June 2017, Stephanie joined the team as permanent head of Communications and Content and in November 2017 her remit extended to Digital development oversight. Stephanie has two children.

Email: [email protected]

Desk phone: 020 3617 8744

Jenny Mcleish

Jenny Mcleish, Content Writer

A qualified barrister, committed to working to improve the lives of disadvantaged families, Jenny joined Best Beginnings in 2011 as a researcher, writer, advisor, trainer and campaigner. Her areas of expertise include inequalities affecting young parents, migrant parents and parents living with mental illness, with a broader focus on maternity services, volunteer and peer support, poverty and nutrition.

She has been part of diverse projects such as the national evaluation of Sure Start, the NICE committee on nutrition for low income pregnant women and children, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s work on pregnancy- and maternity-related discrimination in the workplace.

Alongside her role at Best Beginnings, Jenny is a Health Services Researcher at the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit at Oxford University, and is studying for a PhD on perinatal mental health and peer support at City University, London. She is also the Strategic Coordinator for the National Teenage Pregnancy Midwifery Network. She finds that having one foot in the voluntary sector and the other in the academic sector enables creative cross-fertilisation. Like the rest of the Best Beginnings team she could do with few extra hours in each day!

Embedding Programme

Carly Bond

Carly Bond, Head of Operations

Carly Bond has been a community development practitioner for over a decade. She worked with Social Action for Health for 8 years, with a focus on mental health projects where she oversaw the Maternity Service Liaison Committee programmes (Now Maternity Voices Partnerships), across 4 East London Boroughs. 

Carly managed the Big Local in White City and Wormholt, which is a resident-led Big Lottery community development initiative which aims to empowers local residents with their own budget, to identify and take action on issues that affect their area.

Carly loves travelling, family constellations workshops, Game of Thrones and singing with a dub/reggae band.

Email: [email protected]

Desk phone: 020 3675 9452

Matthew Black

Matthew Black, Digital Projects Lead

Matt has been with Best Beginnings since May 2017. Initially working in operations and embedding project delivery, he has since moved into Digital Projects to manage agile product development and evolution of Best Beginnings' digital roadmap. Matt prioritises data and effective collaboration in his work, and strives to combine these elements into delivering accessible tech.  

Born and raised in Bermuda, Matt studied Modern Languages at Durham University. His passion for languages has taken him all over South America, where he worked for a fundraising cooperative in Buenos Aires that connects local charities with international funding bodies. After graduation Matthew dipped his toes into the world of financial audit before finding his way to Best Beginnings where he has had the opportunity to work on a diverse set of projects and effect the positive change that drives him.

Email: [email protected]

Hazel MeyerHazel Meyer, Consultant Facilitator

Hazel is born and bred in South Africa. After an eleven-year gap from employment, spent raising her children, she decided to move away from relief and development work and requalified as a Breastfeeding Counsellor. She worked for three and a half years with the Health Visiting service in Kingston-Upon-Thames as an Infant Feeding Support Worker where she helped them achieve Stage 2 of Baby Friendly accreditation and set up a breastfeeding peer support programme. She is currently setting up another breastfeeding peer support programme in Surrey, is Chair of her local Maternity Voices Partnership group, and lectures student midwives at Kingston University on breastfeeding.

Hazel joined Best Beginnings as a consultant facilitator in April 2016, which enables her to follow her passion of getting multidisciplinary groups together to ensure that parents are getting the best support they can possibly get along their parenting journey.

Cathy Williams

Cathy Williams, Consultant Facilitator

Cathy originally trained as a primary school teacher. She then went on to manage a Sure Start children's centre for eight years. During this time, she delivered parenting courses and baby massage, provided breastfeeding support, and co-wrote a postnatal course which is delivered county-wide. Cathy has worked for many years as a volunteer supporting new parents, including as a breastfeeding peer supporter. She now works independently offering antenatal and postnatal courses and retreats.

Sandra Griffiths

Sandra Griffiths, Consultant Facilitator

Sandra, who hails from the West Midlands, has spent over 20 years creating and delivering innovative and sustainable programmes, campaigns and events to support the health and mental wellbeing of minority ethnic communities in London, particularly working with those from Africa and the Caribbean.

