Wednesday, 11 October 2017

A start is a beginning. Bringing Baby Boxes to Montana

I'm writing on behalf of the Finlandia Foundation of Montana, a newly established, Missoula-based organization, to introduce an initiative called Baby Boxes. You might have heard about the concept, as "Baby Box Movement" has generated global and national interest. Several states in the US have adopted the model in the support of new mothers and babies and Montana should not be left behind.

In brief: The Baby Box is a practical tool for supporting mothers with their new-born babies. The Baby Box is a cardboard box that can be used as a first safe sleep space for an infant. The Baby Box comes with a mattress, clothing and other necessary items needed for taking care of a baby from 0 to 6 months old.

The baby box supports the idea of giving equal opportunity for babies of all backgrounds from the very beginning: it’s free (first and for most) for low-income families and won't be handed out without a proper prenatal or infant care education.

The Baby Box originated from Finland, the country who federally has provided free baby boxes over 75 years to all mothers residing and expecting a baby in Finland. This Finnish Baby Box initiative has gained global attention, as it is very practical and smart. It has helped to lower infant mortality rates. In the USA several states and cities have started baby box campaigns and programs, just to name a few: Alabama, Texas, Ohio, New Jersey, Minnesota, Maine, Colorado.  Currently, more than 20 states are working on introducing the initiative to their communities.

The Finlandia Foundation of Montana is working through government agencies, hospitals, insurance companies, tribes, corporations, and non-profits to raise awareness about the initiative to distribute Baby Boxes in Montana. A key element in bringing the baby boxes to Montana is to keep the initiative local so that every-penny-possible would stay within the state and go towards our Montana communities and to their target audiences, who are low-income, pregnant women residing in Montana. Another fact is that every mother who receives the baby box must have a proof of infant care education: visited and consulted with a healthcare provider; attended an existing prenatal class; or completed an online course in order to be eligible for the box. The baby box initiative is very much needed in a rural state like Montana, where family income rates are low and distances are vast: access to health care and prenatal education across the state are almost non-existent.

It was so time-consuming, expensive and hard to decide what crib or bassinet to get for my baby, and I was afraid to buy a used one at a garage sale. I waited and waited too long. The baby arrived 2 weeks earlier! I feel like the baby box saved me.

My employer gifted me the baby box as a kind gesture. I was supported at my workplace and felt more prepared for my baby's arrival. 

All I asked for was the baby box as my baby shower gift to save money and the environment.

I wanted to sleep next to my baby, so my husband and I lifted the baby box on our bed between us. Everybody slept close, but safe.

The Finlandia Foundation is excitedly moving forward with the Montana Baby Box Initiative. We are reaching out to find supporters, to build partnerships and are simply asking for an opportunity to open a dialogue for further discussion.

Our organization is public, non-partisan and non-profit and we operate for educational and charitable purposes.

Jenni Rohrbach, President

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

The Finlandia Foundation of Montana: Who We Are and What We Do

The Finlandia Foundation of Montana (FFM) is an advocate for global diversity and is dedicated to the preservation of Finnish- and Scandinavian-American cultural heritage in Montana and the Rocky Mountain region. FFM was formed in the spring of 2017 when we, the two founding members, Jenni Rohrbach and Jenna McVey, connected through the Traveling Sauna, a wooden sauna house on wheels that came to visit Missoula in April 2017 because of us. We saw a need to promote Finnish culture in our small and vivid community of Missoula, but realized more potential in partnership and thus invited other Missoula Nordics to join us and maximize our efforts together. Today FFM board of directors consists of Finns, Danes, and Americans. Together, the theme of Finland’s centenary celebration for its' independence also suits us quite well.
Our collective experiences, both Jenni’s work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Helsinki and with the Permanent Mission of Finland to the United Nations in New York and Jenna’s passion for Finland that has developed over the years, have culminated in the realization of FFM. The Nordic countries and their like-minded philosophies have inspired us to think the same way when it comes to community and collaboration. Although FFM is a very new organization, we have had an active presence and have already accomplished quite a lot through our community outreach and events. We seek to introduce Finnish and Scandinavian culture and ideas to the wider public, especially in regards to education and innovation. We hope to enrich our community by promoting multiculturalism, diversity, acceptance, and equality on the local level, something we firmly see as core Nordic values. These values are closely connected to “development, collective impact and social capital” when working towards building more diverse and cohesive communities in Montana.

We’ve been working hard to get Finnish maternity packages to Missoula and hopefully throughout Montana. (This initiative was actually written about in several local newspapers in Finland.) We also connect with families and youth through our music outreach program and through our international exchange student program in partnership with the Council for Educational Travel USA, Missoula County Public Schools, and the University of Montana. So far we have participated in an international fair at the University of Montana, as well as hosted the Traveling Sauna, a Nordic fiddle concert, a May Day celebration, a Finnish movie night, and a get-together for the Nordic exchange students in Missoula. The highlight of the year for FFM will be a community dinner event in November specifically celebrating the Finnish Centennial. We at FFM are honoured to be part of Finlandia Foundation National and look forward to what the future will hold. For more information on FFM, please visit or find us on Facebook under Montana Nordic Group.

Photo Text: The FFM board with Finnish and Scandinavian exchange students: Making friends with newcomers and embracing cultural diversity in Missoula. Discussions about the success of the Nordic countries in higher education, an example of Finland as an educational superpower. Also supporting the national and local Welcoming Week campaign for refugees and immigrants.