Hundreds of families supported by baby bank during Covid pandemic
- Credit: Grey Hutton/National Geographic Society Covid-19 Emergency Fund
The founder of a Hackney organisation, supporting mothers and children in need, praised the efforts of her "family of volunteers" as the country marked the coronavirus lockdown anniversary this week.
Nurse Beautine Wester set up the E5 Baby Bank in June last year, after contacting her local King’s Park mutual aid group to help her and her church, Clapton Adventist Church on Chelmer Road, source volunteers.
However, when Beautine noticed that families coming to her church for food needed extra support she enlisted the help of the local group, her church and 400 mums from the E5 Baby/Children’s Buy and Swap Facebook group.
They began collecting and supplying mothers with clean clothes, toys, milk nappies and other essential items.
She said: “If it wasn’t for mutual aid, which just celebrated its anniversary [on March 15], we wouldn’t be here – unbelievable isn’t it?”
Almost a year on, the organisation has grown to become a registered charity helping provide all sorts, from shelter, cots, activity packs and mattresses, to about 60 to 80 families a week.
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The baby bank now serves mothers across London, not just E5, and even helps the Home Office deliver emergency supplies to survivors of abuse and trafficking - exacerbated by the pandemic.
Beautine says “a lot has changed” in a year, adding that the banks progress has been “completely driven by the community”.
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“We are not buying any of these things everything is donated,” she said.
"The other brilliant beautiful thing about the bank is the family of volunteers from all walks of life and ages.
“That’s how we have grown – volunteers.”
Volunteers like Alice Bruggen, who commuted to the West End until the pandemic struck, have donated their time and efforts.
“I have replaced my previous commuting time with cycling around east London delivering food packages, hot meals and baby and child essentials,” she said.
Volunteering, Alice says, has allowed her to meet “so many caring and inspiring people” and helped her “feel useful during difficult times”.
She has enjoyed it so much she has even trained with St John Ambulance to support the vaccination programme.
She added: “It's something I look forward to at the end of my working day and I'm sure I'll continue volunteering long after I get my old commute back.
E5 Baby Bank is currently looking for a storage space to keep items for delivery.
To learn more and donate visit www.e5babybank.org