It all started when I moved to Florence, in Dec 2002, I was lost. I had a 1-year-old and was determined to find some friends for him. I found out from an Italian friend that there was a playgroup at the St. James Church, an Episcopal Church. Even though I was not Episcopalian and didn’t speak Italian, I decided to go to the Wednesday morning playgroup anyway. At times, this group ranged from 2 moms to sometimes 10. The playgroup was a great meeting place until the church decided to close the playgroup. While we struggled to have the playgroup rotating at our homes, I decided to use my free website account that came with my email and created the Monday Morning Moms and Tot Playgroup website. This was great for keeping things organized and scheduling where the next playgroup would be.
In 2004 and pregnant with my second child, I wanted to move beyond the playgroup and start to give out information to the moms listing all the exciting events around Florence. In moving here from the US, I had to do many documents, find doctors, etc. I realized how hard it was to do all these things, especially since it was all in Italian. I felt like this was a good thing to put on a website for any mom moving here who had to deal with adapting to the culture and new environment. It is also when I set up and paid for a domain name and created the website Firenze Moms 4 Moms Network (www.firenzemoms4moms.net). I immediately got to work developing pages of lots of helpful information. At first, my posts started with searching the web, translating valuable pages, and adding the information from my own experiences. When the group grew, it progressed to asking members to share their helpful ex-pat stories.
Networking was not like it is today with Facebook, but I knew that the web was a great way to reach out with web-based forms. I could collect the names of the interested moms and set them up with other moms in their areas. I wanted to increase the size of the members in the playgroup from 10 because I knew there were more moms out there to help. I would also post local events and other FMs4Ms Network activities. I got busy and set up the webform to collect names and their areas. The moms’ started to roll in, and my small Network was beginning to evolve; moms were coming out of the woodwork. Some were already living here for many years, while others were newcomers from worldwide.
Two years after creation, I became really ill with a life-threatening disease. In 2006, I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease. From spring 2007 to winter 2009, things in the group slowed up and almost came to a stop. I was about to close the website and Network down because I struggled to keep it all going. I had a change of heart when many moms stated that the group was the best thing ever to happen to them. So I kept the site and struggled to keep the Network going.
In 2009, after years of therapy, I was starting to feel like I was able to focus on getting this group to where I knew it could be. Because of all the publicizing I did, the Network started to get a burst of new members. We were hitting the 200 member mark. I was surprised and overwhelmed. We were getting members from Firenze and all over Italy, so I divided the group into Firenze and its sister sites in Siena, Perugia, and Lucca.
Today, we have an extensive network of followers (Blog, Member database, & Facebook), a few organized events, and playgroups. I created Firenze Moms 4 Moms Network to assist English-speaking mothers in Florence and the surrounding areas, and that is what I am doing.
Nevertheless, I am constantly looking to improve and bring the best Network possible to the moms. I am devoted to organizing more outings and activities for both moms and their children. More involvement from the members, whether writing a blog post, organizing or attending the events, and even giving some input, is always welcome. Your help and information keep the group flourishing! So if you have an idea, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FMs4Ms would not exist without your help!
Written by Kimberly
FMs4Ms Founder/ Web Designer