Emma Cantrell, Founder of First Days Tells Us More About The Charity

Don’t Buy Her Flowers has recently partnered up with the charity First Days, who work to reduce the long term effect of poverty on children by equipping them with the essential items they need for their early years and at school.

We asked Founder Emma to tell us more about the charity.

What we do at First Days is simple: we pass things on, from one family to another, reducing the devastating effects of growing up in poverty as well as preventing tonnes of excellent clothes, equipment, furniture and toys from ending up in landfill.

It wasn’t difficult to come up with the idea for First Days: I had worked with families living in poverty for many years and had seen first-hand how they were having to go without the absolute essentials like pushchairs and winter coats. I was then pregnant with my first baby and experienced what can only be described as the most polite fly-tipping. Family, friends, neighbours who I barely knew, and even friends of work colleagues gave me bag after bag of things for the baby and it was way too much than I had use for. So, there it was: I had too much stuff, other people didn’t have enough. They just needed someone in the middle to sort it out and get it to them.

That was seven years ago and since then, the charity has grown massively and now supports thousands of children each year with clothes, school uniforms, equipment, furniture and toys. Recently, the Child Poverty Action Group found that children who start school and feel materially unequal from their peers are more likely to suffer low self-esteem and are four times more likely to have a diagnosed mental illness by the time they are 11. That is something I simply cannot sit back and watch happen. There are 4.5 million children in the UK living below the poverty line, which means their entire household has just £19 a day to live on for everything except rent and utilities. £19 a day for clothes, food, holidays, technology, transport, birthdays and Christmas. The work we do saves those families hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of pounds every year.

We used to only support families who were living in entrenched poverty, but now our remit has spread a lot wider. Whilst those children still really need the things, we give them, there are so many other families who also need our help.

Just recently we helped a Mum who was fleeing domestic violence, she had been left homeless and without an income due to the abuse she experienced and despite working full time as a shop manager, she just couldn’t make ends meet for her and her three children. We were able to give them school uniforms, beds and shoes and help them access further support to make their housing and finances a bit more stable. This isn’t unusual, over 70% of the families we help have one adult in the household who works full time.

We support families where parents have been made redundant and can’t afford the mortgage or sudden serious illness has had a huge effect on finances. We have also started working with the British Red Cross who are working to reunite refugee children and parents, and recently we were able to provide everything that was needed for a nine-year-old girl who hadn’t seen her Mum for over two years. Heartbreakingly, her Mum wasn’t sure what size her clothes and feet were and had no money to buy new things. We made sure that everything she needed was ready for her arrival to her home with her Mum.

As a charity we are now looking at our biggest year yet – all the incredibly hard work that has got us to this point is allowing us to now expand our services to be able to help families across the UK.

We give families gifts, from one family to another without judgement and with a lot of love. If you or anyone you know is in need of some help because money is tight or you’re in a situation you can’t see a way out of then please get in touch via our website.

If you’re in a position to support us then there are three really easy ways you can do that:

  1. Just £2 a month will provide one family a year with everything they need for their children. You can donate this on our website: https://www.firstdays.net/cashdonation.
  2. Donate your stuff: You can donate your excellent quality children’s clothes and equipment to us either in person or by post/courier to: First Days, 2 Broadwater Lane, Reading, RG10 0EA
  3. Buy something from our amazon wishlist here:  http://amzn.eu/ec3212O

We couldn’t do everything we do without the immense generosity and kindness of our supporters and businesses like Don’t Buy Her Flowers – thank you so much, as always, for showing us that there is a lot more good out there than we sometimes realise.

£1 of every DBHF order in March will be donated to First Days. Visit out Mother’s Day Gift Guide if you’re looking for ideas for someone special this Mother’s Day (22nd March).

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