Voices from lockdown 2

 

Mama K is an asylum seeker. She is a victim of trafficking, she was smuggled to this country when she was a child.  Now she has claimed asylum, and is housed by the home office.

Although those placed in non-self contained accommodation by the local council under Section 17 or housing duty are being rehoused to self-contained. There is no word from the home office about those housed by the home office as yet. 

Despite this extreme trauma, Mama K is a wonderful mum to her little boy. With him she is all warmth and cuddles – she kept us at arms length for the longest time. By turns fearsome and friendly. 

She is absolutely passionate about. standing up for what is right, and fights for herself and all our mums. She simply detests injustice.

It took us while to get used to her sense of humour – so very dry. But now we have she literally keeps us in stitches. She takes every opportunity to learn, to take part in all our workshops, to give voice to other less confident mums.

Her son is one tomorrow, he is so smiley happy, busy cruising around furniture.  He is days from taking his first steps. He shouts and babbles so many pre-word noises now – during one workshop he gleefully shouted on one note for about sixty seconds – stopping the speaker in her tracks!

This is Mama Ks message to all of us from isolation (or as near to it as she can achieve).

 

It is a shame that it is weeks into this pandemic and we still have not heard anytime from our local housing officers. Not one form of contact – even if it is just a telephone call to check up and reassure us.

No information has been passed to me at all so far.

The people that live in the other units in our shared accommodation are still bringing friends to the house they are coming and going, some of them are are even staying the night.

One of my co-tenants has a friend that has been here with her since the night of lockdown.

We have no communal living area, and there is no TV provided in the house. Now that we are not allowed outside –  we have been told to stay at home –  I have been stuck in my tiny rooms with my child.

They have nowhere to play at all. There is no floor space around the bed in my room at all.

Anxiety and depression are beginning to kick in as we have no information. Nobody is contacting us, and we don’t even know how long this is situation is going to go on for.

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Voices from the crisis

 

Let us live, let us help!

Our beautiful Mama M is an incredible person, with sparkly trainers, an easy bright smile and the best behaved children you could ever meet.  
She is a natural leader. She is a touchstone for many of our mums who go to her not only to help with translations but for emotional and practical support, at the time of the crisis we were, together, devising a language course that would culminate in a guidebook to services with vocabulary for newly arrived migrant mums ….
Here is her take on the crisis and what it means to her, a single mother in the asylum system.
Please read,
Please share,
Please ask the politicians and public policy makers to do something.

I am an asylum seeker 

I arrived in the UK in October 2018, I was pregnant and had two children with me.  I was fleeing a situation so catastrophic that I do not wish to remember that time. I want to move forward. I applied for asylum as soon as I arrived.

Since them I have completed my asylum interviews but, unfortunately, I haven’t heard back from the home office. I am in limbo. I live in one room in shared accommodation with my 3 children.

Any parent can imagine the difficulty living, learning, sleeping in these conditions. This situation it’s really affecting our mental health and wellbeing.

My Doctor has already given me a letter to send to the home office through my solicitor saying that my living condition is causing me “undue distress and anxiety”.

I am suffering from sleep deprivation. My child’s school support practitioner has also testified how important it is that the children have some stability for their learning and wellbeing.

So things were a struggle before the Covid19 crisis.  I was surviving, barely, but surviving.

But now I am really scared

I am not able to self-isolate in shared accommodation with shared kitchen and toilet. It doesn’t work at all.

What will happen to my kids if I get sick?

I have not heard anything from our building manager or from the Home Office about the crisis.

My anxiety and stress is through the roof with this additional worry about my family’s health.

We simply need a self-contained place to keep healthy.

I am also concerned that our food supplies will run out.

Because we receive our NASS support payment of £37 per person at the beginning of every week, we are unable to buy, store or stockpile food.

Luckily, we are supported by a charity called The Magpie Project who have been providing weekly food bags and nappies.

But they also, most importantly, support us emotionally by connecting us with other mums through a fantastic WhatsApp group. We can join a positive place to share ideas, ask for help or talk to other Magpie mums.  *NO posting videos or stuff about the virus from unknown sources! *

We – as mums – are trying to survive and keep our children safe

But if the country gave us the support we need – we could do more. We could actually also volunteer to help this country and people in need by giving the skills we have.  In our Magpie group there are trained doctors, emergency response workers,  educators, and more.

All of us are forced to stay at home, destitute and worried for our families’ health, when we could be a massive benefit to this country.

If this crisis proves anything it is that we are all connected, my children are your children and vice versa.

