Connor Children’s Project Development Officer Jill Hamilton visited Greencastle Methodist Church on June 21 to receive donations for Baby Basics Belfast.
The donations of beautifully knitted cardigans, blankets and hats, were made by the ‘Knit and Natter’ group within the church.
Group leader Mildred Lawson explained the group is made up of 18-20 ladies. She said when they heard about Baby Basics supporting new mums in north Belfast, they ‘simply “put their hearts into it’ and got stuck into knitting small items for new babies.
Mildred said the group had begun around three years ago, knitting blankets for elderly women in the church who could not attend on a Sunday, and the project had grown from there.
Jill Hamilton is part of the team that runs Baby Basics from Connect Base, the Diocese of Connor’s Centre of Mission in north Belfast. She began a presentation to the group with a short quiz and then continued to explain the Baby Basics project.
Baby Basics is a volunteer-led project that aims to support new mothers and families who are struggling to meet the financial and practical burden of looking after a newborn baby. The charity began in Sheffield in 2009 because of the need within the city. Jill said the leader of a team of midwives looking after displaced people met a mother who was pregnant again, without any appropriate winter clothing for her child. This midwife went to a mother and toddlers’ group and asked the mothers for any spare baby clothes. She found they were very keen to help.
The aim of Baby Basics is to distribute Moses baskets filled with toiletries for mum and baby, nappies, wipes and bundles of clothes in different sizes to keep up with the growth of the baby, to mothers in need.
Before Baby Basics Belfast was established, a representative of the charity came to Northern Ireland to ensure there was need within Belfast, and awarded a grant to support the start-up of the new group.
New mums are referred to Baby Basics by various agencies, including the Family Nurse Partnership Team, the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and other partnering agencies.
Jill and the Baby Basics Belfast team includes a small card saying: “I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” If Moses baskets were not needed, laundry baskets or baby baths can be used.
Jill said people are becoming more aware of the project. “It is getting busier all the time! From May 2017 to December 2017, 57 baskets were given to families, and since the start of this year, 78 baskets have gone out.”
Jill shared a number of stories, including that of a teen mum expecting a baby where the father was no longer present. The baby was born very prematurely, resulting in the mother having to stay in the hospital without toiletries etc.
Baby Basics sent out these products to enable the mother to look after herself whilst staying in the hospital. Fortunately, the baby developed well and mum and baby got a flat of their own. Baby Basics were then able to send items for the new baby. One of the midwives reported back saying, “She was incredibly touched and so thankful.”
Jill said: “A basket of baby items may seem a small thing given the struggles some of these mums face, but it is still very meaningful. The mums are really overwhelmed, it is a message that someone cares and it makes them feel valued.”
Jill said the vision of Baby Basics is based on Matthew 25: 37-40 as the charity is motivated by God’s love for everyone and demonstrates God’s love through their care.
Thanking all the members of the Greencastle Methodist Knit and Natter group, Jill said: “It is a really nice treat for someone, so thank you all so much for your support and hard work.”
The items, lovingly crafted by the very talented ladies, have all been transported to Connect Base in Shankill Road from where they will be distributed to mums and babies.
For more information about Baby Basics, or how parishes can become involved in the Baby Basics’ Four-Week challenge, contact Jill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Report by Lucy Cullen.
Lucy is a Sixth Form student at Down High School who has an interest in religious journalism and is doing work experience in the Connor Diocese communications office.