Michelle Walz


Background

My name is Michelle. I’m the mother to a wonderful little boy named Torsten. I live with my son in Nyon and have been in Switzerland since November 2008, though I have been an expat and global nomad for most of my life.  I started providing parent-to-parent peer support because, at the time of the birth of my son in 2007, I noticed that many women, myself included, didn’t have a circle of support (and if they did often a very weak one) that is so crucial when starting a family.

I also noticed that in general, expatriate women have an even weaker support network (far from family and close female friends) and so starting a family and finding information and getting help (emotional or practical) was even more difficult.  As such, when I arrived in Switzerland in late 2008 I immediately saw that there was a need to create networks to bring women and parents together.  As I  was a full-time mother, I coupled parenting with starting up a new playgroup and in the Spring of 2009, I set up a Yahoo! Group (coined “Moms-in-Vaud”) to enable us to talk to each other collectively.

Though there were other groups for parents in Geneva and Lausanne, there was nothing much in the corridor in between, and even less information in ENGLISH. And this despite the fact that the population of 20- to 40-something expatriate parents was growing!  So From 5 members in early April 2009, we grew to 15, then 25…50…150!  It then hit a “tipping point” and grew quickly.  Once we reached 500 it was clear that additional platforms and groups were required, so a website, blog, facebook page and facebook group were set up.   On its 4-year anniversary, with over 1,000 families being supported by the different platforms, and the increasing workload associated with these numbers, the idea of creating a paid community materialised.

As my son grew older I found I was able to return to full time employment, as such I was able to discontinue the paid community and turn once again to being a volunteer administrator and peer-supporter.  I now admin the Parents-in-Vaud Facebook Group, co-Admin the FB group Breastfeeding Mamas in Switzerland, and comment freely on many facebook groups that are moderated or administered by others.