I would beg you to

  1. Move us in to self-contained accommodation,
  2. Lift our NRPF and No Work condition.
  3. Let us live, let us help!
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COVID 19 RESPONSE

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We are co-ordinating our response with The Renewal Programme  Bonny Downs Community AssociationWest Silvertown Foundation and Alternatives Trust.

You can donate to any one of our hubs,

volunteer to sort and pack

and we will deliver to our mums and minis who are in need and self-isolating.

  • EAST HAM HUB: The Well Community Centre, 49 Vicarage Lane, E6 6DQ on Tuesdays and Thursdays 10 am – 2 pm

  • FOREST GATE HUB: Forest Lane Lodge, E7 9DE on Mondays and Wednesdays 10 am – 2 pm

  • MANOR PARK HUB: 395 High Street North, E12 6PG on Tuesdays and Fridays 10 am – 2 pm

  • PLAISTOW HUB: Forrest House, E13 8AB, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10am – 3pm

  • WEST SILVERTOWN HUB: Britannia Village Hall, E16 1TU on Mondays and Thursdays 11am – 3pm

 

In addition we are working up our virtual advocacy, peer support, playgroups and chats.

We are offering Zoom Parties and WhatApp hangouts to our mums and minis to try to keep spirits high during this difficult time.

Do get in touch if you wish to help.

Stay safe, stay well, we will get through this together as a community.

 

 

 

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What does our dancer in residence do?

I find myself struggling to describe the magic and the miracles that our dancer in residence Louise Klarnett creates every time she comes to work with our mothers and minis.

To fully know the effect she has it is important to know how mums arrive with us, so far from being ready to risk a dance or an engagement that anybody could be.

Mums and children are traumatised.

Traumatised by the experiences that led them in to homelessness: Domestic abuse, family breakdown, domestic slavery, trafficking, having been hurt, used, cut.

They are often living within the trauma of being homeless. Insecure, unable to sleep, depressed, anxious, untrusting, in pain (emotional and physical).

For those who don’t know what Louise does it might seem incongruous to invite a dancer work with this group of women and children.

Surely we should concentrate on sorting out the practical problems. The housing, the income, the immigration, the need for safety, food, comfort.

Well, we do that too.

But our view is that babies do not stop being babies when they become homeless.

They do not stop developing –  and needing the inputs and stimulation that is necessary for them to develop – because they have larger issues. In fact, they need these things more. They need play, joy, belonging, movement, engagement and creativity. 

They need to be children, to move, roll, jump, hop, feel the joy and release of twirling, twisting, and turning.

It turns out that this is not just play:

It is development,

It is mood regulation,

It is building core strength both emotional and physical.

So. 

Being in the room with Louise is magic for these reasons.

We witness babies who are suspicious, stressed, silent begin to brave engagement. To come out of themselves and to move.

 

 

This is how Louise describes it.

 

Some bound over into my ‘space’ confident, open, tactile.

One little girl with long thick eyelashes and wide, wide eyes, silently notices me across the room through the noise, and people and toys.

She looks then looks away, looks

again.

I align my midline and widen my perceptual field to include her in my improvisation from across the space, through the noise and people and toys.

This relationship builds slowly over the duration of the whole session.

She takes / catches my eye and is somehow a little nearer to me, navigating and testing the safety and the possibilities.  

We look, blink, look away. 

I smile, gesture a sort of ‘wave’, reach without expectation.

I sway in my midline and spiral in improvised motion with many other children from the sky to the ground and find stillness as well as energy, in and out of contact as appropriate.

She is still there, across the space, through the noise and people and toys.  

Nearing the end of the session this little one initiates a movement conversation.

A wave for a word. A game, repeating but changing. Her wave, small, without eyes, bigger with eyes, bigger with eyes and in response to my gesture and eyes. A slight smile across her eyes, knowing she and I are playing the same game.

Closer but still distant in the room. I hope I might spark this dance again. 

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Bethany Williams hands her spotlight to Magpie Mums and Minis

 Collection: “No Recourse to Public Funds” (NRPF)

 

We were over the moon to be asked by the prestigious and prize-winning menswear designer Bethany Williams to collaborate on her latest Autumn Winter collection.

Bethany Williams is not a fashion designer, she is a trailblazer paving the way for a more compassionate, more inclusive future. She uses her immense talent to selflessly leverage her brand and partnerships in the service to our community’s most vulnerable and marginalised members. When we were introduced to the idea of collaborating with Bethany by our UCL PhD student and researcher Diana Margot Rosenthal in early 2019, we must admit we did not know what to expect.

