Every month at Bupa, employees can nominate a local community group or project that improves people’s health, wellbeing or the environment to receive a £1,000 Bupa Cares grant. Little Village Wandsworth, a London-based charity supporting new and expectant mums who have experienced hardship, received a grant after being nominated by Amy Gooden, Head of Public Affairs. Here Amy explains how the money helped to deliver a project which helps to improve the mental health of pregnant asylum seekers in her community.
"As anyone who has experienced the physical and emotional impact of pregnancy and birth can tell you, it can be both the happiest and most difficult of life’s stages. From anxiety to exhaustion – these are the realities that many women face as their due date approaches. But imagine facing these challenges in a new country, where you know no-one and have nothing. Imagine you’re pregnant having escaped physical violence, been trafficked across the continent and been raped, abused and abandoned. The physical and mental health of an expectant mother who has experienced this is difficult to even comprehend.
Sadly, this is the reality for several hundred women in my community in South London who will have passed through two specialist Initial Accommodation Centres for pregnant women. These centres house women claiming asylum from the 36th week of pregnancy until their baby is six weeks old. Expectant mums are provided a bed and food, and a basic package of equipment for their newborns - moses basket, some nappies, and bottles.
Little Village Wandsworth is a local charity that works like a foodbank, but for baby items, collecting baby clothes and equipment and donating them to mums in need. They work with mums from all walks of life in the local community, but also in partnership with other organisations such as Happy Baby South - a charity that runs a drop-in session once a week for women housed at the Initial Accommodation Centres. These drop-in sessions give mums and mums-to-be an opportunity to access language classes, yoga classes, breast feeding support as well as a hot nutritious meal. However, mums weren’t finding it easy to access the sessions because they had no way of carrying their babies on the journey which was some distance away.
Project Welcome was launched by Little Village Wandsworth to fund the purchase of more than 70 baby carriers and slings to help women safely travel with their babies to the drop-in sessions. A trained volunteer acted as a consultant to the women to provide advice and assistance on how to use them. The slings mean new mums can safely carry their babies and access services outside the hostel, with between 30 and 45 women attending the Happy Baby South sessions every week providing much needed access to resources and support.
I visited the centre to meet some of the recipients of the slings and was humbled by the amazing work charities like Little Village and Happy Baby South do for women who have experienced such trauma while pregnant. Maria (not her real name), a mother from Albania, is a survivor of rape who was dumped on the streets when she was in the last stages of her pregnancy. She was struggling with anxiety, flashbacks and depression when she first attended the Happy Baby Community. Having given birth to a healthy baby, she says she now feels safe in the community and confident to support other new mums in the group who are facing similar challenges."