Angela reflects on the past year and the new beginnings we are see at Easter and at Ivy Street.
In the last six months we have added some exciting new people to our team. Afua Adom joins us as our very first Patron and we have three new Trustees. Bethan Mitchell, who designed this wonderful website and our fancy new logo, Ann-Marie Nye, who works as a press officer for a church network and Anya Sizer, a new local Councillor and community activist. We are thrilled to have them all on board as we look to the future of Ivy Street in our fabulous new building.
This is the press release to the local paper announcing our new Patron:
Award-winning Afua Adom announced as patron of Ivy Street Family Centre
Afua Adom, an award-winning broadcast journalist, has been named Ivy Street Family Centre’s first ever patron.
Afua, presents for African TV channels ARISE News and YANGA! TV and hosted the TV show Sustainable Energy for CNBC, wrote a column for The Voice Newspaper and was Editor-in-Chief for Glam Africa Magazine. She is also regularly seen on BBC, ITV, CNN, Channel 5 as a contributor.
The journalist has been a long-standing supporter of the charity, which has been running 40 years, since she began attending the centre with her daughter Naima, in 2012 to access services the centre provides.
“I was on maternity leave and my daughter was one-years-old when I began attending Ivy Street,” said Afua.
“It felt so nice to go to a place that felt like your own living room, a home away from home. When I started working part-time, we went every Thursday until my daughter was about three or four-years-old. Claire and Angela are just so lovely. At the time, I had lots of things going on. I was a new mum, then became a single parent. The support of other mums was brilliant. First it was just being a mum, then a working mum, a single mum. That building was old and decrepit. The toilets were freezing, but it just felt like home.”
Ivy Street Family Centre is run by three local mums and sits in the heart of Hoxton. It caters for preschool and primary school-aged children and their families. The centre runs drop-in play sessions, lunch clubs and Growbaby, an initiative that works with Hackney’s statutory services to support vulnerable families with baby clothes and equipment.
It’s current home, an old pub building, is currently being renovated to provide an accessible, affordable and flexible space to support even more families.
On how she feels about being asked to become Ivy Street’s first ever patron, Afua says she feels privileged.
“It is such an honour to be a patron,” continued Afua. “I’m so excited to support charity that supports mums, children and families during these times. Post-pandemic, the need for Ivy Street will still be there because people have lost jobs, their income, others are going back to work. There’s so many lockdown babies that have been born. It’s really exciting to be a part of the work that Ivy Street Family Centre does. I can’t wait to cut the ribbon to the new building.”
Angela Large, Executive Director, added: “We’re so pleased to have Afua onboard as our first-ever patron. She is a wonderful champion of diversity and knows what it means to be a Hackney parent; how difficult that can be when you’re alone, and first-hand the great support that Ivy Street provides our families.”
We are looking forward to working with Afua as we get into our wonderful new building and we start to expand our work.
In another change, we welcome Ritz Steytler as our new Chair of Trustees, replacing Andrew Large who has safely steered us through the last 13 years, firstly as Senior Pastor of Hoxton Vineyard and then as Chair of Trustees of The Ivy Street Family Centre Trust. We are all very grateful for his dedication and wisdom, and he is staying involved as Treasurer for now. He is glad not be his wife's boss any more!
We hope you stay safe and well and enjoy the summer. We are excited to share the progress of the new building over the coming months, so please keep an eye on the website for updates.
With love from Angela, Claire, Chloe and Victoria.
The flowers are beginning to bloom, there is a warmth in the breeze and there are the sounds of children playing at school again. It is all starting to feel more hopeful, isn't it? We are really thrilled to have started up drop-in play sessions again in the gardens at St Johns. It is wonderful to be able to offer our unique brand of play and support to local families again.
Claire's story is so typical of many of our parents, arriving as a nervous and slightly sceptical Mum and then staying for the warmth and friendship they found at our centre. Here is her story....
"As a new mum with severe Post Natal Depression and no local family, I spent the first year of my son’s life with the women I had met on a birth preparation course, but when almost all of them returned to work, it was time to start a new routine.
My local centre was always busy, and the sessions they offered were great, but it was mostly used by childminders, and they didn’t mix with the mums who attended.
A woman that I had met only once before asked if I knew about the Hoxton playgroup that’s “pretty nice, but a bit old”, and I agreed to meet her there the following week.
I can still remember walking into the building and being hit by a wall of noise – the sound of adults trying to hold a conversation over the top of excited toddler babbles and squawks. There were toys EVERYWHERE, ... I don’t think I had even taken it all in before I was greeted with a warm smile, told it was lovely to have me there, and had my baby assessed as “absolutely gorgeous”.
I was told the things I needed to know - where the loo was, where I could put my pram when I was ready, and then came the question that I didn’t expect “Can we get you a cup of tea or coffee?”. ... I gladly accepted. This was obviously a place where parents were cared for, and that’s how we ended up attending multiple times each week.
