I smile, you smile

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Singing and smiling

What a term it has been.

Every Friday Rosie from London Rhymes and a succession of musicians – playing real instruments from trombones, to flutes to cellos – have met with our mums and minis to create music.

This Friday – in the midst of the grey drizzle –  fifteen mums and their  babies are sitting on brightly coloured blankets and cushions in The Lodge community centre, Forest Gate.

These mums are living in almost unimaginably difficult circumstances – single rooms with no private access to a toilet or a kitchen, in hostels, refuges, or damp and mouldy single rooms in private lets. Many live on an income of £34 per family member a week.

These incredible women have already overcome heartbreaking personal stories to get this far. Stories that include abuse by family members,  trafficking, kidnap, domestic slavery, domestic violence, forced labour.

But today – in this room – every one of them is smiling. Babies are cradled and rocked, older children sit on the floor and hold bells or chimes to ring – mums play drums or percussion instruments. Everyone is singing – mums from Albania, Lithuania, the Caribbean, Nigeria, Ghana, Eritrea – all with one voice.

With ultimate ease and solidarity mums welcome others’ children on to their knees to give each other a chance to drink tea or have a rest. Volunteers from the community – our mums on maternity leave – are here with their own babies to help out, befriend and share.

“When you sleep, when you dream, when you wake, mama’s here” everyone sings the words to the songs they have composed together.

For a moment  – as music fills the room mingling with the voices of mums, the murmer of babies, the deep resonance of the cello – everything is right with the world and the joy stings your eyes and catches in your throat.

This is not just music. Something transformative is happening in this room today. We are witnessing community, creativity, respite, and love. This is a chance for an hour and a half to step back from the fight and be the free, engaged mums we know we can be for our children. We are watching women begin to heal.

To be part of the magic please visit our crowdfunding page to support Creative Futures and London Rhymes to record and share our songs, and to continue working with our mums.

Donate here

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The week the UN came to visit

 

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So what a week it has been.

On Monday we took three of our mums to Community Links historic and inspiring building on the Barking Road – a building in which the suffragette movement was hothoused.

We were there to give evidence to Philip Alston the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. It was not lost on those in the room that – all this time after Sylvia Pankhurst’s brave stand –  we are still having to talk about how women are suffering disproportionately from public policy decisions in general and austerity in particular.

Phillip Alston listened quietly to eight local organisation including London Renters Union, LAWRS, and us (see picture above) about how public services are letting down those who go to them for help.

What our mums said…

We told Alston how our mums are denied housing, support, social networks, and the basics needed to survive such as good, hygiene and nappies.

We let him know that women are not helpless, or feckless – they know how to be brilliant mothers and spend all their time and energy doing their best – but a lack of the support to which they are entitled is stopping them doing so. This is keeping them destitute and in despair.

Our incredible mums stood up strong and told their truth to those in the room.

How they felt they had not choice but to stay with an abusive partner – being raped regularly – as they would be homeless and destitute otherwise.

How they had been denied the support to which they were entitled for eight months leaving them literally penniless in an uninhabitable house and unable to keep the heat or the lights on.

How when they had finally plucked up courage to seek help they were left to wait 20 hours in the council office with no food or drink – until they were so weak and dizzy they had to drink their child’s milk.

What happened then….

As you can see from the reporting in the Guardian and Independent their stories made an enormous impact.

On Friday, Alston released his preliminary findings. Here are his damning conclusions on what he found, not in  only in East London, but around the country.

They makes sobering reading, but  – despite what else is going on politically this week – we think it should be front page news.

We are proud of our mums for their brave and heart-wrenching testimonies – and we are pleased that someone – for once – listened.

How can you help?

If you would like to do something to help why one take one of these steps:

  1. Talk to you councillor or MP about housing provisions, No recourse to public funds, and how they are tackling poverty.
  2. Donate to a local food bank, or
  3. See how you can help our project walk with those who fall through the broken state safety net.

 

 

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Shop for our mums

“What can I get for your mums and minis?”

So, many of you kind and wonderful people ask us “what can I buy for your mums and minis, what do they need?”.

We love you for that. What you are telling us is that you want to help but in a way that suits our mums most. You are people after our own hearts… we adore that attitude.

We have put together wish-lists for what mums need regularly – so please visit and buy what you can – it will be delivered straight to us and go straight to our mums and minis.

If you don’t like buying from this online store we get it – have a look and buy elsewhere.

Baby bag of bliss

We donate a bag of essentials to mums who are going in to hospital to have a baby. It is such an honour to give clothes and essentials to a mum going through this massive journey. Help us by buying items for the bags.

Shop for our mums maternity bags

 

Essentials in an emergency

Sometimes mums have to move in a terrible rush and arrive at a refuge or hostel only in the clothes they stand in. We like to give them a bag of essential toiletries etc to be going on with while they find their feet.

Shop for a mum who has had to move with nothing

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CCB: Campaign for Clean Bums: Newham Nappy Appeal

Magpie Project

There are babies in Newham who have to go too long between nappy changes because their mums cannot afford enough nappies to keep them comfortable.

There are mums in Newham who try to ‘rinse out’ or “scrape off” disposable nappies in order to re-use them as they simply don’t have the money to buy new ones.

Early on in our project we decided to give nappies and wipes to mums and minis who are destitute.

We decided this was a basic human right – to be clean dry and comfortable, and –  if nobody else was going to ensure it –  we would try.

