DONATIONS PAUSED:Due to our processes of clothes sorting and storing being overwhelmed, we are pausing donations of all clothes and equipment apart from buggies at present. Please check back in a few weeks to see what we are accepting.

A new nest for magpie minis

Even before lockdown we were fast outgrowing Forest Lane Lodge.

We do not have sole use of the building, which means that we were setting up and breaking down the equivalent of a full nursery provision each time we opened.

That, alongside not having enough storage for our donations or a private area for our minis to play safely means that things were stretched.

Our irreplaceable professional partners who descend on our building to meet mums where they feel safe and supported often found themselves squatting on the floor, working on a chair in the playroom, taking case notes on the roundabout – making do.

Then lockdown happened…..

Our staff numbers doubled, the number of mums and minis we are supporting at any given time also doubled and a half (Grew by 150%?)

All these factors are adding up to the inevitable and unsettling conclusion that – to quote the classic film – we are going to need a bigger boat.

The good news

There is a great building very close by which is vacant. It is a five minute walk from the Lodge so even if a professional, a volunteer or a vulnerable mum comes to the old building it won’t be far to get to the new one. Other massive positives are:

  • There will be SO much more space,
  • We will have sole use of the building. We will have a garden all to ourselves to grow flowers, veg and children,
  • Our minis will have a private, safe space (indoor and out) to play,
  • We will have capacity inside to invite all of our beloved professional partners such as LBWP, Health Visitors, Family Support workers, Shelter advisers, Beauticians, Reiki practitioners, dance artists, artists, theatre practitioners to come, spread out and do their thing.

We are also hoping that the space will allow for a:

  • Laundrette
  • Cafe/cooking collective
  • Community garden
  • Digital hub
  • Advice space, but most important of all
  • Chatting, play and chaos and creating minis’ memories and mums’ belonging.

We could also imagine the wider community using the space for:

  • Hot desking,
  • Birthday parties,
  • Evening classes, etc.

The not so good news

It’s a building that has been squatted in. It is in a terrible state and it is not 100% clear what state it will be in if we get possession.

To make the building what we dream it could be for our families we would need:

  • Corporate or community groups to volunteer to clear the building
  • Corporate or community groups to volunteer to clean and paint
  • Specialist builders/developers to help with repairs
  • Gardeners/landscape artists to help create a beautiful outdoor space
  • Interior designers to help us imagine an amazing and magical place where mums and minis are centered
  • Furniture/office suppliers to help us kit the place out
  • Kitchen suppliers to help us create a beautiful collective cooking space, or
  • The money to pay for any of the above that we cannot beg or borrow in-kind.

So here’s where we need your help

We know we ask a lot of you, our beautiful, bountiful community. And here we are asking again, after a year where we have all given more than we ever thought possible. But – you know – it’s just so important to show up for our most vulnerable children and mothers. The brilliant thing is that with a little time and generosity we can, together, make something really beautiful and meaningful happen.

What can you pledge?

We feel as though we need to get an idea of whether our dreams are possible. We know – from the amazing support we have had in the past year – that there are many, many of you who help us, answer our call-outs, come to our aid. But before we take this on, it would be great to have the reassurance that a few of you may be on board to help again.

If you are interested in helping us give our mums and minis a safe, beautiful space to heal, learn and thrive please fill in the pledge form below.

If – hopefully when – we sign a lease, we will get back to you and see if you are still up for it. Then we will get it done and have the biggest thank you party Newham has ever seen!

Thank you so much, as always, for being there for our families. We will be in touch, hopefully with good news and a call to action as soon as we can.

Looking Back on Our Summer Party!

Every year we organise a summer party to celebrate all we’ve achieved in the last year and most importantly all our lovely mums and minis. This is a final hurrah before we then close for August.  At The Magpie Project, as part of our trauma-informed ethos, we ensure that the spaces we create are safe, so that mums and minis are free to relax, bond, and have fun together.

The summer party is a time and place for us all to come together, play, eat, and celebrate the year. In the months leading up to it, staff and volunteers are working hard to create interesting, engaging and fun activities for our mums and minis – this looks like henna, glitter tattoos, lucky dip, flag decorating, as well as a ‘our year at the magpie project’ gallery wall!

