Many families struggle with the financial demands that come with welcoming a new baby. Community Connect helps to lessen this burden on families who are struggling financially, by providing baby equipment, clothing and essential items for their new baby. Many families who have finished with their baby equipment and clothing, and who often have invested a considerable amount of money in these items, are very enthusiastic about passing their items on to a family in genuine need who can benefit from these items. Community Connect Support can effectively and efficiently facilitate this. And of course, it is clear that reusing baby equipment and clothing also has a very positive environmental impact, reducing the amount of waste going to landfill.
Community Connect started its life in 2019 as a small project. A group of like-minded individuals saw a real need for practical support for pregnant mothers in Ireland, and set about collecting donations of nappies, hygiene essentials and used baby clothing and blankets in good condition. The group soon realised that there was an outpouring of generosity from people in donating these items, but there was no organisation in Ireland which had the infrastructure or mission to focus specifically on baby items and distribute them to families in most need. So the idea for Community Connect was born!
Initially, hubs were started by volunteers in 5 locations: Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick & Athlone. Later, Kilkenny was added as a hub, and volunteers in other locations also joined. These 6 hubs all progressed to renting storage facilities, where they could accept donated items, store them and redistribute them to families in need. Volunteers in other locations, including Wexford, Donegal, Kerry and Mayo, were able to access items from the 6 hubs when needed and distribute these to families in their local areas, who requested support. As word spread, the demand grew and all the hubs got increasingly busy. The introduction of Covid restrictions in 2020 meant that more and more families were struggling, and requests for support grew exponentially in a short space of time. By 2021, the Dublin hub was helping up to 20 families in some weeks, serving Dublin city and county, as well as Kildare, Meath and Louth.
Within the period January to December 2021, Community Connect volunteers completed 939 deliveries across Ireland to provide essential items, supporting 759 separate families. These applications for support came through various channels – referrals from maternity hospitals, organisations involved in poverty alleviation and social work, direct provision centres, emergency accommodation family hubs, as well as from families themselves in need of practical support. The items distributed included 742 deliveries of clothing bundles, 373 buggies and strollers, 308 BabyBoxes, 185 cots and cribs, 96 moses baskets, 109 bouncer seats and 73 highchairs, as well as numerous other items of baby equipment and gift packs.
Some feedback illustrates the impact of the work that was done at that time:
– Medical Social Worker, OLOL Hospital, Drogheda
– Pregnant mother in Dublin
– Advocacy Officer, CrossCare, Dublin
– Mother in Wexford
– Keyworker, Focus Ireland, Dublin
– Pregnant mother in Limerick
– Mother in Galway
– Medical Social Worker, NMH Holles St, Dublin
– Mother in Cork
– Medical Social Worker, Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe
As demand grew, it became clear that there was a huge unmet need for the services that Community Connect was providing. And so, in 2022 we set about applying for charity status from the Charities Regulator in Ireland. During that time, we had to scale back our operations somewhat, pending approval as a registered charity.
We are proud to say that we were granted charity status in July 2023, and have been working since then to rebuild our hubs and volunteer teams, to put in place all the structures and governance required to be a charity of integrity and to continue the important work that was started in 2019.
Week in, week out, our volunteers around the country are working to prepare bundles of clothing, equipment and essential items and deliver these to families who need our support. Each family supported by Community Connect receives a package of essential items, according to the age of their baby. For expectant mothers and those with newborn babies, a BabyBox and MamaBag of brand new items are given as a lovely gift. Along with a bundle of clothing and whatever equipment they need, this gift pack contains all the items needed for them to get started with their new baby. Families with older children receive a BabyBag containing essential hygiene items along with their clothing and equipment bundle. All the gift packs we provide can be sponsored on our website, and are prepared in our hubs and given to a needy family by our volunteers.
Sometimes it may seem that just providing basic items like clothing, buggies, cots and nappies isn’t enough to support a pregnant mother or a newborn baby in need. However the reality is not as simple as that. Practical support can be the first step for a mother to build trust with her social worker or midwife; it can mean that she has the tools to allow her to bring her children to school safely, to go shopping or to attend appointments; it can bring the peace of mind she needs that her child is sleeping safely and clothed warmly; it can be her first glimpse that she is cared about and valued by other people. It can even be her first step to engage with classes and agencies that can ultimately transform her family’s life.
In Community Connect, we firmly believe in the immense value of the work that we do. We are continuing to work hard to build a robust and resilient Irish charitable organisation, that will make a real and significant impact on the lives of small babies and their parents, who are the most vulnerable in our society.
Community Connect is a registered charity in Ireland No. 20206555