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Mamas in Charge: Meet Our Executive Team

It’s an exciting time to be a Mama! Sharing resources and advice, bringing together international families, and connecting Shanghai Mamas across the world is as relevant as ever and our growing team is eager to keep the conversations and fun going.


While our grassroots efforts are mostly led by individuals chatting on WeChat or at our gatherings, there is a team of Mamas who keep the content flowing, events coming, and platforms chugging along to best support international families in the city.


Our Chairperson – Deanna Irizarry

Originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it was a 3-year process for her family to move to Shanghai, arriving in June 2022. “It was a crazy time to make a move. Even under such chaotic circumstances, the Shanghai Mama community was supportive. The kindness from this group helped me find my path in Shanghai, a city my family and I have fallen madly in love with.”

Creating meaningful connections is in her DNA. D brings 15+ years of experience leading Global Fortune 500 recruiting teams and wants to use her expertise to pay kindness forward. “I’m excited to continue our mission of bringing people together and providing the support they need to thrive and find joy in Shanghai.”


Kids ages: 7 year old son (Aaron) and 17 year old step-daughter (Katelyn)

Year arrived in Shanghai: 2022

Shanghai Mama and Exec since: 2023


Ask her about: Travel, books, pancakes, binge-worthy shows and the perfect paloma.

International Mama – Lisa

Lisa has lived all over the place. The list of cities is ridiculous: Bay Area, Orange County, California, Ermatingen, Ascona (CH), Lausanne, Hong Kong, Florence, Stockholm, Toronto, Bangalore, Shanghai. So even though she’s pretty new to the city, she knew finding support systems and a community early on (before she even arrived!) would be critical to life in a new place.


“Shanghai Mamas WeChat groups helped me get organized before I even moved to China. I was able to get questions answered about ayis, apartments, neighborhoods, schools and more! Being able to do all this made my transition from India to Shanghai so easy and knowing I was speaking with other expats who also have been through the same experiences was so valuable!” 


See full list of SHMamas WeChat groups here.


Kids’ ages: 8 and 2.5

Year arrived in Shanghai: 2019

Shanghai Mama since: 2019

Shanghai Mama Exec since: 2020


Ask her about: Danish baby brands

Behind the Scene – Xinxin

From China to England to Belgium and back, Xinxin is both locally savvy and understanding of international family concerns. Xinxin joined the team in 2020 as our Operations Manager after years of experience in the non-profit and social enterprise sector in Shanghai. Currently our only official employee, in between watching her boys and menagerie of pets, she maintains our website, official WeChat account, email and much more. Xinxin also manages all the constant Exec Team admin requests with a smile – she is the wheel that keeps us moving!


Kids’ ages: 6 and 12

Year arrived in Shanghai: 2007

Shanghai Mama and Staff since: 2020


Ask her about: Volunteering with various NGOs/community organizations in Shanghai, forster/adopt animals, and raising kids who love Beijing opera.

Events Expert – Joyce

Joyce, our event manager, joined our team in 2020 and brings years of event planning skills to the SH Mamas community. The brains and clout behind our recent Shanghai Mamas Family Day. Joyce is a super-active Mama of two fearlessly trying out all the new family activities and venues around the city and vlogging about them on her WeChat Channel ‘Mini Traveling’. She is also an editor and contributor for the Shanghai Mamas Channel. “Shanghai Mamas connects me with other moms in the community and allows my little ones to make new friends too.”


Kids’ ages: 2 and 4

Year arrived in Shanghai: 2009

Shanghai Mama and Exec since: 2020


Ask her about: Where to have fun with your kids around town!! Joyce takes her kids to explore something new every day!

The Fitness Mama – Joana

Joana is from Brazil and has been in China for a total of 10 years: 7 years in Beijing between 2005 and 2012 and additional 3 in Shanghai where she arrived with her family in 2019. She has a Master’s in Contemporary Chinese Studies from Renmin University and loves learning about Chinese politics and culture. Joana met her Danish husband in Beijing where they also had their wedding at the Great Wall (as you do of course). Their first daughter, Clara, was born in Cambridge, UK, where the family lived between 2013 and 2019 and a son, Erik, who was born in China in 2021. Joana is also a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor. Since joining Shanghai Mamas, she has been helping with editing as well as managing our Instagram.


Kids’ ages: 6 and 1

Year arrived in Shanghai: July 2019

Shanghai Mama since:

Since 2017 when we were here for a short stay of 2 months

Shanghai Mama Exec since: July 2021


Ask her about: Chinese language, culture and politics, childbirth and fitness.

