Little Village’s vision is that no child is without the essentials they need to thrive.
Little Village is one of the largest baby banks in the UK – it has an enhanced model of building community as well as just redistributing items.
They have supported more than 6,500 visits from families across London who are struggling with essential kit for babies and pre-schoolers.
Child poverty: 4 in 10 children’s lives are blighted by poverty in London, and one in 5 children are growing up in persistent poverty in one of the wealthiest cities in the world. There are 95,000 children under the age of 5 living in poverty in London.
Anxiety and depression: The Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that low income adults much more likely to suffer from depression or anxiety than other groups, which in turn impacts upon their children.
Isolation: Research from the Office for National Statistics has shown that the link between isolation and poverty overshadows all other factors including gender and age. Little Village addresses this through their inclusive volunteering programme.
Sustainability: Babies outgrow seven clothing sizes in their first two years. Mothercare estimates that 180 million items of outgrown baby clothing are hiding in cupboards up and down the country.
Little Village alleviates the immediate impact of poverty by gifting families high quality clothes, toys, books and equipment to babies and children up to the age of five. This means families don’t have to get into more debt or make difficult decisions about heating and eating. At many of their drop-in sessions, Little Village have trained advisers on debt, housing and benefits issues, as well as mental health professionals to help parents who are juggling multiple challenges.
They have three sites – Camden, Wandsworth and Southwark and they are about to open a satellite in a children’s centre in Roehampton. Each of which runs regular family sessions (drop ins and appointments) during term time. Here, families are welcomed in and invited to choose the items they need while their children play.
Although they often get called a ‘baby bank’, the model is about community as much as redistribution. Families are invited in to choose the items they’d like for their children, enabling Little Village to offer a warm welcome and additional support e.g. advice services.
Nearly all the parents they support are women. Many are struggling with loneliness and low confidence. User feedback and an independent evaluation shows how their community-based, volunteer-led approach, rooted in their values of love and solidarity, has (a) given women back agency, reducing parental anxiety and increasing resilience (b) encouraged them to return as volunteers to help others and (c) built new social networks across class and cultural divides.
Amy is 23 but she readily admits that she’s already experienced enough in her 23 years to feel like three times as old. Amy first visited Little Village a little over a year ago, when her baby, Ricky, was three months old, “I’d left home with my baby and one bag. It was a violent and chaotic environment and it wasn’t safe for me or Ricky,” says Amy today.
With the help of a social worker Amy managed to escape and found herself living in a refuge in a new area, with no support, friends or family and absolutely nothing for Ricky, “My refuge worker told me about Little Village. I was really embarrassed to ask for help, I’m a very proud person, but I was at rock bottom. I came in and realised within minutes that there was absolutely no need to feel ashamed. They gave me absolutely everything: a pram, clothes, bottles, nappies, even toiletries for myself.”
As well as providing the essential equipment Amy needed for Ricky, Amy found the emotional help and friendly environment a source of great support: “That first day I came to Little Village was the first time anyone had ever made me a cup of tea. It makes me feel emotional now to think about it. I was so used to being the one who had done everything for everyone else. Something so simple as a cup of tea can make the world of difference.”
Amy returned to Little Village when Ricky was six months old, returning the items he’d grown out of, collecting the next size up, and offering to help and volunteer and she’s been back every week since.
“I’ve made friends here and Little Village now feels like a home to me. It’s a lovely community.”
Since January this year, Amy has joined the payroll as our lead childcare worker in the Little Village creche. Not only is Amy growing her confidence and earning money again, but she is also enabling other parents to volunteer for Little Village while their children are looked after safely.