Charity Tuesday #3 – Wood Street Mission

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This week’s charity Tuesday feature is Wood Street Mission, a brilliant charity supporting families living on low incomes in Manchester. They help thousands of children each year, providing a lifeline for many Manchester mums, as women are their main service users. Here they are you tell you:

What lead to the creation of Wood Street Mission?

Wood Street Mission was set up in 1869 by a group of missionaries who wanted to help families living in dire poverty in Deansgate, Salford and Hulme. The area – now part of the Spinningfield’s business district – was characterised by slum dwellings with families living in miserable overcrowded, unsanitary conditions. Many had come into the city to provide the workforce for the industrial revolution but were unable to make ends meet because of low wages and irregular work. Alfred Alsop, a local book seller and evangelical Methodist, set up the charity to provide practical and spiritual help to local families and the charity quickly expanded and became involved in large scale poverty relief works

Please tell us about your work and how you support Manchester mums? 

We help about 3000 families and 7000 kids who are living on a low income every year. We run a community shop where parents can shop with credit for day to day necessities for their children such as clothes, bedding and baby equipment, as well as toys and books which are important for well being and development. We run book clubs during holidays and half term breaks which promote reading and literacy to children and their parents and we also promote engagement in education through our unique SmartStart initiative which kits out children in uniform for school. The majority of our service users are women – often young mums who are struggling because of family breakdown, illness or low pay.

How can people support your work?

There are lots of ways to support our work. Mums can donate good quality clothes, bedding, baby items, books and toys to our community shop. We run appeals in the run up to Easter, back to school and Christmas time when people can donate specific requested items or funding. We are also always looking out for committed volunteers who enjoy working with a diverse group of people for our community shop and book clubs.

We currently have an exhibition Queues Clogs & Redemption Salford on display in the Salford Museum and Art Gallery until November. The exhibition charts our work through the years from the days of providing a home for street children in the C19, sending tens of thousands of children to the seaside in the first part of the C20, and running a youth club and sports hall in the sixties and seventies. For more information go to www.woodstreetmission.org.uk

You can also follow Wood Street Mission on Facebook and Twitter

Charity Tuesday #2 – Smart Works

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This week’s Charity Tuesday post is brought to you by Smart Works. An inspiring charity supporting women across Greater Manchester to get back into employment. They provide high quality interview clothing to women who may have been out of the job market for sometime and need that extra help. I think its such a brilliant concept, I’ll leave you with Fiona Gunnion, manager for Greater Manchester to explain more.

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What lead to the creation of Smart Works? 

Smart Works as a concept originated in London – that’s where our Head Office is. Our co-founding chair, Lady Hughes-Hallett knew that the road back into employment is a difficult and lonely one, especially if you’ve been unemployed for a long time and lack the confidence you require to give a great interview. Which is why, she decided to start Smart Works – to equip women with the confidence and skills they need to secure a job and ultimately, their future. Our Manchester chair, Louise Parrott Bates then brought the concept to Greater Manchester as she realised there was a need for this service in the North West. We now have Smart Works branches in London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Reading and Birmingham and are looking to open more across the country, so we can support as many women as we can.

Please tell us more about your work and how you support Manchester mums? 

Smart Works offer high quality interview clothing in a personal styling session and one on one interview coaching with a HR professional or senior manager. Our service is completely free of charge and we aim to give women confidence and the practical tools to achieve employment. The women who use our service are from all walks of life, which includes mothers who have been caring for children and are now needing to gain employment. Of the women we have seen, 54% have been unemployed for over a year, yet hold the skills to gain employment. The confidence boost and knowledge we provide at Smart Works gives our clients the support they need opening the door into employment.

Smart Works Greater Manchester has seen over 660 women since opening in June 2015. We have a fantastic success rate in Manchester, 69% of the women we support go on to achieve employment.The best part is, when they get the job they applied for or any other job in six months, the ladies can come back to us for 5 more pieces, entirely free of charge, that they can mix and match and create a little capsule wardrobe with, to keep them going until their first pay check!

How can people support your work? 

Smart Works Greater Manchester would very much appreciate any support you can offer, whether that be in a volunteering capacity of a Stylist or interview coach. We also hold fundraising events through the year, and are always on the lookout for people who can help us with events, fundraising, grant-writing and the like. People can also help by making a monetary donation or by donating interview clothing that is in good condition.

