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 of mine that there was a playgroup at the St. James Church, an Episcopal Church. Despite the fact that I was not Episcopalian and didn’t speak Italian, I decided to go anyway to the Wednesday morning playgroup. At times, this group ranged from 2 moms to sometimes 10. This 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 to keeping things organized and having the schedule of 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 things of Florence. In moving here from the US, I had to do lots of 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, that is moving here, whom 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, most I posted was from searching the web and translating and my own experiences. I had also asked some of the members in the playgroup for their experiences as well.
At the time, networking was not like it is today with Facebook but I knew that the web was a great way to reach out and with web based forms I could collect the names of the moms that are interested 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 web form to collect names and their areas with hopes to hook moms up with other moms. The names 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 coming here from all around the world.
Two years after creation, I became really ill with a life threatening disease. In 2006, I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease. During the period of 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 it was a struggle for me to keep it all going. I had a change of heart, when many moms stated that the group was the best thing that ever happened to them. So I kept the site and struggled to keep the network going.
In 2009, after years on 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 not only getting members from Firenze, but all over Tuscany so I divided the group in to Firenze and its sister sites in Siena, Perugia, and Lucca.
Today, we are a network of 1106 followers (Blog, Twitter, Member database, & Facebook), have a few organized events, produce weekly newsletters, and have 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 to the moms the best network possible. I am devoted to organizing more outings and activities for both moms and their children of all ages. More involvement from the members whether it is writing an article for the News Letter, organizing or attending the events, and even just giving some input is always welcome. Your help and input keeps the group flourishing! So if you have a thought contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
FMs4Ms would not exist without your help!
Written by Kimberly Vanzi
FMs4Ms Founder/ Web Designer