Little Village is a baby bank – like a foodbank, but for clothes, toys and equipment for babies and children up to the age of five. Baby banks have appeared behind the wave of food banks that now exist across the country because people who can’t afford to feed themselves will also struggle to buy the many essential products they need to care for a baby.
Chloe is is one of their clients. She’s 21 and pregnant with her second baby. Her midwife referred her to Little Village.
“My life’s been pretty tough, I had my first child young and had a lot of other problems and ended up with postnatal depression. My mum has custody of my daughter because I was worried I wouldn’t be able to look after her properly.
“I’ve had problems with my ex and then my dad died at the beginning of this year. There was no one to arrange his funeral, so I ended up organising and paying for it on my own which was a huge bill. I’m on Universal Credit, which isn’t enough to live on, and I’m still paying for my dad’s funeral, as well as being in rent arrears and other debt. It’s horrible dealing with all that so coming here’s been a big relief. It’s expensive having a baby – you don’t realise until you do it. .
“It’s not been what I expected coming here. I was nervous. I was worried about being judged and that everyone would be older and look and me and think: she’s just a young mum. Actually it’s been quite friendly and people have conversations with you – it’s not been ‘do you need this? Do you need that? Right, get out the door. It’s relaxing that you can sit there and talk to someone. And there’s a few younger mums so I felt OK! .
“Being a younger mum, I worry what people think. You can’t judge until you get to know someone. My partner’s in the army: he’s serving the country. I’ll be at home bringing up the baby, essentially a single parent because he’ll be away. .
. “What would I say to other mums thinking about visiting a baby bank? Pop along and see what it’s like, you’ll miss out if you don’t. People worry that people will think ‘oh, they’re poor’ and ‘who’s gonna be there?.’ You shouldn’t feel ashamed – if you need help, ask for it – don’t dwell and suffer- you’ll be surprised at who you meet and the outcome. .
“I feel more prepared for the baby now I’ve been here. And mentally I feel in a better place than I was the first time around.” .
This year Little Village has supported 1,695 families – already more than in 2018. In 2017, it was fulfilling an average of 102 referrals a month – this rose to 243 referrals a month in the first half of 2019. Its volunteers consider the bundles that they make up for parents as “gifts” and as such expect the donations to be of a high quality – stuff you would only consider giving to a fussy friend. Parents can then return items once they no longer need them, promoting the concept underpinning Little Village of families helping other families.
The donations that go the quickest are those which people might not think to donate – toiletries for babies with nappy rash, clothes for children from the age of two to five. Nappy rash is a really big problem, says Sophia Parker, the founder of Little Village, because parents often have to ration their nappies and so leave them on their children for long periods. Some can’t afford them at all.
Donations from The Hygiene Bank are given to organisations like Little Village and in turn to mums like Chloe.