Being a new mum in a new city can be a terrifying experience. Without family or friends, London is a big and bustling metropolis where it is easy to get lost and even easier to feel very alone.
Now imagine doing all that when you don't speak the language very well, you don't understand the systems, and it has taken all that you have to escape from a terrifying place and situation. All of the mums we work with have survived some of humanity’s worst atrocities - this includes incidents of gender based violence, forced prostitution, modern day slavery and human trafficking.
These women and their young families have endured long, dangerous journeys to free themselves from these situations; they have come to London seeking safety here or some have been trafficked and held captive in the UK and have now escaped. These women with their young children or a new baby on the way - have little to call their own, they are entitled to a tiny allowance of £37.70 a week to pay for everything, and they find themselves reliant on the kindness of the people like you and me.
The Happy Baby Community in North London is where these mums and their children can grow and start to recover from these devastating experiences of the past. We run the Happy Baby Community in North London - but we can't currently help all the women who ask for us and many of our mums who come to our North London Community with their little babies live all over the city - they must
travel for hours each time.
At the Happy Baby Community these little families receive individual professional support. Most importantly they become part of a therapeutic community that enables them and their babies to start rebuilding their lives and participating in work and education in their new lives in London.
With large numbers of pregnant women being housed in South London when they arrive in the UK seeking asylum or as refugees, we have been asked by professionals and partners in South London to open a new Happy Baby Community there.
This will be another safe place, where mums or women expecting a new baby know they can come with their children, if they have, or are escaping, from traffickers, modern day slavery, and war-torn countries. Where they can find help and support, feel welcome, and cared for. The Happy Baby Community will help these women take back control of their lives, empowering them to create a better life for themselves and their family.
In 2017 alone more than 670 women who were pregnant or had children were identified in London as having escaped from modern slavery. The Happy Baby Community in North London has worked with around one quarter of these women.
The women in the Community have complex physical, emotional and psychological needs, many having suffered years of being physically and emotionally abused or held captive.
In a recent report, about women who had been trafficked and were pregnant or with young babies:
- 1/3 women reported having suicidal thoughts during pregnancy.
- 2/3 women received no antenatal care until their third trimester.
- 16% had slept rough while pregnant.
- 4/5 were estranged from their families, at a time where they craved the support of their mothers.
- All pregnant women who are in the national system for trafficked women relied on charity and food bank for basic needs.
Many of the women suffer with PTSD and severe depression, some are at high risk of suicide, especially when they feel unsupported and isolated. Many have terrible and lasting physical injuries, scars and burns or have suffered FGM. The Happy Baby Community’s medical and psychological teams provide one to one care to enable each woman to find ways to heal and flourish.
Maria* is from Albania, she is the mother of a beautiful 4 year old girl. Maria started attending the Happy Baby Community when it started in 2013.
Maria was struggling with debilitating anxiety, flashbacks and depression. She had had no antenatal support and had isolated herself as she felt ashamed and frightened.
Through the Happy Baby Community she was supported with all her antenatal and postnatal care by the professional team, she was encouraged to use the chance to learn English and to meet other mums as a way of building a less isolated life.
Maria tells us that she feels loved and safe in the Community. She feels confident now to support other new mums in the group who are facing similar challenges. She organizes and manages the baby swimming group which is a part of the Community.
– Maria, Happy Baby Community Member
Even with all their determination, without expert support to learn English and to recover physically and mentally, our mums find it incredibly difficult to make their new life work for them.
The Happy Baby Community is unlike any other women's group in London. Nowhere else can these mothers and babies receive the myriad of support and services all in one location. The Community brings together the specialist expertise and years of experience of the Helen Bamber Foundation, Ourmala and many other partners. Together, we address the complex needs of these vulnerable families.
All that these mums wish for, is to give their children a better life and to be able to work and learn like other young women. Without the support of their family and terrified to trust anyone, this requires bravery and determination more challenging than most of us can imagine.
The Happy Baby Community offers a safe place with a positive forward-thinking ethos for these mums and their babies. The project started five years ago with 6 new mums from 6 parts of the world. These remarkable women have become the elders for the group. They have recovered and supported each other as their babies have grown and they now lead the group in encouraging, welcoming and supporting new members and informing and facilitating discussions in the group to respond to the needs and concerns of Community members.
These mums really struggle to access services that most new mums have available. Fearful of the questions that they will be asked and of being stigmatized for their past, they have no money to travel on public transport and no access to wifi to enable them to look for services.
The Happy Baby Community enables mums to share in the ups and downs of having a new baby whilst getting the professional services and support that it can provide on-site.
The Happy Baby Community meets one day a week. Its core activities are trauma-informed yoga, small group English lessons and a hot, healthy family style lunch. The wrap around services include professional welfare, legal & medical advice, pregnancy and birth support, massage for mums and for babies, sexual health support, psychological therapy and the provision of essential practical things like clothes and buggies. We also refund the cost of women’s travel so that they can get to the group.
- Member of the Happy Baby Project
- Ourmala is the only organisation in the UK specialising in trauma-informed yoga for women, men, young people and babies from the refugee and asylum-seeking community.
- Helen Bamber Foundation provides expert care and support for refugees and asylum seekers who have suffered extreme physical, sexual and psychological violence, abuse and exploitation.
The Happy Baby Community works with a number of dedicated partners that are committed to making the new South London Community a success.
Our partners include:
- Refugee ambassadors from North London Happy Baby Community
- Home Start Croydon
- Kings College Hospital Midwifery Team
- Little Village
- The Quakers in South London
- My Bloody Good Period
- The Toy Project
- The Felix Project
Working as a team with the founding mums, Ourmala and the Helen Bamber Foundation have co-produced a program of support and devised the best way to deliver these essential services, seeking and responding to feedback every week. Together with Home Start Croydon and their Parent Champion program, we have developed the training and skills that are needed and the supervision that is essential for volunteers and staff supporting vulnerable women. The knowledge we have acquired from the last 5 years of working in North London, will be replicated in South London with our partners Home Start, Kings College. ADD.
In a society where refugees and asylum seekers are so negatively depicted and in such a hostile political climate, you will not only be providing refugee and asylum-seeking mothers and babies with the support of the Happy Baby Community, but you will be saying that you care, you're willing to take action.
There is indescribable poverty and suffering for women escaping from trafficking and slavery. This is under the radar, but it is a true humanitarian crisis on our doorstep. By backing us, you will be making a real difference to the growing movement of people who want to do something in our own communities to help those who need it most.