As part of Challenge London Poverty Week 12 - 18 October, we look at Little Village.
Imagine a foodbank but one filled with baby clothes and equipment.
Many of the parents we work with are unprepared for the cost of the clothes and items a baby needs.
Little Village has helped a great number of these parents in the last few years. Little Village is a London-based charity that operates a bit like a foodbank but with baby clothes and equipment. They take referrals from other professionals and parents can come to their drop-in centres and pick out some things that they need.
One mum who used Little Village is Mona.
Mona was 20 when she had her baby and then came to St Michael’s for a parenting assessment. It was her first baby and although she had nieces and nephews she didn’t really know how to care for her new child.
Her family were quite strict and because she had had a baby outside of marriage, they didn’t come to support her.
“I didn’t have anyone to turn too. After my baby was born I went to live with a foster parent. She was the only person to come and visit me at the centre. I have a huge family but I only see them once a month. It’s no good, they have never helped me.”
As a single mum, Mona had no one to help her get things ready for her baby. When she arrived at St Michael’s she had no money or support and her benefits had been delayed.
Then Celine one of our team old her about Little Village.
"Everything looked brand new"
“I was scared. I was a new mum and I hadn’t had a baby before. But many of my worries were sorted when I went to Little Village because they had everything. When I walked in I was shocked, literally shocked. All the stuff looked brand new.
I got so much - a Moses basket, bottle sterilizer, pram, clothes, books for the baby - so much. My best friend wanted to know where I had got all this new baby stuff from because my benefits were late.
When Denise told me about Little Village and said it was second hand, I was expecting to have to clean things or for them not be the best. I still cleaned everything but it all looked brand new.
Having a baby costs lots of money. I didn’t have anyone around me I was really alone and Little Village really helped me. I am really grateful.
When I came to St Michael’s there was so much that I didn’t know like how to clean bottles properly the way the NHS says. They helped me with things like that and how to hold my baby or not put a blanket near her head.”
Respectful and heart-warming
“When parents arrived at our centres it is a highly stressful time. They are worried about what is going to happen and who will be there. Many come to us straight from the hospital and have nothing for their babies. We try and make them feel as welcome as we can, giving them a Welcome Pack and emphasising that we offer support as well as assessment.
But it’s great to know that the Little Village is just around the corner and has such a vast range of beautiful clothes and equipment. The volunteers put so much thought into the experience of families who visit Little Village. That and the quality of the second-hand goods is so respectful and heart-warming.”
Mona is now living in long-term temporary accommodation with her baby. As her baby grows she says she will go back to get new things at her local branch of Little Village. But she is also giving things back to Little Village once she has finished with them to help other families.
“Babies grow so fast. I have told all the mums I have met about the Little Village. It is so kind of them to be there for young parents like me who have no family that will help them.”