Alison Baum photo

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.

Shabira Papain, Deputy CEO

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.


Communications and Digital

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.

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!

Dimitar Kovachev, Digital Lead

Dimitar's main responsibilities are maintaining and innovating our mobile app Baby Buddy. When he's not doing that, I answer my colleagues’ technical questions even if I don’t know the answers but Google does.

Dimitar holds BA and MA degrees in advertising and media and has been working in the digital space for 5 years now. His biggest dream to explore deep space, favourite book is Kafka on the shore, favourite movie is Fight Club and lastly, he hates writing bios.

Margret Unnarsdottir, Digital Communications Officer

Margret works on anything digital at Best Beginnings; administrating the website, social media, email marketing and creating digital designs. She  strongly beliefs in transparent data-driven communications which she works to incorporate in all her work.

Margret holds a BSc degree in Psychology and Msc in Information and Communication Technology. She has a background in sales and marketing as well as academic experience in front-end development and user experience design. In her free time, she likes to be outdoors and especially likes skiing (like a true north-Icelander) and also performs music with her mates in a jazz trio in London. 


Embedding Programme

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.

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.

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.

Fiona Dry, North of England Regional Facilitator

Fiona is Best Beginning’s North of England Regional Facilitator. Before joining the 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 communal events and is involved in a local Amateur Dramatics group, as an actor and choreographer of the annual pantomime.

Hazel 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, 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, 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, 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.

Soumojit Gosh, Policy Lead

Soumojit Ghosh joined Best Beginnings as a Fundraising Co-ordinator before moving on to become Impact and Policy Lead. He works on the ongoing development of the charity’s approach to evaluation and monitoring.

Soumo has previous experience in a wide range of charities, in the UK and abroad. Most of his career has been spent delivering community development projects, before uncovering an interest in impact and measurement. He holds an MSc in International Development and Anthropology from the London School of Economics and a BSc in Economics from the University of Leicester. 


Fundraising

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.

Anna Day, Fundraiser

Anna has been working part time for Best Beginnings since March 2018, prior to which she has been chief executive of NorPIP, a psychotherapy charity from 2014-2018, and Banbury Young Homeless Project 2012-2014 and Executive Director of Oxfordshire Council for Voluntary Youth Services, and has had a fifteen year career in childrens charities first starting off in youth work as a volunteer.

Anna now Chairs and founded Maternal and Infant Mental Health Africa, and runs a successful consultancy scaling up social change initiatives and charities with impact, called the Centre for Social Change. A passionate champion of the early years as the period to intervene to prevent adverse childhood experiences, and a fundraiser, she has raised millions for great causes.

Anna came to Best Beginnings to ensure that every parent gets the help they need when they need it, and became impressed by how powerful digital can be in transforming families, communities and societal attitudes. Anna is part of the team trying to raise £3m for the future development of Baby Buddy to the third birthday, a crucial period to get right to enable family's to thrive. Talk to Anna if you want to know about any aspect of our work ahead of your trust and foundation donating.


Finance and HR

 

Claire Dishington, Finance Director

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.

Pauline Facey, Interim Office Manager

Pauline joined Best Beginnings at the end of May 2018. 
Pauline has worked for two Charity organisation in East London for the past 16 years and volunteers as Street Pastor with Ascension Trust.
Pauline loves sports and practises Kyokushinka Karate for over 20 years but sadly had a car accident that ended her training.

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, 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.

Divya Hirani, Salesforce Officer

Divya qualified as a dentist in India and moved to the UK 2010. She then dabbled in a variety of careers, including but not limited to working in a dental clinic, opticians, medical insurance, and her natural propensity for all things new and challenging, took her on quest to upskill in technology.

Divya has gained her Salesforce Administrator and App Builder certifications, and she’s on the hunt for more! A certified Scrum Master, she also understands the concepts of Agile, and is always on the lookout for applying these principles to projects to help do things in iterations, and include the users in the journey to creating good, usable software. Divya has also authored a poetry book called ‘Of Illusions and Ink Spills’ which reached #14 on the Amazon Bestsellers list.