For the summer party, we go all out – taking over Forest Lane Park to house our stalls and entertainment stage. Stalls this year comprised of the amazing Kay Rowe Nursey and Children’s Centre, Games, Crafts, and Merch. Our Entertainment had Bubbles, London Rhymes singing, and Discover Story. This year we made school-style lunches for minis, and had local family owned restaurant Aromas create delicious Halal Meat and Vegan plates for mums and guests.

Despite the rain, our mums were not deterred, and came dressed to the nines to play and enjoy delicious food with Magpie Mums and staff. The summer party is also open to all Forest Gate locals, we appreciate your support as it helps us continue the important work we do.

We can’t thank our summer party superstar volunteers and partners enough for always showing up and making the day come rain or shine so special. Special shout-outs to our Food manager, Cat, for making 200 epic school-style lunches for our minis, Aromas for catering the most tasty food (our Mums look forward to eating your meals every year), Kay Rowe for running a stall and all their important work, London Rhymes and Discover for ensuring Mums and Minis have a blast and entertained for hours, and amazing Newham Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz and Trustee Radihika Byron for visiting.

Lastly, we are so thankful for all those we partnered with this year: Newham Nurture, FCA, Black Swan Finance, Enabled Living, Papier, Little Village, Children’s Salon, Hasboro, 52lives, Knitforpeace, Bethany Williams London, Young V&A, Flying Seagull Circus, Forest Gate WI, Tindersticks, Newham Bookshop, Clapton CFC, Astoria Fire and Security, Praxis, Shelter, Westfield Stratford London, Discover Story Centre, Forest Gate WI, Bookstart, Lush, Number 8 Forest Gate, City Harvest, Health Visitors, Newham Public Health Team, Morris and Co. Architects, Laura Jackson, Irons Foodbank, UCL, Louise Klarnet, Forest Gate Community Garden, London Rhymes, Bancroft Rugby Club, Craft Council, UEL, RAMFEL, Project 17, Maternity Action, Bonny Downs, Newham Food Alliance, Newham Children Centre’s particularly Kay Rowe Nursey, Perinatal Mental Health Team, Acorn Midwives Team at Newham, Alternatives Trust, Museum of Homelessness, Hestia, Ashiana Network, LBWP, Care4Calais, The Unity Project, Tower Hamlets Law Centre, Bethany Prince at Early Notifications / CNDS, Streetwise Opera, Just Life, Stephen Timms MP, Mayor of Newham Rokhsana Fiaz, The Newham Community, Gainsborough Quilters, and our play and formfilling volunteers, drivers, community members who make up hampers for our families every christmas.

You are the village it takes to raise our children, and e couldn’t make the impact we do, without all of you!

Find out more about volunteering with us

Its Pool Party Week at the Magpie Project!

Each week, our play sessions have a theme guiding our activities and learning. Our themes range from animals and mud play, to seasonal celebrations like Eid or Christmas. This week we celebrated the beginning of summer with our Pool Party theme. We can always count on our amazing Play Lead to come up with the most elaborate ideas and ingenuous ways to explore the themes; creating activities that foster learning, connection, and fun for our mums and minis.

This week activities included smoothie making and splashing around in paddling pools. Inside our centre mums and minis got to try all different fun combinations of fruit and even some spinach to create delicious, healthy, and cooling smoothies. Whilst outside, an assortment of paddling pools were set out on a blue tarp, creating an epic pool and splash zone. The carpark disappeared behind some tropical island themed shower curtains hanging between two trees. Chairs were positioned as sun-loungers, and voila – we were no longer in sunshine and showers UK, but on an idyllic island filled with children’s joy! Our minis had so much fun splashing around, and dipping different objects into the water – what would sink and what would swim?!
A special thanks to our lovely donators, allowing us to provide swimsuits for any children who wanted to take a dip.

Later in the afternoon, our wonderful partners at Tinder Sticks did a workshop teaching our mums and minis all about birds and nest building. They also taught natural bracelet making, and plant artwork – checkout some of our minis creations below:

No matter what mums and minis have experienced in the past, or what they are facing everyday under the UK’s hostile environment, we at the Magpie Project firmly believe #allourchildren deserve to experience safety, love, and joy. Play, including pool parties, is the ultimate act of resistance!