Fast-forward and year and we are regularly seeing 90 babies in any given week. That is a lot of nappies and a bill of more than £1,000 a month for us.

So we are faced with a choice. Stop giving the nappies and face the issues again or – appeal for new sources of income to support our nappy donations.

This is where you come in……

Could you ‘sponsor a bum’ (or two) through regular giving each month.

It cost £15 a month to keep a baby or toddler in nappies and wipes. Clean, comfortable, not red and sore.

If you are game, please fill set up a standing order to

The Magpie Project

Sort Code : 40 06 30

Account: 03837424

If you want to code your standing order Nappies or similar then we will know to spend it on clean bums only.

 

Question: Why don’t mums use re-usable nappies?

Unfortunately we are where we are.

Mums don’t have free access to laundry facilities so the logistics of storing dirty nappies and washing them is just too much for their already difficult lives.

We know in a perfect world we would do away with disposables, but in this case we have decided to help in the only way we see we can,  in this imperfect world.

Question: Surely everyone can afford nappies?

Unfortunately 77% of our mums have no recourse to public funds that means that the basic safety net of benefits is not available to them.

Some of our mums have zero income while we work to get them support at all, many survive on £66 a week to cover everything – food, formula, travel, phone, electricity etc. That is not even starting to think about toiletries, sanitary protection, or expenses such as shoes and school uniform for older siblings.

Please help if you can – sponsor a bum and sleep tight in the knowledge that a baby in our community is clean and comfortable because of you.

Read mums’ stories

Donate online

 

 

 

 

 

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Newham Recorder celebrates Magnificent Magpie Mum

Dupe, our wonderful mum of four – who has been with us since June 2017, is featured in the Newham Recorder this week.  We think you will agree she is an extraordinary and wonderful woman.

Read here

What was not mentioned – and should be – is the support that so many partner organisations give us.

Shelter, London Black Women’s Project, Aston Mansfield, Kay Rowe Nursery school and Children’s Centre. among others.

This support is equalled only by amazing support of you – our community.

So please don’t think for a minute that we think we do this ourselves. We know that it is first the mums, second our supporters who make all this happen.

We are just so happy to have you all on our side. THANK YOU.

 

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Are you a mum on maternity leave? Become a MoM with us!

It is so easy to help out mums with children under five who are living in insecure accommodation. It is as simple as making friends. Simply come along, play, and then go with our mums and minis to another fun session during the week.

We ask for a commitment of 6 weeks only and you will get full training, support and supervision.

What could be nicer than becoming part of the wider community and doing some good just by being yourself and doing what you would be doing anyway with your baby.

Get in touch to talk it through – the first group of volunteers started in September and have been successful in creating community and accompanying our mums to outside events.

Join our new tranche of mums and be part of the Magpie magic.

contact us to find out more.

 

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We asked the Mayor about the use of B&Bs: this is the response….

At the first full council meeting under Rokhsana Fiaz’s Mayoralty (Mayorship?!) we asked a question – on behalf of our mums and minis who are still being placed in hotels such as the one below – about the use of B&Bs for families.

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She answered. See our question and her response here. We LOVE the words “compassion and care”. We understand – maybe better than most – the enormity of the problem. But we are SO heartened by this transparent and straightforward response.

Question 19 from the Magpie Project

 Southwark council have eliminated the use of paid by the night bed and breakfast accommodation for families. Our social services and housing departments are still placing families fleeing domestic violence or families with children in this poor quality, noisy, intimidating environment. Can the council pledge to move towards a goal of no families with children in b and b accommodation by end 2019.

The Mayor has pledged to tackle homelessness with compassion and care, and the new administration will be looking to transform our homeless services and develop innovative forms of temporary accommodation, as well as increasing the delivery of council-owned homes at social rents. However, we are in the early stages of this new administration, and the scale of the challenge is significant.

 

Unfortunately changes in the Housing market and the Housing Benefit regime since 2011/12 has acted to increase both the numbers and the length of use of this type of temporary accommodation to meet our statutory responsibilities. In 2011/12, the Council received 624 homelessness applications, of which 248 were accepted, but by 2017/18 this had grown to 1793 of which 1143 were accepted.

 

Over the same period 2012 – 2018, the Council has seen the demand for nightly paid accommodation increase, whereby 148 households were in this form of accommodation in March 2012, but this had risen to 2904 households at the end of March 2018. Unfortunately, current forecasts are indicating that these numbers could continue to grow.

 

It has been this Council’s practice for some years to avoid the use of bed and breakfast/shared accommodation for homeless households who have dependant children or a member of the household is pregnant. The Council’s response has been to procure only self contained accommodation for this household group, albeit nightly paid, whilst it is determined whether the Council owe the main homelessness duty.

 

In the circumstances as part of work designed to transform the homelessness offer a health and safety survey has been commissioned for this year of all temporary accommodation, which has commenced with looking at that which is nightly paid. This will culminate in a comprehensive tenant survey.

 

However it is clear that alternative move on accommodation to that which the Council has relied upon for a number of years will continue to reduce and therefore the Council will be  looking at innovative ways in meeting the manifesto pledge to provide additional accommodation at affordable  rents, which includes a  programme of purchasing property, converting Council buildings where appropriate, considering the use of modular housing schemes on the many sites with a meanwhile use in the Borough and collaborative  procurement of private rented sector accommodation with London Councils.

 

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