With 9% of Wokingham children living in poverty, one Mum is on a mission to make those First Days great. Phil Creighton finds out more
EVERYONE with a baby adores their new arrival: cute, cuddly, smiley and … expensive.
Research suggests that, on average, new parents can part with £9,152 in the first 12 months. That’s a lot of bundles of notes to spend on their bundle of joy.
But what if you can’t afford it? With research suggesting that nine per cent of children in Wokingham are classed as living in poverty, it’s clear that not everyone can afford to pay Primark prices, let alone £900 on a pram from Mamas & Papas.
And, at a time when we’re encouraged to reduce, reuse and recycle, what happens to all the equipment when baby has moved on from drinking milk and sleeping to biting ankles and throwing temper tantrums?
A Mum of two from Wokingham has the answer: keep calm and pass it on.
Emma Cantrell has launched First Days Wokingham, a newly established charity that redistributes pre-loved baby equipment and clothes to local families who otherwise couldn’t afford it.
The idea is stunningly simple: parents who have finished with their baby’s toys, clothes, equipment and furniture donate them to Emma. The charity receives referrals, in a similar way to foodbanks, and then delivers the items to those that need them.
“We want to make sure the right people get the right help,” she said. “As a family, we’ve been so fortunate: we’ve received everything we want and need. I’m aware that there are young families struggling to make ends meet – I thought there must be some way I can help local families cope with the costs of providing everything a new baby needs.”
And Emma has high standards: for the donations, she’s not after any old tat that you might get 20p for at a car boot sale.
“I want people to receive good quality and nice stuff. That’s where our emphasis is. I can be selective: when people contact me with donations, I remind them that donations should be of good quality, non-stained, clean and have nothing missing.
“It’s just joyful to receive donations of such high quality. We’ve had things like toys that have been duplicates of Christmas presents and I can’t wait to give them to families that need them.”
At the moment, First Days Wokingham is just Emma, fitted around looking after her two-year-old and six-month-old, but she is looking for volunteers to pitch in and help out by collecting donations, washing and sorting and helping to manage the inventory.
As a result of this, Emma is only working within the Wokingham Borough but, as she points out, that’s a big patch to cover.
“It encompasses places like Binfield and Twyford, it’s a huge area.”
Wokingham Borough Council fully supports First Days Wokingham. Rose Green, Senior Community Development Worker for the Council said: “Worthwhile initiatives, developed by the community, are very important to us. They are the fabric of our society and projects that are designed to help those in greatest need are particularly welcome.
“Wokingham Borough is seen as a wealthy area, but there are many, many people living here that are not wealthy and to be poor in a wealthy area is doubly difficult. Also, Wokingham Borough Council is highly committed to re-cycling, so passing on very adequate, usable, suitable baby clothes, equipment etc, is a very environmentally friendly thing to do.”
As well as being a Mum, Emma is also a daughter: her Dad is Keith Saynor, one of the pastors of Kings Church in Wokingham and he couldn’t be prouder of her for launching First Days.
Also supportive is her husband, Chris – he’s been helping Emma sort out donations in his spare time.
Financial support has come from a grant given by Faith In The Community, a network that exists to help transform lives in Wokingham. Online donations can be made via the website.
“I’m hoping that anyone who can’t donate their time to help can donate in this way,” Emma said.
The charity, which launched in January, has already been making a tangible difference to people’s lives. A children’s centre got in touch with Emma to explain that one client needed a double buggy: the Mum had been carrying her 12-week-old baby around while pushing her toddler in single buggy.
First Days didn’t have a double buggy, so she asked the Wokingham Gossip Girls page on Facebook to see if anyone had one – complete with a rain cover.
“Two hours later, we got one,” said a proud Emma. “I went to the children’s centre and it was raining. The Mum was just so grateful. To see the children go home in the dry, it was just brilliant.”
Emma is proud that First Days Wokingham is meeting a need among the community. “It will not only help parents out, but give children a sense of who they are,” she said. “I want to do something to give children the best start in life. In these economic times, it tough to make ends meet, so it’s brilliant to be able to help them and show love in practical way.”
We’ll guzzle a bottle of milk to that.
For more, to donate or to find out how you can volunteer, log on to www.firstdayswokingam.org, search for First Days Wokingham on Facebook, or follow @firstdays_ on Twitter.