Being a coal-face, crisis-to-crisis,  grass roots organisation created to make sure that a spell in temporary accommodation does not cause permanent damage to children who experience it. We have supported over 400 mothers and 500 children in the past two years. Women and children who have become invisible to an unaware or uncaring society. At first glance, our world of living on £34 a week, and of infested and unfit accommodation seemed a million miles away from menswear.

In Britain a child becomes homeless in every eight minutes. That means currently 135,000 children in Britain are homeless. In some London Boroughs this figure rises to 1 in 12 children (Shelter England. 2019).

She brought collaborators and sponsors with her. Through multiple visits, Bethany brought Melissa Kitty Jarram, a South East London based illustrator and artist, to hear the otherwise untold truths of mums and their small children forced to live in temporary and unfit accommodation, unable to work, or study, or move, because they have been deemed to have “no recourse to public funds”. The artwork collaboration for this season has been created from a visit to our ‘Rhyme and Song’ session where Melissa illustrated the bond between mother and child.

*NRPF is a condition imposed due to a person’s immigration status, and prohibits seeking public funds such as welfare benefits and housing provided via the local authority, which is subject to discretion and a case-by-case basis of “intentional homelessness.” (Children’s Commissioner Report, 2019)

It is extraordinary that someone so young, so humble, and so unassuming as Bethany has single-handedly created a space that allows for the most unlikely bedfellows – high fashion and grass roots community projects – to come together and collaborate to create change. With her clarity of purpose, her clean, fresh, uncomplicated approach with, her simple and steadfast values, mean that her agenda is clear and those with power have been compelled to buy into.

The Magpie Project’s homeless are our children and not somebody else’s problem. they are our children, they are our future (adults). Everything we do, every decision we make, can create a future in which every one of them, and us, can thrive – together. This is not fashion, this is a blueprint for a better future – happening now.

Through spending real time with us, Bethany ensured that – from materials to models, communications to collaborators – every decision she makes is run through her own ethical framework and interlinking with the nurturing bond between mother and child.

This collection celebrates Mother hood, childhood, sisterhood, and the family we choose, highlighting the importance of this powerful bond. This show is dedicated to giving a community that is marginalised and silenced on a daily basis, a platform and voice to share their story.

Design inspiration for this journey surrounds elements of nurturing, comfort and shelter. These blocks were imperative areas of focus during the research and development process. From working closely with the children of Magpie, garment construction and craft techniques from children’s clothing has shaped this collection. The Women’s Institute community work closely with Magpie, and create a personal blanket for every baby born into the Magpie family. This inspiring act has lead to the use of recycled bedding and techniques such as quilting and patch working as common threads throughout this collection.

These garments have been created alongside loyal and continuous social projects, suppliers, crafts-people and manufacturers from the production of previous collections. The knitwear for this collection has been hand knitted by Alice Evans and  Bethany’s mother Karen Kewley using Wool and the Gang yarns. This season, a new Wool and the Gang x Magpie Project sock pattern has been designed and developed, which will be available for free on the Wool and the Gang website from tomorrow in two sizes so that anyone has access to download and knit socks to be donated to the Magpie mothers and children. Socks are one of the most un-donated clothing items and are in the most demand in the homeless community.

This show is proudly in partnership with Adidas Originals once again for the seasonal show at LFWM, as part of their on going support for Bethany who this year was named the best emerging menswear talents at The Fashion Awards. Both Adidas Originals and Bethany share similar values with a passion for design, sustainability and looking to the icons of the past to create the future.

For this seasons collaboration  celebrates the anniversary of the iconic adidas Superstar, which will be on foot at her show at LFWM. A select few of the shoes worn have been made in collaboration with the talented Helen Kirkum, up cycled using Superstars donated through the new Adidas Infinite play Initiative. 

All of the detail about the infinite play initiative can be found here:

https://www.adidas.co.uk/blog/396320

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We won! London Homelessness Award and £30,000

Option A - First prize winner

 

The Magpie Project, a community response to the problem of homeless families in Newham has been announced as the first prize winner of the London Homelessness Awards 2019.  The team, based in Newham, work with mums during their time without secure housing.

Jane Williams works at the Magpie Project.  She said: “We were honoured to be shortlisted for this prize especially alongside five other incredible and innovative products. But to win is just extraordinary. It is a massive boost for the Magpie Project.  The prize gives us confidence that our person-based, trauma informed, multi-disciplinary, co-produced help is recognised as a good model.”

“Being judged by giants in the sector such as Shelter and Crisis is a big honour. But most of all, the prize, raises the profile of the mums and minis in temporary accommodation whose needs have not previously been met and voices not heard.”