We have set our heights high for 2017 aiming to see over 500 women over the year, hoping to get more women into employment across Greater Manchester. If you feel you could support us on this mission please get in touch with Lead Manager, Fiona on: fiona.gunnion@smartworks.org.uk.

You can follow Smart Works Greater Manchester on Facebook  Instagram and Twitter

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Charity Tuesday #1 – Mummy’s Star

Welcome to the very first Charity Tuesday post. Each week I’ll feature a different charity to showcase the important work they do to support mums in our community.

This week I’m really pleased to be able to feature Mummy’s Star who are based in Glossop and do absolutely amazing work to support mums. I don’t think my words could ever do this charity justice so I’ll leave you with Founder and CEO, Pete Wallroth.

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1, What lead to the creation of Mummy’s star?

I established the charity with friends and family in June 2013, in memory my wife and mum of two, Mair. She was diagnosed with breast cancer during her second pregnancy and while undergoing treatment and giving birth to a healthy baby boy, she passed away 10 weeks later from secondary cancer to the brain. Our children Martha and Merlin, 3.5 and 10 weeks at the time of her passing are now 8 and 4.

It was set up in response to the fact that we as a family found very little support specific to cancer in pregnancy and the challenges is threw up for us, and then after her death, having spoken the three other women who had been through similar diagnosis, it was decided that this needed to change so that no woman ever felt as isolated as Mair had.

2, Can you tell us about your work?

It is the only charity in the UK and Ireland with the aim of ‘supporting pregnancy through cancer and beyond’.

More specifically the charity focuses on supporting women and families where the:

  • Woman is diagnosed or treated for cancer during her pregnancy
  • Woman is diagnosed or treated for cancer within a year of her giving birth
  • Family in the first year of a birth lose their female partner as a result of cancer

This includes situations where mum loses a pregnancy through miscarriage, diagnosis related termination, stillbirth or molar pregnancy diagnosis.

Our work is done through four main strands:

1, Providing a one stop shop for advice on cancer diagnosis in pregnancy including links to localised services. This is supported directly by Macmillan.

2, Advocacy on behalf of the families which can be anything from bringing in further support by working with other organisations through to support at medical appointments, to Benefits advice. Through we also employment rights advice. We also have the benefit of a child therapist working with the charity who offers telephonic support and guidance around children and diagnosis

3, Small grants for families which could be for anything which is deemed as supporting the family such as paying for a support carer/nanny to help in the house, payment to make up for unpaid leave taken by a partner to support at home above and beyond the allowances of paternity and travel costs. This is not an exhaustive list

4, Facilitating peer support in a supervised setting via the use of administrated internet forums for affected women, their partners and wider family members. Also, where appropriate, providing support for affected women individually via email, phone, Facebook and occasionally in person, thereby reducing isolation.

In the event that a mum passes away, ongoing help is provided to her surviving partner and family via bereavement support, online widowers forums and the availability of telephonic counselling.

We aim be in a position where any woman presenting with cancer during pregnancy/post birth at any hospital is referred to Mummy’s Star and accesses the support we offer.

A pregnant women with cancer is still a pregnant woman first and foremost.

3, It’s Cancer and Pregnancy Awareness week. Please tell us more about this and the theme this year?

This is the fourth time we have run our awareness week and we aim to shine a light on the unique situations that our families find ourselves in. We try to get to as many hospitals as we can to deliver educational talks about what we do, share the stories of our mums and their experiences, talk about how some cancer symptoms can be missed due to pregnancy and heighten body awareness; a general awareness that cancer and pregnancy can and sadly do happen at the same time.

Our theme this year, as we’ve entered our fourth year, is going back to basics to remind our wonderful supporters, both those since the beginning, those newer to us and hopefully those who will now begin to follow and support us about where the charity came from and what we do. A back to basics approach. The Who, What, How and Why

4, How can people support you?

People can support us in a number of ways, whether it’s following us on social media and sharing the information we post, holding an awareness day or fun day, maybe something star themed? If they work in a hospital, centre or host a regular group, share some of our literature with people and most importantly just talk. Talk about what you’ve heard. Talk about this situation that is rare, but is devastating for families when it does, and share the stories of hope and the ideas of how you could practically and emotionally help people if you happen to know someone diagnosed in this situation

All information on what we do and how people can get involved can be found on our website Mummy’s Star and we can be found on FacebookTwitter and Instagram or email at info@mummysstar.org

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Motherhood is crazy, why did nobody warn me?! The inspiration behind Mumchester!