In 2010 Sandra founded ‘Red Earth Consultants Limited’ a public health consultancy, which facilitates social change and promotes dialogue to improve the mental wellbeing of marginalised and racialized communities in the UK. 

Since 2012, Sandra has also been working across the UK as a consultant and coordinator for ‘Time to Change’, a national campaign tackling mental health stigma. She has worked as a consultant in partnership with the NHS, associated mental health charities, a wide variety of third sector organisations and stakeholders to enhance their capacity to achieve their goals and improve health outcomes. This has been done by reviewing and developing strategies and policies, undertaking research and delivering equality training and engagement programmes.

Sandra joined the Best Beginnings team in August 2017 and has been instrumental in framing the Perinatal Mental Health module of our embedding process.

Evaluation and Research

Nilushka Perera

Nilushka Perera, Evaluation and Impact Lead

Born and raised in Sri Lanka, Nilushka joined the Best Beginnings family after completing her Master’s degree in Public Health in 2016. With a strong interest in research, behavioural health and a background in 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 wellbeing lens. Nilushka has worked with multiple communities, encompassing children, parents, health professionals and corporate organisations. She also has experience in teaching and working with rehabilitating communities dealing with conflict and disaster in Sri Lanka.

She spends her free time singing, travelling and reading.

Email: [email protected]

Rose Davidson, Policy and Impact Lead

Rose joined Best Beginnings as a volunteer in 2018 before moving into her role as Policy and Impact lead in February 2019. 

Born and raised in London, Rose moved to South Africa after school where she studied Politics, History and Transitional Justice. During this time, and whilst working at a charity addressing HIV and gender based violence, Rose developed an interest in health inequalities and their determinants. She completed a Masters in Medical Anthropology at UCL where her dissertation explored factors affecting the use of perinatal mental health services within a highly deprived community in Cape Town. 

At Best Beginnings Rose has found a fun-loving and nurturing environment in which to affect positive change for families in the UK as well as to learn and develop new skills in evaluations, policy and community development. 

Email: [email protected]


Abigail Rowe

Abigail Rowe, Head of Fundraising

Abigail has worked with charities for over 20 years as a fundraiser, strategist and a trustee.  Abigail's background is in education, banking, and the charity sector and is committed to working with charities who support the most disadvantaged people to have better outcomes.

Email: [email protected]

Finance and HR

Stephanie Knowles, Finance Director

Stephanie is a Chartered Accountant with 15 years post qualification experience, following her training with PwC as a Charities Specialist. She has been working with Charities, SMEs and Start Ups as a Finance Director for several years, as well as being a Charity Trustee and School Governor. In recent years she has worked with a focus on women's health charities and companies. She has a passion for driving forward the aims of the Charity by maximising value and reducing risks.

Stephanie has two children who keep her busy in her free time.

Email: [email protected]

Stephen Harris

Stephen Harris, Interim Finance Manager

Stephen is originally from Sydney. He is with us as an interim finance manager, and helping to move our financial operations into the cloud. Stephen also does similar work for other charities in London. When he isn't here, Stephen tries to get himself out to North Devon and Cornwall for a paddle at any one of our famous surfing beaches. 

Katarina Kent

Katarina Kent, Administrative Assistant

I’ve been working for Best Beginnings since January 2017 as an administrative assistant for the office and finance department. My educational background is in economy and social work. I have a strong interest in medicine and psychology too. I’m a mother of three beautiful children and I understand all challenges which parenthood can bring, so Best Beginnings is close to my heart.

Email: [email protected]

Maternity Voices Partnership

Tara Martin, Maternity Voices Partnership Coordinator

I have been living in East London for over 25 years, and in Newham for 20. I love it! I have two boys at secondary school (I don't know where that time went?) and a dog, so I am out and about in the community a lot - school events, parks, kids clubs, and social events. I have always valued the vibrancy of life in Newham and love seeing different communities coming together in unexpected ways. I have worked in children's centres and school across the borough, and have learnt so much about the lives of many. 

As Maternity Voice Coordinator, my aim is to reduce any gaps in inequity and service for women and new mothers across the borough by keeping language simple and inclusive for all. 

Email: [email protected]