Mother’s helpers shine

North York woman serves as an ‘Angel’ to families in need


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Amy Friedman now sits on the board of directors of the Nanny Angel Network

North York resident Amy Friedman may not consider her love for children very special, but some families consider her an angel for it.

Friedman is just one of the 32 trained volunteers who provided care last year to families affected by cancer. The network was founded by Audrey Guth, who drew on her experiences, not only as a cancer survivor, but as a child affected by a parent’s illness.

“When I was very young I had a parent who had cancer, and we lived with that for three years until my father passed away,” she said. “I remember how haunting that was, going to treatment with him.”

She said that her idea sparked during her own treatments. “I was looking around the room. There were these young mothers with children. I remember thinking, ‘This isn’t a place for children.’”

Wanting to provide that care for mothers who could not afford it, she started the Nanny Angel Network in 2008. Nannies work varying hours, from occasional visits to long days, taking care of children and daily household tasks while the children’s mothers attend treatments, recuperate and rest.

Friedman has been involved for approximately three years. Her educational background is well-suited for the job — she has a master’s degree in crisis and trauma studies. “I was focused on children and families that are coping with illness,” she said. After working in that field in Israel, she returned to Toronto and became active with the Nanny Angel Network.

“I was involved with more of the high-risk families,” she said. She went on to become a member on the board of directors.

Friedman said volunteering as a Nanny Angel requires a lot of strength. “A lot of moms you see have no family support here. They’re very low-income, and they’re struggling between going to their chemo appointments and being with their family,” she said. Last year, 48 per cent of the mothers helped were visible minorities, and 48 per cent were single parents.

“The hardest part is not being able to do more,” she said. But she emphasized that the rewarding feeling of helping a family in need makes it all worthwhile: “By helping a family through one of the most chaotic, stressful times in their lives, you becoming a key resource in helping them get better and helping them grow from the experience.”

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