3 years of Little Village
This time three years ago, my youngest child was 5 weeks old, and for a reason I can no longer fathom, I thought it would be a good time to officially launch my ‘evening project’ that I’d been working on with a group of other local Tooting mums for the last few months of my pregnancy.
Little Village launched one Saturday — I still treasure the media coverage in our local paper. We expected to see about 20 families donating. Instead we welcomed over 90 people, and collected 8 car-loads of beautiful donations.
By then we’d already supported our first family, who had lost everything in a house fire. I put out a call on local social media and within 24 hours we had multiple Moses baskets, buggies and piles and piles of clothes and toys, many of them brand new.
Seeing the response confirmed to me that there was a pent up demand for families to support one another, and that all (ha ha) we needed to do was to create a mechanism to make it as easy as possible for parents to do just that.
Anyway, fast forward three years, and thanks to my youngest daughter also turning 3 recently, I received an email from Mumsnet telling me what to expect of this important milestone. It congratulated me on getting through the terrible twos (we haven’t yet), and confidently informed me that we were about to enter a new phase called the ‘magical years’ (we’re still waiting…)
Unlike my daughter, Little Village has many parents. Our network of 200 volunteers, our staff team, and our wider supporters have formed an amazingly rich and nurturing family, all playing a vital part in Little Village’s development through those critical first 1000 days of its life. I want to acknowledge everyone who’s joined us. The folding, sorting, delivering, supporting, advocating, fundraising, data entry. It’s been a lot of hard work, all done with total professionalism and commitment. We wouldn’t be where we are now without all these people.
Pretty much everyone who’s been part of our journey can describe a time when they’ve felt the emotional charge around our work. The power of the desire for all kids to have the best possible chance. The love that exudes from the beautiful donations that are passed on to us so carefully. The sadness and anger at how hard life can be as a parent raising your kids with nothing.
That emotional charge is heightened by the act of giving and receiving help, which is really at the heart of what we do. Think about when you last received help, or when you last gave it. What emotions were present? We are dealing on a daily basis with sadness, shame, anger, defensiveness; also gratitude, overwhelm, relief and happiness.
With all this flying around the room, it’s vitally important that we maintain our deep commitment to dignity. Our currency is kindness. And I believe our true power comes from our total faith that everyone has something to offer and something to give.
The needs people come in with may be material, but through the Little Village community we are able to meet another set of needs, needs that are in fact universal: the need for connection, for confidence and for belonging. Yes, we alleviate material poverty, but we also build community and give people opportunities to thrive. That’s what I love about Little Village, and that’s what other people tell me they love about it too.
So another thing Mumsnet says about turning 3 is that kids enter the ‘why’ phase. It’s curiously apt for Little Village at this point too. 2019 is all about us asking ‘why’. Why do we do things they way we do, and could we do it better, reaching more families, improving our volunteering opportunities? Why do people donate items and money to us, and can we make it even easier? And why, most of all, why is child poverty going up, here, in one of the wealthiest cities in the world, and what can we do to tackle it?
I want to finish this birthday post with an invitation. If you’ve got this far, why don’t you take two minutes to think about a commitment you personally are able to make to Little Village over the rest of this year. It could be starting or continuing to volunteer and donate great quality items. It could be to get your workplace or kids school involved. It could be telling people about our work, or deciding to make a monthly financial donation.
Whatever that commitment is, it matters to us (you can tell me what it is here if you want). I’ve always seen Little Village as movement rather than an organisation — a movement of people who believe every parent should have the right to give their kids the best possible start in life.
Every single person who has been part of Little Village has already played a part in realising that vision for over 2500 families across the capital. I feel very lucky to be part of such a warm, nurturing and powerful community.