MOMS Orange County serves our community through the commitment of many dedicated people working in collaboration with one another to educate and support our clients. These individuals put into motion the mission of MOMS Orange County through their hands, feet, hearts and minds. In each Lil’ Bits edition, we will introduce you to one of the many valuable people at MOMS Orange County who bring our mission to life.
Larissa Chaibun has been a part of the MOMS Orange County (MOMS) team as a Maternal Child Health Coordinator, or Home Visitor, since February 2001. In her 9 years with MOMS, Larissa approaches each client and their family with care, compassion and thoughtfulness. Her desire to be a part of community development and positive change is embedded in the fact that she grew up in the very same community in which many of MOMS clients reside. The youngest of five siblings, all of whom were raised in Orange County, Larissa is an alum of Mater Dei High School, California State University Fullerton and has received graduate training in Bilingual Teaching. Her desire to help families have healthy babies aligns with a commitment to improving her own community and the lives of those around her.
What initially drew you to MOMS Orange County?
Since I was in high school, I worked within the community assisting families to understand and navigate the health care system. At the time, I wanted to pursue a degree in education and become a teacher. When the opportunity arose at MOMS, I felt that it was a perfect transition for me as I already felt comfortable working directly with families, understanding cultural differences and respecting boundaries. At MOMS, I could further develop skills which would take me closer to my career goals.
Yet, you’re still at MOMS almost 10 years later! What has kept you at MOMS?
(Laughs) It makes me feel great to be a part of the work. When I talk to clients and they share about their challenges or express concern about their neighborhoods, I completely value their input because I live here, too. I love working directly with families to improve their lives because it helps all of us in the community. I may not be a teacher in the traditional sense with a classroom full of children but it has been so rewarding being an educator by talking to clients about how to improve their health habits and share about what types of programs are available to them. The community is my classroom!
Having been a part of MOMS for close to 10 years, I have seen a lot of change and growth. I think MOMS strength is being able to listen to clients and their needs and growing our program to meet those needs, such as having regular, monthly visits or incorporating expanded diabetes and breastfeeding education into our existing program. I’ll have clients ask me, “Is it ok to breastfeed my baby in public?” These types of questions are an opportunity to share about current events and inform families about their rights and responsibilities as individuals and parents so they can stand up for themselves.
During home visits, I often ask clients, “Did you tell your doctor about your symptoms?” and it is such an eye-opener to learn that many do not feel comfortable asking questions or sharing about their health concerns with their doctor. I believe strongly that having a sounding board and a supportive someone to provide input, encouragement and information is invaluable. This builds confidence and empowers our clients to be better parents.
MOMS Orange County is a part of the Early Head Start Community Partnership. Can you talk a bit about your work?
The Early Head Start project is a two-year funded collaboration by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Head Start. The partnership is between Rancho Santiago Community College District, MOMS Orange County, HABLA and Help Me Grow Orange County and helps pregnant mothers in Santa Ana access comprehensive prenatal and postpartum care with the goal to enhance the physical, social, emotional and intellectual development of the baby from birth to age three. Representing MOMS, I am the designated home visitor during the prenatal period. Through home visits and assessments, the mothers will have access to nutrition, health, social and emotional support and services. The visits will continue until the child’s first birthday. The project calls for more frequent visits (twice a month) to provide support and information to clients. With the frequency of visits, I am definitely able to build a trusting relationship with families and better assess the family situation in order to make appropriate referrals to community resources.
When you’re not working at MOMS, what do you like to do to relax and for fun?
To relax after a day at work, I often seek quiet moments to myself and enjoy taking long walks with my dog, Desmond. He loves trips to the dog parks and hikes! My husband and I are big movie buffs and I also enjoy going to museums and reading (particularly fiction and science-fiction novels).
What is one unique thing about yourself that you’d like to share with others?
Oh, definitely that I just completed by first half marathon at Disneyland (with three of my colleagues from MOMS Orange County) – and it felt great!