Ivy Street taught me more about community than anywhere else before or since, and how common values build strong bonds.
When it was time for my son to move onto the next step, I realised that although he was keen to be at nursery, I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Ivy Street, so I came back as a volunteer. Being that welcoming person felt like a great way to honour all that I had been given in terms of support, and to be part of the history of this long-running hidden gem embedded in the heart of the community.
Later, I seized the chance to apply for a post there, first as Administrator, and now as Centre Manager. It is so hard to imagine my life without Ivy Street – it has influenced so much of my life, my family life, and my relationship with my neighbourhood.
It is a great metaphor for life – loud, messy, a bit bedraggled, but full of hope and joy if you allow yourself to be swept up in the magic."
We will be forever grateful to that Mum who invited Claire to come along to Ivy Street!
Thank you for all your support, we love to hear from our supporters to do please leave a comment or send us an email.
Happy post-lockdown to you all.
We hope you are surviving Lockdown 3.0 and have found joy in small moments to keep you going. It certainly feels like a long slog through the winter days at the moment.
We have been unable to re-start our lovely Lockdown Babies and Messy Play groups this term and we are heartbroken not to be able to provide that safe space for parents and their little ones to meet, socialise and find support and friendship.. However, we are offering telephone and online support which is certainly helping our families to feel less isolated, but it far from ideal. We hope that we can get back to face to face sessions after Easter. We will probably be outside, so I hope the weather is kind to us again!
We love a story at Ivy Street. Whether it's our toddlers huddling round to hear about a Bear Hunt, or a baby snuggled up on a lap feeling the tactile bits of a board book, stories in books are so important to us. We also love to hear stories of how Ivy Street has helped and impacted our families. We thought you would like to get to know our team a little better, so here is Chloe’s story of how Ivy Street has been a big part of her life since becoming a Mum.
"Being a first time mum and just 20 years old I was really nervous about going to any playgroup as none of my friends had children yet, so I would be going alone. It took me a year to build up the courage to finally walk through the doors of Ivy St and when I did everyone made me feel so welcome. Me and my daughter had lots of fun experiences together there. I was sad when my time there came to an end when my daughter went to school, but, luckily for me my son came along, and I got to go back. When it was his time to go to nursery I decided that I would love to stay a part of Ivy St so I volunteered for a while until my third child came along, and then, just as it was her time to go to nursery, a job opportunity came up at Ivy St. I had no doubt in my mind that it was my dream job, working at a place that I loved. I’ve been a part of the Ivy St family for nearly 16 years now and I hope to be a part of it for many more years to come."
Chloe runs our play sessions and is a calm and friendly presence for all the toddlers, their parents and carers. She loves to look up new activities for the children to do, the messier the better as far as Chloe is concerned! With a background in Nursery Nursing and three lively children of her own, Chloe is the perfect person for planning engaging and fun activities for our little ones. She is partially furloughed at the moment but continues to support families over the phone and at our online Coffee morning. She is also helping to keep Growbaby running by sorting out starter packs of items for new mothers and their newborn babies. We, also, hope that Chloe will have many more years at Ivy Street!
Talking of stories, the lovely Victoria has been making videos of songs and stories for our families, you can check them out on our Facebook page here, https://www.facebook.com/TheIvyStreetFamilyCentre/videos/?ref=page_internal
Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones in these strange times. We will get through this.
Well, what a year this has been for us all! We had to stop our play sessions in March but we stayed connected with our families with online coffee drop-ins and craft packs for home creativity.
Growbaby continued to function from Claire’s spare room! Generous donations via our Amazon Wishlist and funds from the London Community Response Fund have enabled us to support newborn babies and their families throughout the year. We have since moved Growbaby out of Claire's spare room and into the offices of Hoxton Trust, a local Legal Advice charity, another temporary home for us until our building is ready next year.
In September we re-opened our sessions in a marquee in St Johns church gardens. Socially distanced play sessions have their challenges, but it was great to be able to offer something for people to do, and our families were so glad to get out and meet others in the same boat.
We were alert to the fact that many people had given birth during lockdown and were missing out on the normal socialisation with other new parents, so we launched Lockdown Babies and gathered together new parents and their babies to meet and share experiences. It was the first time many of the Mums had met anyone else in their situation. What a joy it has been to provide a safe space for these families to meet and find support and friendship.
Alongside all this our building is making amazing progress. The old pub front is still standing, but everything else has come down. We have a new basement and ground floor going in as I write. Please go to Our New Home page for more information and how you might help us achieve a new home for Ivy Street.
So we head towards 2021 with so much uncertainty, but glimmers of hope, and faith that we will get through this by pulling together. Lockdown Babies will continue in the New Year and we look forward, perhaps, to some more outdoor play and fun as the weather improves.
We wish you a safe and happy Christmas with many moments of joy for you and your families.
The Ivy Street Team x