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Oh baby

Medicine students helping get baby clothes library off the ground

Student Life

By Michelle Osmond

St. John’s has a new library. There’s a twist, though; instead of borrowing books, you can borrow baby clothes.

From left are Lauren Winsor, Mark Hewitt, Rebecca Matthews and Jasmine DeZeeuw.
Photo: Submitted

The St. John’s Baby Clothes Library is supporting families while ensuring a sustainable future – and four Faculty of Medicine students are helping to make that happen.

Rebecca Matthews, Mark Hewitt, Jasmine DeZeeuw and Lauren Winsor are all volunteering to launder and sort baby clothes to help parents in the community who are struggling with the cost.

According to the group’s Facebook page, on average Canadian parents spend approximately $75 per month on clothing during the first year of a child’s life. In addition, baby clothes, worn for such a short period given the rate at which babies grow, often end up in landfills.

Textile waste is an enormous environmental concern: each year, 12 million tons of textile waste is dumped into North America’s landfills.

Driven by advocacy

Ms. Matthews, a second-year doctor of medicine (MD) student, says her interest in the initiative comes from her passion for advocacy in medicine.

“There are many inequality gaps that exist within our health-care system. My goal as a future physician is to bridge some of those gaps.”

“When children and their parents have access to basic necessities, such as clothing, their focus can shift to other things.” — Lauren Winsor

Ms. Winsor’s interest in pediatrics and advocacy also led her to become involved.

“Like so many medical students, I’m interested in improving access to health care and other basic necessities in our community,” she said.

“When children and their parents have access to basic necessities, such as clothing, their focus can shift to other things, creating opportunities for families to live more sustainably, healthily and happily.”

First-hand knowledge

Third-year MD student Jessica Guy knows first-hand the cost of a new baby.

Her son, Archer, was born four months ago.

“It’s no surprise that the cost of raising a child is expensive – nursery, diapers, stroller and car seat, just to name a few. The extraordinary cost of clothing, however, may be unexpected. I know it was for me.”

family, medical student, baby, Faculty of Medicine
Jessica Guy and her husband, Tzu Yang Hsu, will donate the clothes their son Archer outgrows to the St. John’s Baby Clothes Library.
Photo: Submitted

“I can hardly believe how fast he is growing! It seems that an outfit is worn once then suddenly, before he can wear it again, he has outgrown it,” Ms. Guy added.

“The hidden cost of the constant need of new clothing can present a huge financial burden for families. The St. John’s Baby Clothes Library addresses a clear need in our community that otherwise would go unnoticed.”

Medicine students a good fit

The library was founded by St. John’s pediatrician Dr. Heather Power.

As a Faculty of Medicine alumna, Dr. Power knew the students would be a good fit. She spoke during the students’ recent day of advocacy action and was impressed with their enthusiasm and passion for positive social change.

“I think advocacy is a natural fit within medicine, as health-care providers go into health care because they care, and want to make a difference. There is an increasing realization on how important the social determinants of health are.”

For an annual fee of $10 to help with laundry supplies and equipment, parents can borrow bundles of donated baby clothes, organized by size.

The library is opening this fall at 151 Empire Ave., operating out of the St. John’s Tool Library. Anyone who would like to support the library in other ways can get more information via email or visit the Facebook page.

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