Aniqa Nawabi (left), Executive Director of the Muslim Community Network, and Ana Aguilar (right), NICU Assistant Director of Clinical Services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue, discuss ways to support family members of NICU patients, while Kujegi Camara (background, center), Community Education and Interfaith Coordinator for the Muslim Community Network, greets a guest.

Muslim Community Network Brings Meals and Support to Parents with Premature Babies in the NICU at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue

Every month for the last year, the community group has provided meals, engaging activities, and moral support

Jan 24, 2019

New York, NY

January marks the one-year anniversary of monthly visits by volunteers from the Muslim Community Network to visit and support the parents, siblings, and other family members of premature and critically ill infants in the Barbara P. Gimbel Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue. Since the Muslim Community Network’s commitment began, its volunteers have assisted more than 100 families of patients, providing welcome support to parents going through the difficult experience of having a tiny, newborn baby in the hospital.

Volunteers help parents by bringing hot meals, offering activities to pass the time, and perhaps most importantly, providing comfort and moral support. Over the past year, the volunteers have provided more than 360 warm meals to families, as well as to hospital staff.

“My baby spent seven days in the NICU, and I was with him the whole time,” said Isela Dominguez, who was enjoying a warm meal with her husband, courtesy of the Muslim Community Network (MCN) at the December visit. They were able to take their son home for the first time later that day. “You spend so much time there. You need a distraction from the stress and the exhaustion.”

“My family and I enjoyed the meal that was provided to us by the Muslim Community Network,” said Charlene Julien, whose infant daughter was a patient in the NICU. “When a family is at a hospital, it’s usually for a stressful situation. Receiving a well cooked meal is much appreciated. Thank you.”

“Our doctors, nurses and other providers give our tiny patients the best care possible in our state-of-the-art NICU, and provide comfort and support for their parents,” said William Hicks, CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue. “We appreciate the attention and kindness that the members of this community organization show every month by providing respite for the parents and helping to ease a difficult situation.”

The parent of a NICU patient decorates clothing donated for her child. It’s one of the many activities the Muslim Community Network holds for parents whose children are in the NICU.

This month NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue and the Muslim Community Network will mark one year of the visits, which began in January 2018. The initiative was coordinated by one of the hospital’s Community Advisory Board (CAB) members, Ahsia Badi.

“As a member of Bellevue CAB and a big advocate of volunteerism, I am delighted to help connect MCN and Bellevue, two great organizations,” Ms. Badi said. “MCN is able to provide a huge support to our Bellevue families.”

MaryAnn Tsourounakis, RN, administrator for the NICU, said, “This is such a wonderful thing to do for these parents. They never leave the area, and having good healthy food brought to them is amazing. We look forward to them coming.”

The MCN is a 15-year-old non-profit organization that is dedicated to changing the public narrative on what it means to be Muslim in America. MCN informs the public and policymakers about their fellow Muslim neighbors and fosters the civic leadership of Muslim community members through volunteerism, youth organizing, and interfaith bridge building.

“We are very proud to partner with Bellevue in serving families and children in their time of need as part of our volunteer program, which leverages the goodwill of our community members in giving back,” said Aniqa Nawabi, Executive Director, Muslim Community Network. “MCN will continue to deepen our relationship in the communities and find ways to build solidarity, understanding, and harmony through these activities and events in the future.”

The state-of-the-art Barbara P. Gimbel Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue was created in 2011, named to honor the co-founder of the Children of Bellevue auxiliary, a non-profit organization supporting the pediatric patients at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue. The 25-bed NICU uses modern equipment and technology and is designed to mimic the nurturing environment of a mother’s womb. Parents and family members in the NICU are provided with extra space at bedside and have access to a family lounge, dining area, and shower services. NICU staff provide care and answer questions 24 hours a day.

For information about or an appointment at the Barbara P. Gimbel Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue, please call 212-562-5555.


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