Ajaz.org is supporting Little Village – London's biggest baby bank. It provides vital kit for families struggling to pay for essential kit – like clothes, beds and toys. Many of the people who come for help are often socially isolated and have little or no knowledge of wider networks of support available to them – something that Little Village can provide.
Sophie Livingstone, Chief Executive of Little Village, tells us more.
Little Village was founded in 2016 by a group of mums who wanted to do something positive with all the baby kit and clothing they’d accumulated, passing it on as a gift to families in need of help at an expensive time. From one initial family helped in Tooting, SW London, Little Village has grown to support over 5,000 children last year, with families supported in every London borough.
We're named after the African proverb, ‘it takes a village to raise a child'’ and I've spent a lot of time reflecting on who's in my own family's ‘village’ in comparison to the families who come to us for support. Sometimes they are women fleeing domestic abuse with just the clothes they and their children are wearing. Or it is women who’ve been trafficked, and are housed in Home Office Initial Accommodation, about to give birth. Or families who’ve faced Covid related unemployment watching the world opening up again and feeling left behind. It's the stuff’ that often draws people to us, but for me it's the creation of a village’ for families who don't have one which is the real magic.
The feedback we get is not just that people are pleased to have new clothes, but it’s the way they are passed on – as a gift, given with love – and the interaction with everyone at Little Village, that has made such a difference. Solidarity is one of our values, and standing together with families in London to offer support at a challenging time is such an important part of what we do.
“I want to say thank you not just for (supporting me) but for listening to me. Tonight you listened to me and it's the first time I've spoken to anyone, not even my best friend. I try to be brave and the one who makes people laugh. Thank you for everything you and Little Village has done for me and my family. I am so grateful for everything you have done.”
A lot of that solidarity comes from our incredible group of nearly 500 volunteers, some of whom are parents we've previously supported. Since Covid hit and we had to close our doors, these volunteers have continued to support us, donating 12,000 hours of time in 2020 to pack, sort and deliver items, as well as connect with families via the phone – 100 calls a week, on average. We know that volunteering with Little Village has also helped many of them retain a sense of purpose and connecting during Covid.
“I started volunteering with Little Village once a week and I can't put into words how much this has helped me to find purpose again and do something that can make a difference to people's live during this difficult time. It's made me reconnect with the community, reconnect with the world and give myself structure to the week. Although I only play a small part in Little Village, Little Village plays a huge part in my mental wellbeing. I'm so glad that I found Little Village as a place to volunteer, both for myself and for the families that I can help when they need it.”
Sadly, the need for this work isn't going away. Child poverty is increasing for the first time in a generation and it is deepening in London, a city where wealth sits cheek by jowl with deprivation. Our village needs to increase to meet this need, and alongside it we want to shout about the need for a strong safety net for families with young children, putting the voices and experiences of families at the forefront of our storytelling.
We are so grateful to Ajaz and his team for their support as we continue this journey.