In the last couple of months it feels as though the country has awoken to reveal their super power: we can give.
Now, I know charity in the UK isn't a new thing - but making giving to others part of our lifestyle? Celebrating the fact that we can give to others to make a difference in our communities? I think this is.
For us, the challenge was simple: with four million children living in poverty, in every single town and city up and down the country, we had to do something. We weren’t the only people, at about the same time, who were quietly setting up similar charities in the wake of the earlier years of austerity and the slow realisation that things were only going to get worse for families who were already living in truly dire situations. Since then we, along with others, have helped thousands of families when their budgets just couldn’t stretch to safe beds for their children or coats and hats in the winter.
In 2012 we set about to ask people to give us the things they didn’t need anymore for their babies and children so that we could give it families who needed it. We became a broker for kindness. We became the vehicle for generosity. We are waking people up to what is going on in their neighbours lives.
What I didn’t realise was how giving would change me. I thought I knew about poverty, I had studied it in depth at university and worked in some of the most deprived areas of London, but what I didn’t know was what the power of real, authentic, get-your-hands-dirty-and-do-something kindness and giving has.
In 2012 I visited a family who had been referred to First Days, they needed a cot for a baby to sleep in and some clothes for an older child. I gathered the items and drove to their house, to find a fairly nice looking 30s semi with a garage and driveway, and to my horror my first thought was to wonder why they needed my help. After I left the house I felt nothing but shame for my judgement. That family of five were living in one room in that house, sharing a bathroom and kitchen with 11 other people. The grandmother sobbed as I left and told me that everyone had always told them 'no’ and we had said yes and she had forgotten what kindness felt like. Giving to other people is the single most powerful thing we can do. We hope it changes their lives and it definitely changes ours.
We know that our work up until now has been addressing the immediate and very pressing issues that parents face when their lives are dominated by 'how on earth they are going to put food on the table and buy sanitary products for their teenage daughter'. We’re so glad we can help with all of those things and now, thankfully, we are becoming more and more able to also help address the underlying causes of poverty and continue to campaign for changes to housing, education and welfare policy that will give children a fighting chance to not grow into adults who face the same problems their parents have.
Now, organisations like Beauty Banks have exploded onto the scene and we couldn’t be more excited. People in industries like beauty acknowledging their privilege, understanding what is going on in the lives of millions of people in this country and doing something. Giving. They’re not the only ones - The Red Box Project are addressing Period Poverty in schools and mobilising volunteers all over the country. Foodbanks are of course continuing their years of work feeding people in crisis situations.
We are woke, and we are giving. Join us.
If you’d like to sponsor a family with First Days you can for just £30, this will cover our costs to receive, process and distribute everything that a family living in poverty needs. We want to be able to support 1,000 more families - do start to do this we need to raise £30,000.
Or, if you'd like to donate Beauty Products please support Beauty Banks by buying things off their Amazon Wishlist