Technical Consultant – Annie

Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Annie has traveled around the world and has been living in China since 2009, when she moved to Fuzhou for what was supposed to be a year-long stay. Once a year was up, she found she was too immersed in the process of learning to play erhu and Chinese leaf whistle to leave, so she started learning Chinese and now, almost 15 years later, she’s still here.


Having first moved to Shanghai for work in 2015, Anne spent a few years outside the city, including one and a half years stranded in the US as a COVID refugee, before returning in 2021. Currently, she lives with her husband and mother-in-law, both of whom don’t speak Chinese. As a result, despite her best efforts, her son speaks mostly Chinese, not English. As a Technical Consultant, Annie provides guidance to our team on the SHMamas website redesign and how to optimize our SEO content.


Kid’s age: 2

Year arrived in Shanghai: 2015

Shanghai Mama since: 2022

Shanghai Mama Exec since: 2022


Ask her about: Cool places to travel in rural China and France, Chinese traditional instruments, gongfu tea culture, language learning, book recommendations for children and adults.

Festive Mama – Sarah

Aussie Shanghai Mama, Sarah, joined Shanghai Mamas in 2016 before arriving in Shanghai. “My close friend had completed an expat stint in Dubai and told me the most important thing about expat life is to find your tribe by connecting with people. She found the Shanghai Mamas website and signed me up before I even left Australia, for which I’m very thankful!”


Sarah started attending Downtown Coffee mornings a couple of weeks after arriving in Shanghai. At first it was Sarah and two other women attending the coffee mornings and they started a Downtown Coffee WeChat group to keep in touch. There were no other Shanghai Mamas WeChat groups at the time. Over the months other people attended the coffee morning and slowly but surely the Downtown Coffee morning chat group grew to the almost 250-member group it is today.


“Almost all my friends in Shanghai have been made through Shanghai Mamas. I am still in contact with those friends I first made at coffee mornings even though all of them have moved back home or onto other assignments around the world.”  Sarah volunteered with Shanghai Mamas her first 4 years in Shanghai before joining the Exec Team in 2020 writing/editing content for the Shanghai Mamas Official WeChat account. Sarah moved to Beijing with her family in February 2022 and continues to write/edit content for Shanghai Mamas. Sarah also founded the Shanghai Christmas groups in Shanghai and continues to admin them from Beijing where she has founded the first Beijing Christmas group.


Kids’ ages: 10 year old daughter

Year arrived in

Shanghai: 2016

Shanghai Mama since: 2016

Shanghai Mama Exec since: 2020


Ask her about: Anything! Tween activities, night’s out, travel, markets, custom-made bunting and travel – check out her blog of China travels and adventures Want to join the Christmas group? Ask her about all things Christmas-related.

Shanghai Mamas Alumni Advisor – Jessica

“I had already been in Shanghai for many years when I became a mom. When I went on maternity leave before giving birth, I went to a coffee morning and met a few people. It was fab. Back then the forums on the website were incredibly active (no WeChat!) and I spent so much time on it, I eventually started volunteering to help monitor and run the website. Once my son was born we did coffee mornings, play dates, and met fantastic friends through Shanghai Mamas. It started to become our community. I joined the executive committee because I wanted to give back and also, to learn new things. I had never organized events like the parties, or run a website and it gave me an opportunity to learn and grow professionally. A couple of website revamps and some massive events later (the first YCIS party??? OMG, that was a lesson!) and I feel like I’ve grown so much in my ability and also confidence to be a leader.


My son is now almost 9 and so many of his life events are Shanghai Mamas related in one way or another. It’s been truly life changing for me and I’m so glad I took that first step andjoined Shanghai Mamas!” Click here to find out how to join WeChat groups relevant to your interests.


Kid’s age: 9 year old boy

Year arrived in Shanghai: 2004

Shanghai Mama since: 2012

Shanghai Mama Exec since: 2014


Ask her about: Food, yoga, and wine. Middle school and all its glory.

The Co-Founder – Melanie Ham

Melanie Ham is one of the original Shanghai Mamas. Yep, she’s been here since the Yahoo group days. She’s in charge of the money and legal stuff to make sure we stay in the black, pay our taxes, and stay out of (real) trouble! She has two teenagers, two big dogs, a grumpy cat, and dozens of houseplants.

She is currently living in North Carolina, but will return to Shanghai one day soon.


Kids’ ages: 14 and 18

Year arrived in Shanghai: 2003

Shanghai Mama & Exec since: 2006


Ask her about: Breastfeeding/lactation issues, volunteering with various NGOs/community organizations in Shanghai, mental health awareness, parenting teens in Shanghai, school options in Shanghai, gender equity, book club, bullet journaling.

Find out how you can get involved here.

Shanghai Mamas Is THE Place To Connect With International Families, Find Your Nice In The City And Meet Lifelong Friends Since 2006.

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