“Although the families with under-fives seen at the project are rarely rough sleeping, they can be sofa-surfing, in refuges, or in cramped, grubby, inadequate temporary accommodation.  Their children are uniquely vulnerable. Squalid accommodation and destitution make potty training, adequate sleep, play, good diet or exercise impossible to achieve. This can often lead to delayed development and trauma.”

“So, three times a week we open our doors to offer a secure place to stay and play; somewhere for mums to find solace, respite and food, clothes, nappies, a listening ear. Then, when mums are ready, we bring professionals from health, immigration, housing, early years to support and advise them in addressing their issues and improve their lives.”

Dianne has visited the project with her young children. She said

“The Magpie Project gave me hope when I had none. I went there when I could not see a way out of my situation – but they worked with me on solving my problems and now I feel happier and more hopeful. The Magpie Project gave me wings”

Simon Dow of the London Housing Foundation chaired the judging panel for this year’s awards.  He said: “The judges were very positive about all of our finalists but in the end felt that The Magpie Project had the edge, meeting an often unmet need for a vulnerable client group.  We hope that this awards, and the £30,000, helps them go from strength to strength.”

Jane Williams said of the £30,000 “This is a very significant amount of money for us to have won. We will be meeting with mums, staff, volunteers and trustees to decide on exactly the best ways to use this money to improve the every day lives of our mums and children in the present – and work to change the situation for mums in the future.”

Other prize winners, winning £20000 and £10000 were the North London Early Homelessness Prevention Service and The Passage’s Anti-Slavery Project

 

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 Louise Klarnett, Dance Artist in Residence

 Since January 2019 Louise Klarnett has been dance artist in residence one day per week for The Magpie Project in partnership with Dance Art Foundation, funded by Awards For All.

Here she explains her practice.

 “What do dancers do that other health workers don’t? They see pure movement as language and they reply in kind. They are happy to conduct conversations in movement so that it speaks for itself, without the need for any words of translation.”

Penny Greenland

“A significant benefit of this residency is the flexibility. There is no fixed timetable within my morning and I am able to move freely to work in various ways.

Sometimes a specific group session takes place between 1-2pm, this has been both with mums, their children and volunteers/staff, as well as specific workshops just for the mums.

My approach is broad and when working one-to-one with the babies and children includes, but is not limited to:

  • using improvisation,
  • intensive interaction and
  • movement conversation techniques.

I look for the connection and usually begin with an invitation, a prop, a movement or touch.

A movement, a sound, a way of playing or being with, can then gently be amplified and expanded upon, moving into an appropriate physical, playful, engaged experience with the individual.

This might be just working with – for example –  fingers, eyes or full bodies. Through these interactive and creative experiences, the work supports and develops communication, both verbal and non-verbal, and more significantly, physical development. It can work towards strengthening muscles, encouraging balance, coordination and spatial awareness among other things. With babies, this might be extending tummy time through creative ideas.

A dance can start, or be, anywhere, wherever it needs to be and for however long. This means the work can benefit the babies and young children when it is the best time for them and in response to them. This could be on a mum’s lap while she’s in conversation with a professional or member of staff, encouraging visual tracking and facial expression; or dancing a baby into peaceful sleep while a mum has a moment to get a cup of tea, or make an important phone call. It can be big and bold, directing boisterous energy by sliding a child around on fabric, or exploring pathways of colourful tape around the space. The one to one work is broad and in the moment.

Time to gently observe or see the children operating in the environment as well as speaking to staff and volunteers can be helpful but basically, ‘meeting them’ where they are, works.

Group sessions include specific movement experiences to support attachment and relationship, both between the mum and their own child/ren as well as building a shared, joyful experience among the whole group.

The families have choice around staying for these sessions, and once they have made that choice, they are warmly encouraged to immerse themselves, with all physical needs supported. Movement is a universal language and though often English language is limited for the mums, gesturing and demonstrating aids access and therefore experience.”

Magpie Project Founder Jane Williams  says of Louise’s work:

“The circumstances in which our mums and minis are living can make play, movement, freedom, and joy difficult to come by.

Mums are under pressure, there is no clean floor or space to play on at home, movement can sometimes seem chaotic or risky when a mum feels she is only just controlling her environment anyway. So our minis can end up spending alot of time in buggies, in sitters, or otherwise constrained – to keep them safe and out of harm’s way.

Louise encourages them  – gently, kindly and always respecting boundaries – to start to take notice of the world around them, and to roll around, to jump, to run, to twirl, to stop.

Knowing what some of these families have been through, seeing them relax and have fun with Louise often takes our breath away. It is nothing short of miraculous.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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