Epic co-design = Young V&A x Bethany Williams x The Magpie Project

“‘Our collaboration with Bethany Williams London has been the most beautiful, generous and creative thing that we could have ever dreamt of. It has got the voice of our mums and minis in to places we would never dream of – the catwalks of London Fashion Week, the pages of Vogue, the Design Museum, and now the permanent collection of the Young V&A. Graphics were created in collaboration with artist Melissa Kitty Jarram in the depth of lockdown through zoom meetings where mums and minis drew each other. You can see their likenesses in the fabrics” – Jane Williams, CEO and Founder of The Magpie Project

This weekend the newly re-named Young V&A (previously the Museum of Childhood) opened its doors to the public, boasting refreshed collections and displays. The Young V&A is a free national museum located in Bethnal Green with displays, collections, and interactive spaces, co-designed with children and young people, that explore the creativity and experiences of children. This revamped Young V&A titles itself a ‘doing museum’ with sensory playscapes, imagination playground construction zone, performance and story stage and design studio for all ages to get stuck in and enjoy!

The Young V&A showcases 2,000 objects relating to art, design, and performance including two sets of mother and child outfits and lunchbox inspired handbag designed and created by Bethany Williams. Bethany Williams is a fashion designer, humanitarian and artist, creating cutting-edge fashion with ethnical manufacturing and social responsibility. She gives textiles a second chance through refashioning whilst working with social projects and communities to create her garments, as well as giving a percentage of her profits to charity.

For her ‘All Our Children’ Spring/Summer 2021 collection of outfits for mothers and children in collaboration with us at the Magpie Project, Bethany took inspiration from the V&A children’s archives, in particular the skeleton suit and a Boy’s first suit, some of the first garments designed for play. This inspiration is evident in her creation of a tailored skeleton suit and the flounced dresses and pantalettes shown below.

A predominant theme across the Young V&A, Bethany Williams and The Magpie Project is an emphasis on play, creativity, co-creation and design between children and adults. #Allourchildren are all our responsibility; and deserving of environments that foster safety, love, joy and creativity. We hope you visit the Young V&A and enjoy viewing and interacting with our collaboration with Bethany Williams.

“You made me feel rich today” – Welcome to Magpie’s Clothes Club

Every half term instead of our normal play and casework sessions we run a Clothes Club – where Magpie mums ‘shop’ for clothes, shoes, toiletries and equipment. We work really hard to ensure our Clothes Club is a calm and enjoyable experience for our Magpie Mums. Read below to see how we achieve this and what our Magpie Mums think!

We work with amazing partners like Little Village, Children’s Salon, Hasboro, 52lives, Knitforpeace and Enabled Living to guarantee we have top quality new and barely-worn children and adult clothes, shoes, toiletries and equipment delivered to us ready for our mums and minis to shop from. Additionally, our lovely volunteers sort through any donations from the public for quality control. Our regular volunteers plus special volunteers from FCA, Black Swan Finance and Papier work diligently to make inviting displays of the clothes by age.

Mums are welcomed and allocated groups to shop in and given tokens for themselves and each child under-5. They then enter the hall and shopping begins! This process ensures mums have a positive and dignified shopping experience.

From newborn baby-grows to occasion and partywear there is always something to choose from. At our latest June Clothes Club we handed out more than 700 items of clothing to 133 Mums and 175 Minis!

Here’s some testimony from our Magpie Mums:

“At other clothes banks there is fighting and everyone is sad. Here the tokens and timed slots made it a lovely experience” – Mum Q

“Thank you for all you did, my mini is very happy with his clothes. You made me feel rich today!” – Mum A

Play as an act of freedom!

Play is an important part of life, development, and freedom! #Allourchildren deserve to be loved, supported, and experience the joy and creativity of play. Through play, motor and social skills are developed, as well as a sense of joy and community.

This week our amazing Play Lead had organised a ‘Messy Kitchen Play’ session – trays filled with mud, sand and water, with pots, pans, utensils, and toy animals to dirty up and then clean. Not only does this session help with hand-eye coordination, hand dexterity, and focused play, the mud, sand, and water provide great sensory play and experience – engaging for all children!

