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 and in January 2017 she was awarded an OBE for services to Tackling Child Health Inequalities.

Twitter: @alisonbaum

Shabira Papain, COO

Shabira Satar, 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 coproduction 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 and Content

Born in South Africa, Stephanie earned a Bachelor of Arts degree (English, Drama and Film with a sub major in psychology) and embarked on a career as a producer of television and radio commercials for Young and Rubicam. She enjoyed a 2 year stint as an actress in theatre and daytime TV and worked in commercial production for over a 9 year period, working with internationally renowned directors Miles Goodall, Ian Gabriel and Peter Pohorsky.

Stephanie moved to London 18 years ago and started a family. While taking a career-break to expand her horizons, she has undertaken many exciting endeavours including in Health and Beauty PR and children’s book publishing. Stephanie 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 2 years as a donor steward and events director for the London office of an international charity, she joined Best Beginnings in 2016 as Programme Manager for the Our Chance campaign, Out of the Blue, and Heads Together projects.

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

Tercia Santos

Tercia Santos, Project Coordinator

Tercia joined Best Beginnings in 2017 as a Project Support Officer in the Embedding team. Born and raised in Brazil, she worked with vulnerable families in a variety of projects including building emergency houses to improve early childhood development. She worked in one of the most vulnerable neighbourhoods in Sao Paulo with families, health professionals and teachers in order to ensure better opportunities for children in the area.

In the UK she has worked with the Latin American community, especially women and children fleeing domestic violence. She has a Master’s degree in Social Development and is passionate about engaging and supporting communities to achieve positive change.

Email: [email protected]

Matthew Black

Matthew Black, Project Coordinator

Matthew’s Best Beginnings journey began in May 2017 as a volunteer, before joining full-time as a Project Coordinator in the embedding team. Born and raised in Bermuda, Matthew studied French and Spanish at Durham University. His passion for languages has taken him all over South America, where he worked at a community radio station and volunteered 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 WilliamsCathy 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 GriffithsSandra 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]


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

Claire Dishington

Claire Dishington, Finance Director

Claire Dishington joined Best Beginnings Centre August 2018. She is an experienced business coach, management consultant and executive facilitator and trainer.

 Claire has been working in the charitable sector for 15 years, with of experience across various sectors at operations and finance director level.  She has a passion for ensuring value for money and developing best practices across all areas of finance/HR, fundraising, programming, and operations, whilst focusing on long-term aims and objectives of the organisation.

 Claire lives with her partner and family in North London, sings in her local choir and is a big fan of the Spice Girls.

Email: [email protected]

David Pope

David Pope, Finance 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.

Email: [email protected]

Desk phone: 020 3326 7303

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 financially 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]