Nobody warned me how overwhelming becoming a Mum would be. Loads of my mates had kids, I’d attended NCT classes, read books and thought I had the whole motherhood thing under control. That was before I had an actual child, needless to say that was a shock!

After a lovely pregnancy and very straight forward labour (call me mad but I actually quite liked giving birth) the immediate aftermath was not so pleasant. As I was wheeled off to be stitched up in surgery (I’ll spare you the gory details) this overwhelming sense of responsibility washed over me. I was begging the doctors, nurses and anyone who was vaguely listening not to put me to sleep for the stitches. How would I look after a baby if I had general anaesthetic?! I didn’t realise it at the time but I guess that was the moment I stopped caring about myself, all I could think about was the tiny, helpless little girl I’d just given birth to, she was all that mattered.

That anxious feeling stayed with me for the first year or so. Everything was about what my baby needed. Was she feeding ok? Was her poo normal? (Why do we become obsessed with poo when we have a child? or maybe that’s just me?!) Why wouldn’t she nap? When she did nap, why is she napping so long, is she still alive? The list went on and on! Even when I managed to get some sleep my brain didn’t properly switch off, I’m sure I slept with one eye open.

There just wasn’t enough space in my brain to think about me. It wasn’t until my daughter was about 18 months old and I went to the BRILLIANT Guilty Mothers Club (Anyone who hasn’t heard of them, check them out, their Game Changers Course is life changing!) that things slowly started to change. It was at the Game Changers taster session when the lovely Helen (who runs Guilty Mother Club) asked the question “If you were in a book shop, what would you choose to look at that wasn’t anything to do with kids / parenting?’’ I honestly had no idea. I couldn’t think of one thing I would be interested in that wasn’t to do with my child or being a Mum and I was really shocked. I had loads of interests before becoming a mum. I loved music and going to gigs, going out with friends, drinking far too much wine and couldn’t resist a good political debate. Yet here I was with no clue what I was even vaguely interested in. I had lost my identity as a person outside of being a mum and hadn’t even realised it.

Don’t get me wrong I LOVE being a Mum and embraced my new life with gusto! I was out all day every day at baby classes with my lovely new Mum friends and couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have this wonderful little girl who made my heart sing every time I looked at her, yeah life as a mum was great. Completely overwhelming, I was anxious all the time and on reflection I think I lost my mind slightly but none the less I loved it. Looking back I think that’s what I absolutely needed to do at that time and don’t regret it for a minute.  But as my daughter started to get slightly more independent and by doing the Game Changers course I realised I needed to think about me again. I started to accept that having interests outside of being a mum, thinking about what I needed and making time to do things I enjoyed, was really important and actually made me a better mum. I started to merge my identity as a mum yet still be ‘me’ and it felt marvellous.

I started to question why on earth I was going to all these baby classes I didn’t even like?! During my maternity leave I loved meeting my mates there and that was my motivation for going. But when most of us were back at work why on earth was I still going?  Because that’s what I thought I ‘should’ be doing, because I didn’t know what else to do, because god knows I didn’t know what I liked doing anymore. But as I slowly started to merge my identity as a Mum and me as person again I stopped going to the classes I didn’t enjoy and started taking my little one to places and classes that I liked too and we all became happier as a result!

So why Mumchester?

There are loads of things I wish I’d known sooner about motherhood. Haven’t washed your hair for a week? Totally normal. Child hates sleep? That’s normal too! Feel like you’ve lost your mind? Sanity is overrated. Knowing its Ok to care about yourself and have interests aside from your child. Knowing where to go to make the most of maternity leave, doing things you’ll enjoy too. Knowing about the brilliant Mum community here in Manchester and how to access it and knowing how to embrace your identity as a mum and a person. All of this and more is the inspiration behind Mumchester.

It’s about helping Mum’s make the most of this glorious city by recommending kids activities that Mum’s can enjoy too; great places to eat with and without the little ones, places to go on a girls or date night, fun events taking place and all the great Mum clubs on offer. Mumchester is a community to encourage mums to think about ourselves and our identities so we don’t forget about our own interests and personality.

There’s also a focus on including mums from across the whole community, remembering ones that are not so fortunate to be able to easily access the cities activities and groups. Each week I’ll feature a local women’s charity, showcasing the work they do to support Manchester mums.

Please join us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to get involved.

I’d love to hear from you

Helen x