Connor Diocese’s North Belfast Centre of Mission has launched a new initiative aimed at supporting families in need by supplying essential items such as toiletries and clothing.
Working from the Connect Base in Shankill Road, Baby Basics Belfast is a volunteer-led project aiming to support new mothers and families who are struggling to meet the financial and practical burden of looking after a new baby.
It is the first in Ireland and is part of a growing network of Baby Basics centres across the UK.
Baby Basics Belfast started in January and is led by Diocesan Children’s Project Officer Jill Hamilton and Lead Pioneer Evangelist in the Centre for Mission, Sister Karen Webb.
Jill said: “Baby Basics Belfast works alongside health professionals from local Sure Start and Health Centres who refer families in need. We are then able to support the families by providing them with essential equipment, clothing and toiletries.”
Baby Basics Belfast works in partnership with local churches and relies on donations from congregations.
“We ask participating parishes to support us for a month at a time by highlighting Baby Basics during the Sunday Service and asking the congregation to donate items that can be passed on to families in need,” Jill said.
“Participating churches can request someone to come along to their church service or church group to explain what Baby Basics is all about and will be provided with leaflets containing all the relevant information about what to donate.”
One of the first parishes to step up to the four-week Baby Basics challenge was Glenavy, and Jill went to pick up the donations on Tuesday March 21. There were so many items waiting at Glenavy church hall it took two car loads to bring everything to the Connect Base!
“The congregation was so generous and donated an amazing array of items from the ‘shopping list’ provided,” Jill said.
A presentation of all the donations took place at Glenavy Parish’s Open Door Club lunch. Open Door is a monthly senior citizens morning held for all the community and more than 80 ladies and gents come along each month.
Knitting and crocheting are among the many activities, and these nimble fingered ladies donate much of their work to good causes including Church Army Homeless shelters and premature baby units in hospitals. Jill said they were delighted to knit for Baby Basics.
“We received two big bags full of blankets, hats, booties, cardigans, coats etc, all beautifully handmade with love and skill,” said Jill.
The rector, the Rev John Rutter presented the donations from the parish and Mrs Paddi Totten presented the knitted items from Open Door.
Through Baby Basics, families receive a Moses basket or other container filled with essential items for mother and baby, and the project will also include items for dad and other siblings in the family if appropriate.
Jill stressed: “The health professional who understands the needs of the family is an essential link in the chain to make sure families receive items that are useful to them.”