Messy Play can bring up feelings of stress and worry, especially for our Mums in confined and insecure living conditions. However, listening and addressing those fears, providing protective overalls, and easily accessible toilets and water provide some comfort – ultimately allowing mums and minis to engage in Messy Kitchen Play together <3

As always super grateful for our wonderful volunteers who show up week in week out to engage and connect with our mums and minis, and our incredible partners like the Flying Seagull Circus who always bring the best energy and get the best laughs !

#JOB ALERT join the Magpie Project as our Family Support Worker

We are looking for a Family Support Worker to join our team! Our current Family Support Worker has been offered her dream PhD in Clinical Psychology, leaving big shoes to fill.

We are looking for an exceptional woman to join our small team and make a big difference.

In this role you will be welcoming women to our service and working to make sure that they are accessing the services (charitable, community and statutory) to which they are entitled. You will be working with women and children who are seeking asylum, who are subject to the hostile environment, and who are fleeing domestic abuse and forced labour.

This job would suit someone who has previous experience as a support worker in a violence against women and girls, immigration or homelessness context, has social work training, or a family support worker within a children’s centre.

Deadline for applications is 13th July 2023

To find a full job description and details on how to apply please visit our ‘work for us’ webpage: Work for us – The Magpie Project

#Allourchildren deserve a wonderful birthday

Every week during our stay and play sessions we take time to celebrate our Magpie Minis’ birthdays. Each Magpie Mini receives a birthday present, a card, and a big song at lunch to celebrate!

This celebration helps our minis and Mums feel seen, supported, and celebrated.

We are so grateful to our charity partners for providing toys, and our volunteers who wrap and write happy birthday wishes.

We are determined to ensure that our minis won’t be defined as immigrants, undocumented, NPRF, or homeless. They are beautiful children who we will surround with as much love and joy as we can.

Congratulations to our Rights, Experience, Advocacy and Change (REACH) team

Gifty and Blessing joined Jane our CEO at the annual conference of the London Network of Nurses and Midwives on the South Bank on Friday 9th June to pick up their award for AB FAB team of the year.

The Rights Experience Advocacy and Change team – headed up by Gifty meets every other Friday to speak to our advocacy and change work and is made up of 10 mums who have journeyed with our project through their own experiences of immigration, no recourse to public funds, insecure accommodation and poor access to services.

Who better to sit on panels, join task and finish groups, collaborate with the media, and help those who wish to access their expertise with service design that is truly co-produced.

The team has agreed to concentrate on three main strands of work:
Equal enforceable standards for all housing – that includes temporary accommodation, private rented, Home office and Section 17 accommodation.
Equal treatment for all children no matter what status, and
Our stories, our solutions (we don’t want to tell our stories then other go away and make policy we want to be in on the change throughout).

We have already been busy feeding in to reports by Amnesty UK, Runnymead, Unicef, Shelter and other partners as well as being founding members of the Justlife Temporary Accommodation Action Group for Newham.

So here’s to you Gifty, Blessing and the REACH team for the brilliant work you do, and the change we will see happening for #AllOurChildren that will surely follow on from it.

Newsnight investigation

We were happy to be part of a Newsnight investigation aired this week on the health hazards of substandard accommodation for many children in the UK.

We spoke alongside others such as the Shared Health Foundation, Professor Monika Lakhanpaul, and a brave Magpie Mum in home office accommodation to bring to light this often hidden problem.

124,000 children are at risk. Shocking statistics of how we, as a rich developed country, are jeopardising the health of our children by failing to provide adequate housing in the private, public, home office and social services sectors.

On seeing this film Sir Peter Bottomley MP said

‘If someone can give transcript of this programme to the prime-ministers office tomorrow we can start working on this together’.

He also stated that

‘Governnment departments often need nudging by MPs and by Media and by Voluntary organistions.

I think that the result of this programme will be that government departments will work together both local and nationally and if in a year’s time we are down 20,000 rather than 120,000 we will have made significant progress’

Who’s up for some ‘nudging’? Talk to your friends about this, find homeless and migrant organisations in your local area to support, and write to your MP so that these ‘hidden homeless’ rise up the agenda.

Watch our new music video with London Rhymes

Our collaboration with the incredible musicians of the London Rhymes collective has been so nourishing for so many of our families over the past couple of years.

Every Friday we sit, shake, sing and shout and create real songs and music with real musicians playing real instruments

Thank you London Rhymes.

And you know, if a Magpie Mini asks you to Shake with them – you gonna do that!!