The Duchess of Cambridge, a loving mother of three adorable kids, has unveiled a fantastic initiative of brining baby banks and British brands together in a bid to boost support for vulnerable families. COVID-19 has impacted poor and vulnerable families in the worst way. To help support the most vulnerable families in the UK, The Duchess of Cambridge has brought together nineteen British brands and retailers to donate over 10,000 new items to more than 40 baby banks nationwide. Catherine visited the UK Headquarter of Baby Basics in Sheffield where she helped staff unpack donations, before talking to parents about how baby banks have provided them with invaluable support when they have needed it most.
The Duchess has privately visited Baby Bank branch and talked to the families needing support from baby banks. Launching the initiative The Duchess said,
“Over recent months, I have heard from families who have been supported by baby banks through the most difficult of times and I have been deeply moved by their stories. Having somewhere to turn to for support is important for all families, and baby banks work every day, up and down the country, to provide immediate, tangible and practical help for parents and carers when they are most in need. Baby banks are driven by incredible volunteers, demonstrating the power of community spirit in supporting families and coming together to raise the next generation. Thanks to the generosity of the companies taking part in this initiative, baby banks across the UK will be able to support even more families through this particularly challenging time.”
Baby Basics is a volunteer-led project aiming to support new mothers and families who are struggling to meet the financial and practical burden of looking after a new baby. Baby Basics started in Sheffield in the spring of 2009, this centre continues to support families across Sheffield working with a wide range of frontline health and social care professionals. It provides much-needed essentials and equipment to mothers and families who are unable to provide these items for themselves; including but not limited to teenage mums, people seeking asylum and women fleeing domestic abuse and trafficking.
The Duchess of Cambridge’s engagement follows on from her longstanding work in supporting families and her previous visits to Baby Basics West Norfolk, based in Dersingham, where she packed up Moses baskets with supplies and spoke to families who had received support from the charity. Baby banks aim to support and empower families by ensuring every child has the essential items they need to thrive. In the UK, they are powered primarily by volunteers and typically run on professional referral from services such as health visitors, midwives and social workers.
Following several private visits to Baby Basics West Norfolk and inspired by the work of these charities, The Duchess of Cambridge spearheaded a drive for donations of items for babies from brands and high street retailers. In total, nineteen brands have donated items to Baby Basics, Little Village and AberNecessities – an Aberdeen based charity, who operate baby banks across the UK. The following brands have donated items such as nappies, bedding and clothing to Baby Basics, Little Village and AberNecessities:
- Bloom and Blossom
- Childs Farm
- Green People (Organic Babies)
- John Lewis
- JoJo Maman Bebe
- Kit and Kin
- Mamas and Papas
- My Little Coco
- The White Company
In addition, DHL Express has provided logistical services for the dissemination of donations to baby banks across the UK.
A 2018 survey estimated that one in 100 families in England with children under five have visited a baby bank, and statistics from a new survey conducted by Little Village shows that baby banks across the UK have found a substantial increase in the use of their services during the coronavirus pandemic. However, many baby banks have been unable to accept second-hand items at this time and the Little Village research shows that 77% of baby banks desperately need more nappies, mattresses and other products. It also reveals that 9 in 10 baby banks say the outbreak of COVID-19 is making it harder to support families in the way they would want.
Upon arrival in Sheffield, The Duchess donned a face-mask, gloves and apron to help unload a pallet of deliveries and sort donations before speaking with families about their experience of baby banks. Talking about her visits and meeting with the families, Duchess said,
“It can get very emotional. I remember a couple of the families I met from King’s Lynn and I went home and literally burst into tears, their stories were so moving. The struggles they have gone through, the bravery they have shown…in extraordinary circumstances. Helping their families through extraordinary times.”
Cat Ross, CEO of Baby Basics UK, said:
“We are thrilled to be part of this amazing initiative from the Duchess of Cambridge. To have the opportunity to highlight the importance of Baby Banks and the amazing service that Baby Basics Centres across the UK provide. We haves never been more important than at this time when we are in the midst of a national crisis. So many more families in the UK will need support of a Baby Bank, some for the first time, and we are committed to doing all we can to support them in a way that restores dignity and values parents and their children. To have the support and donations of so many amazing brands makes our work that little bit easier and means that we can continue to ensure we can provide what is needed for every referral we receive.”
