“Babies Matter is so much more than just a programme – it’s a loving and supportive community wrapping its arms around a family at the beginning of their parenting journey, and then staying beside them for as long as they need it.”
My name is Anke and I work for a charity called Riverbank, which is based in the borough of Richmond. We work in partnership with local churches to equip vulnerable single mothers (and their children) through long-term emotional and practical support.
Since piloting Babies Matter a couple of years ago, we’ve run many Kids Matter programmes and two Babies Matter programmes (one online and one in person).
Babies Matter fits easily into our vision to come alongside single mums because although we run baby and toddler groups, we don’t have a programme that speaks directly to mums who have little children or are pregnant and likely to face the next two years of parenting alone. Babies Matter includes meaningful and researched content that we can offer parents, and encourages both relationship and support within the context of a supportive community. Also, for a lot of the Riverbank parents who have done Kids Matter and gone on to have a second child, being part of a Babies Matter group might be the first time they’re given the space to be intentional from the beginning; to think about how they might parent differently this time, with a second child.
Many of the mums who are part of our community are referred by schools or the local authority. There is also a local hostel where we go and meet mums who may need support and community. Some of the mums who have attended Kids Matter or Babies Matter groups first attended the baby and toddler groups we run at various churches, and mums who are already part of the Riverbank community invite other mums to come and be a part of the programmes.
At Riverbank we’ve seen the impact of Babies Matter on the mums who’ve attended our groups. For one mum, coming into any social situation made her very anxious – so for the very first Babies Matter, I met her outside and literally guided her into the venue. Since doing Babies Matter with us, she’s managed to become part of the other groups that we run, including doing Kids Matter too, which has helped her well-being and influenced the parenting of both her older and younger child.
Another mum, single and pregnant, who was invited by a friend to be a part of the Riverbank community and join a Babies Matter group, has gone on to become a helper in a follow-up group, and has since become a trainee outreach worker with Riverbank. All those little steps were pivotal in her life journey so far, and where she was initially going to face the journey completely alone, she ended up being surrounded by a loving and supportive community.
Babies Matter is so much more than just a programme – it’s a loving and supportive community wrapping its arms around a family at the beginning of their parenting journey, and then staying beside them for as long as they need it.