New Baby Bank Network launches in Bristol

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Parents across Bristol are being encouraged to donate spare baby goods, time and skills to a brand new Baby Bank which redistributes the items to families in need.

Launched with a donation event on July 11, 2015, Baby Bank Bristol has already secured hundreds of donations and is embarking on a pilot scheme to distribute these to families in need via health visitor referrals. Overwhelmed with the initial response, it is also looking for a larger warehouse space to help house all the items.

Founders and mothers Eva Fernandes and Becky Gilbert, both from Bristol, met online after noticing the need for such an organisation but failing to find one in the city; they set to work doing research and making plans and within just a couple of weeks, the Baby Bank Network was born.

“If you and your baby no longer need it, we’ll give it to someone who does” says Mrs Fernandes.

“The Baby Bank redistributes baby items like clothes, slings and nappies that have been used and loved by parents, but are no longer needed, to parents who cannot afford to buy these items new or second hand. Reusing items saves money and is environmentally friendly.

She adds: “It’s shocking that families in this country have to go without. Bristol has an unacceptable level of child poverty and we want to help redress the balance by providing every family with the essential items they need to raise a baby.”

The kind of items which the bank seeks include, but is not confined to, cots, prams and stair gates as well as other items that are required to meet the basic needs of expectant and postnatal mothers and their babies who are in conditions of need, hardship or distress.

Mrs Fernandes added:

“Babies grow fast. In their first year they will require two or three whole new sets of clothes. For some, this is a financial burden they can’t manage. For others, they have an abundance of baby clothes and items that may get passed on to friends and family to be reused, given to charity shops or thrown away.”

Melissa Burgers - Becky Gilbert - Eva Fernandes founders of the Bristol Baby Bank (1)

Melissa Burgers, Becky Gilbert & Eva Fernandes

Within its first month, it has built a dedicated team of almost 20 volunteers – many of whom are new mothers on maternity leave – to help deliver its aims but is still looking for more help in co-ordinating the donations, distribution and promotion. And it has already started to outgrow its temporary home, a Big Yellow Storage unit in St Philips.

Dr Gilbert said: “It’s all moving so fast, which just proves the need for something like this. We’ve been amazed by the support and momentum we’ve already had but we’ll soon be in a position where we have more donations than space and already have more tasks than people so are very eager to hear from anyone else interested in getting involved.”

The Baby Bank Network is working in collaboration with a number of organisations in the city and nationally, including children’s centres and health workers who will help the donations reach the appropriate recipient; The Reuse Network, which is helping upcycle items and promote sustainability; Bristol’s Big Yellow Self Storage Company which has waived its fee for storage space to allow for the storage of donations; and KudaCan in Bishopston which is providing meeting space for the team.

Mrs Fernandes’s connections via Born baby shop on Gloucester Road, another key partner, have resulted in the promise of a financial donation as well as goods from global baby brand Lansinoh, the Baby Bank network is keen to collaborate with more ethical and sustainable companies and organisations who share similar aims.

Smaller donations can be left at Born on Gloucester Road, with both smaller and larger donations now being accepted by the Big Yellow Storage Company in St Philips. Simply drop in during open hours and say you have a donation for the Baby Bank. It is hoped that more local drop off points will open up in the future.

As with most charitable organisations, the Baby Bank also welcomes monetary donations to help with the running costs and to purchase items which it may be short of – such as new mattresses. As a brand new organisation, it also has a number of volunteer roles to fill, including help at future regular donation events, details of which can be found on the website and Facebook page.

Independent Baby Banks are already proving very successful in other cities across the UK, including Baby Basics in Sheffield, Baby Bank Central in Birmingham and Stripey Stork in Surrey. This is the first official Baby Bank in Bristol. It is hoped that the Baby Bank Network will become an umbrella organisation for baby banks across the country and is already working with a team down in Exeter.

Anyone interested in getting involved in any way should contact the Bristol Baby Bank via email: babybanknetwork@gmail.com

For more information, you can also visit the Baby Bank Network website: http://babybanknetwork.com/

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