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Baby Bank’s Biggest Ever Christmas Gift Campaign

Summer’s drawing to a close, the schools are back in full swing and we’re naturally gravitating indoors. Before long the heating flicks on and we’ll be preparing for Christmas. It’s a time for family. Warmth. Good food. Snuggling on the sofa with a pile of presents.

But this is far from reality for many Bristol families, who are already dreading this time of year. ‘Can we afford heating? Will the kids manage with toast again for dinner? How are we going to face another year of ongoing expenses: nappies, new clothes, next size shoes?’ These are the daily dilemmas that one quarter of all families in Bristol will face this winter.

It shouldn’t be this way.

Deprivation contributes significantly to the UK’s infant mortality rate, which is one of the highest in Western Europe. Babies born in one of Britain’s lowest socio-economic groups are twice as likely to die than if they’d been born in a wealthier community.

We don’t think that’s acceptable.

It’s shocking that in one of the world’s wealthiest countries we rely on charities, food banks and baby banks to meet the basic needs of our community.

So to families who are struggling this winter, we say: You haven’t been forgotten.  There are many people who think about you and who want to help during this particularly difficult time.

Support our Christmas 2018 Gift Campaign

How you can help:

  • Donate items for our Christmas Gift Campaign – there are some ideas below. You can bring your gifts to our warehouse or pop them in our collection points around the city: www.babybanknetwork.com/toiletries-donation-points. Please label your bag with ‘Christmas Campaign’. We’ll be collecting Christmas gifts until 11th November.
  • Make a financial donation to support our work. Although we’re volunteer run, our general running costs (rent and rates) mount up. We also have to purchase some items from new, such as mattresses and bottle teats. You can make a one-off donation or even a regular donation, which would be brilliant via Just Giving.  Please Gift Aid the donation if you can.

You can also donate by text. Text BBNW50 then the amount £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10 to 70070 (you can’t text £6, £7, £8 or £9!). Please use capitals, so to donate £5 text “BBNW50 £5”.

  • If you know people who can help or who need help, please tell them about us.
  • Donate your pre-loved baby items to us when your baby no longer needs them.
  • Think of ways you could help us raise funds. Does your company give out donations or items in kind for us to pass on to recipients or use for fundraising?

Thank you to everyone who’s supported us over the past 3 years, and welcome to those who are just hearing about us. Please follow and share our posts on social media and support us however you can.

What we do is simple but tremendously effective.

Christmas Gift Campaign Ideas

  • New pyjamas for ages birth to 5 years: Babygros for up to 12 months, 2-piece pyjamas for 1-5 years please.
  • A new or nearly new puzzle toy. No batteries please and try to avoid plastic unless it’s something like Duplo. The item should be small enough to fit in a shoe box.
  • A new or nearly new book.
  • A card or note to the family. Please don’t include personal information or refer to the age or gender of the child.

Although we hope to get these items to families by Christmas we might not manage it. For that reason please avoid print on clothing and books that are too season specific.

Please don’t wrap your gifts as we will sort them into age appropriate bundles. A gift bag would be great.


The impact we have

This time last year, we learnt of a young woman who was sleeping out on the freezing Bristol streets while pregnant. She was introduced to Baby Bank by one of our supporters, Chris Harlow. We recently caught up with Chris to find out how your donations made a lifesaving difference when her baby arrived.

Last December my wife and I had a call from Bristol Hospitality Network, an organisation that helps vulnerable asylum seekers find hosted accommodation in the city. We have a spare room that we can use for this purpose, so we were introduced to a girl from Morocco who had nowhere else to go. She was 8 months pregnant.

“She hadn’t yet managed to start claiming asylum and had been sleeping rough for the last couple of nights. That’s not a pleasant situation at any time, but it’s particularly tough in December when you’re heavily pregnant. My wife and I were actually expecting a baby at the same time, so we felt drawn to helping someone who was completely on her own.

“She moved in and stayed with us for about 3-and-a-half months. During that time we got a lot of support from organisations in Bristol, and one of the places recommended was Baby Bank Network.

“Baby Bank was great and gave us absolutely everything we needed for mum and baby, from newborn babygros to essential equipment, toiletries and baby toys.

She had her baby soon after moving in and all the donations from Baby Bank made the experience that bit easier for her. She was particularly pleased to have a pushchair and loved taking her baby out for walks.

“After a few months with us, she was able to move out and start her asylum claim. She’s still using a lot of the Baby Bank items, and we’ve brought back everything the baby has outgrown to donate to another family. They’re still in good condition and it’s great to know another family can benefit from them.”

Through our network of more than 300 referral partners Baby Bank has been supporting vulnerable families in Bristol since June 2015. Up to end of August 2018 we have helped 1632 families in need with over 6000 items. The only way we’ve been able to grow into such an important charity is thanks to the overwhelming support of our volunteers. Predominantly mothers, who relate to the anxieties and stress that can accompany parenthood, they want to do something to help.

Every week our volunteers turn up to clean, sort and pack up donations, which our referral partners then deliver to families in need. So what compels them to devote several hours a week to sort through piles of baby clothes in a chilly warehouse in Fishponds, often with their own child in tow?!

Because they know they are making a real difference. And for some of our recipient families, this is the only help they will get.

When a family is referred to us, our volunteers only get a small insight into the family’s situation. It’s just enough for us to provide the right donations for them. Here are some of the reasons we’ve received recently:

  • Mum has been rehoused with baby but has almost no possessions or furniture. Benefits have been delayed.
  • The family is living in a hostel while awaiting asylum. They have limited space and money.
  • Mum is feeling anxious about the baby’s arrival due to the current living situation.
  • Mum is a single parent living in a women’s hostel with a low income and limited funds.

The 4 main reasons families are referred to us are:

  • Lack of financial support from the government
  • Refugee status
  • Fleeing from domestic violence
  • Low income (even when one family member is working)

We hope in the future baby banks around the country will still exist to re-use and re-purpose all the items people donate to us. That in itself is an import role to play in reducing waste. But we mostly hope it won’t be necessary for children born and growing up in poverty to depend on us.

Until that time we, the community of Baby Bank, are being the change we want to see. Every child deserves to have not only their physical needs met, but their emotional needs too, because their parents are not worrying about how they’re going to pay the rent or buy food.

Fortunately, we know there are people in a position to help.

People like you reading this.

So many of our supporters have already helped us, either by volunteering or by donating money.

But the need in Bristol is acute. And we want to help even more families this winter. So we’re asking for more help.

Thank you so much for all your support.