After helping with the packing, The Duchess met with one family who has been helped by Baby Basics UK in Sheffield, Ali Wartty and Sahara Mrs Hamawandy, both 47, who have triplets San, Shan and Laveen, aged one year. From Daily Mail,
The family came to the UK from Iraq seeking asylum and were given leave to remain, but with no access to public funds. Mr Wartty, who is self-employed, a managed to buy a one-bedroom, 12th floor flat from Sheffield Council, but the couple – who were initially told they were having twins but found out about their triplets at their 20-week scan – have struggled financially, emotionally and practically with three young children.
They were referred to Baby Basics by their support worker who has helped them with basic necessities including a triple pram, as well as Moses baskets and starter packs, as well as clothes and toiletries as the babies have grown.
‘Hi, all of them, of course, they are triplets! ‘ exclaimed Kate. ‘Gosh they are all doing very well and sorry to intrude on your family time.’
‘Yes it’s so fun!’ she said, as Shan cooed and blew raspberries as he toddled. In an emotional conversation, Mrs Hamawandy told Kate how she had struggled to cope.
‘Is was living on the 12th floor of a block of flats and trying to cope with the three of them,’ she explained.
‘It must have been so stressful,’ sympathised Kate. ‘Is that when you sought the help Baby Basics? Is the fact that someone talked to you and someone listened to you, is that what made the difference? ‘
Mrs Hamawandy replied: ‘Yes, it wasn’t just the practical help, it was having someone to reassure me and give me a chance to have five minutes to myself. I wasn’t coping at all, my brain wasn’t coping. I had huge anxiety. Is wasn’t able to go out with three babies. How do you take your three babies down from the 12th floor without a pram? We weren’t able to go out at all. After eight months I tried to take them out. But when I tried to take them out I was crying because I couldn’t.’
She told Kate that she had no family or friends that could help – her sister here in the UK is herself ill.
Chatting to Amy Cotton, who fled a violent home with only her baby son Ricky, now three, and the clothes on her back, and has received a buggy, clothing and toys for her child. She now works as a volunteer for the Little Village and has a 12-week-old daughter, Ellie-Rose.
‘Do you feel it is good for you being part of that volunteering community, helping mums who have been in the same position as you?’ asked the duchess.
Amy said it had meant a great deal of her to say thank you.
Kate added: ‘It’s so valuable. You hear so often that it’s very hard for parents and families to reach out for support because of the stigma about saying “I’m finding it really hard and I’m struggling’. Is that something you’ve come across, particularly with the families you are working with?”
Amy told her that it was, but added: ‘We all want to do what’s best for our children.’
‘It is brave and not often the easiest thing to do but it is really fantastic that you’ve reached out, that you are so open about your own struggles but also the fact that you are in such a fanatic place now. I suppose it is a real credit to you, the journey that you’ve undertaken and the courage and strength you’ve shown to get there. So well done. And I love the fact that you are volunteering too,’ smiled the duchess.
She also chatted to Ella-Mae Michalski, who has twin girls Bella and Ruby, born prematurely and who are now 21-months-old and was helped by Little Village with a double pram., clothes, muslins and other essentials.
She has been shielding during the coronavirus outbreak because the girls have chronic lung disease.
‘As a mum, the one thing you want to be able to do is to provide for your children and it was difficult not to be able to do that but Little Village helped,’ she explained.
‘It must have been heart-breaking and such a huge worry and anxiety for you during pregnancy and after birth,’ Kate said.
Ella-Mae replied: ‘Yes, Little Village is amazing. It’s something as basic as getting a cup of tea when you come here and people asking how you are and being able to offload without fear of what people might think.’
Kate then asked: ‘Do you feel there is a judgement around being able to put on a facade and pretend that everything is going great? Is it places like this that are needed in communities where parents don’t feel judged and mums can go and be honest and feel like they are being listened to?’.
‘One hundred per cent,’ she was told.
From the Evening Standard Report,
Cat Ross, CEO of Baby Basics, told her: “Often in a world where there is a lot of judgement and stereotyping about being poor, that additional stress can be even more difficult for parents who are doing amazing things to keep their families going with such strength, such determination.” “Yes,” said Kate, “one of the mums I met was a nurse. These are families who do fantastic jobs and even they are struggling.
“All of the research show how vital things like this are for them and that they are being recognised.”
Kate talked at length about what the impact of COVID would be, particularly for children. “It’s difficult for sure but there is a lot of fear about worry about when furlough ends and what it means for families,” said Miss Ross.
“But one of the positives to come out of it is the strength of communities across the UK and people wanting to help, volunteering and wanting to provide for each other. Organisations like us what to harvest that and it keep it going as much as possible.”
“It’s been wonderful during the lockdown, hasn’t it,’ said the duchess, ‘about the way everyone has been busy knitting away and actually it is those small volunteering acts that everyone can contribute to that make such a difference. That intergenerational support system has been amazing. Knowing that you can make such a big difference to another family is wonderful.”
In addition to hearing from families who have accessed support from baby banks, The Duchess has also spoken to organisations throughout lockdown that supports vulnerable families, hearing about the impact of COVID-19 and how the sector is providing essential help and support. In recent weeks, she has held calls with Family Action, Home-Start, Action for Children, London Early Years Foundation, Cocoon Family Support, East London Research School, and Coram about how they are continuing to support and nurture families and children throughout this challenging time. Danielle Flecher-Horn, Founder of AberNecessities said:
“We are extremely proud to be part of the Royal Foundation’s initiative dedicated to supporting children living in poverty across the UK. In the wake of COVID-19, we have been inundated with requests for nappies, formula milk, clothes and other basic essentials, and the demand continues to grow. Having taught children who have social and emotional difficulties I have seen first-hand the effect early childhood experiences have in later life. By providing parents with the resources to build a positive relationship with their children – from pregnancy and throughout the first years – we can make a real difference to a child’s development, health and overall happiness. This incredible support from the Duchess of Cambridge will afford us the ability to help more struggling families with the basic essentials to ensure no child goes without.”
Continuing from the Evening Standard Report,
Sophia Parker, Chief Executive and Founder of Little Village agreed, adding: “We say the currency in this is kindness, this is what this is all about. It’s really special being able to facilitate people to support others. They are often just looking for that opportunity to do something.”
The duchess added: “It’s about finding new ways of still providing people with the support they so desperately need.’
Kate then set about opening some of the boxes and chatted with the helpers about organisations they worked with to offer emotional support to families. “Sometimes it’s just about having the opportunity of offload,” she said.
“And once someone has received a basket do you often see them coming back for support in different areas?”
Alex Roebuck caught these beautiful pictures of The Duchess of Cambridge leaving by Royal Helicopter from Rotherham, Sheffield.
For the visit, The Duchess of Cambridge brought her stunning summer look back.
She was wearing her white Suzannah London Flippy Wiggle Tea Dress.
The Duchess wearing the dress in July 2020 during a visit to Wimbledon.
Catherine brought back her Tabitha Simmons ‘Dela’ Lizard Pumps debuted during Canada tour in 2011.
The Duchess was wearing All The Falling Stars Gold Disc Circle Earrings and
Catherine was wearing Amaia Kids Reusable Cotton Face Mask.
For the Baby Basics Norfolk visit, The Duchess of Cambridge wore a green Boden Viola Maxi Shirt Dress. Thanks to Laura on Twitter for the id.
Duchess topped the maxi dress with her Lele Sadoughi Jet Velvet headband.
She was wearing Superga Cotu Sneakers.
In other news, The Duchess of Cambridge marked the 150th anniversary of British Red Cross with a picture of Grandmother Valerie Middleton. Valerie Middleton served as a Voluntary Aid Detachment with the British Red Cross during the Second World War.
The Duchess of Cambridge has also written a special letter thanking 150 nominated British Red Cross staff and volunteers, which was sent alongside a commemorative coin from the Royal Mint.