Shelagh James: a thank-you message from Happy Baby Community

As we remember Shelagh James, Katie Evans shared an email to Bath Quakers from Susan Balmer, a Quaker in Streatham who runs the Happy Baby Community, a charity supporting new mums who have fled from traffickers and violence and have sought international protection in the UK.

What Happy Baby Community is all about (photo from https://www.happybabycommunity.org.uk/about-us)

Dear Friends

I just wanted to say how much we appreciate the donation Shelagh James’s estate has made to the Happy Baby Community.
We are a London based charity which was started as a Quaker concern in 2017. We work with asylum seeker mums and babies, many if whom have been trafficked. We started with £1000 from Quakers. We are currently telephoning 250 women a week during lockdown, running zoom groups, delivering baby clothes etc as we are unable to run the face to face groups.
It was heartening to receive support from as far away as Bath (several of our mums have been dispersed to Bristol but not yet Bath)
Thank you
In Friendship
You can support Happy Baby Community here. For more information see below:

The Happy Baby Community

The Happy Baby Community was registered as a charity in January 2019 (Registration number 1181633). We run two communities in London and support women who have fled from war, violence or traffickers, who are pregnant or with a young child and who are seeking asylum in the UK.

Our Mission

  • To be a safe and trusted place that enables these new and pregnant mums and their children to thrive.
  • To provide professional and practical services for this community.
  • To provide training and education that supports the community to build confidence and skills.

Our Priorities

  • To be a safe place and a place of hope.
  • To support and encourage women and their children to feel confident and thrive.
  • To reach out to women who struggle to access support.
  • To provide practical and provide emotional support to the women in the community and to the hundreds of new and expectant mums arriving in the UK each year.

Our Values

All women and their children have an equal right to thrive and feel valued.

‘…..We offer friendship to all and solidarity to the marginalised. We speak truth to power with love. We hold those in power in the Light. We find creative and nonviolent ways to get our message across. We are in this for the long haul; we’re not afraid to take risks. We are called to live in the place where our ‘deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet’.

From ‘Our faith in the future’ 2015.

Quaker Links

Our fast-growing HBC South community was set up by Friends in South London to support the 180-200 expectant mothers who claim asylum in South London each year whilst heavily pregnant.  Purley Local Meeting and South London Area Meeting discerned and accepted this project as a Concern at its outset in 2017.

In 2020, it was also accepted as a Concern by Hammersmith Local Meeting and London West Area Meeting; our new West London community (originally planned to open in June 2020, currently delayed due to covid-19) will be hosted in Hammersmith’s new Meeting House.

The Happy Baby Community is financially supported, amongst others, by the Quaker Peace and Social Witness Relief Fund, London Service Quaker Trust, South London Area Meeting and Local Meetings, the Sir James Reckitt Charity and the CB and HH Taylor Trust. Local Friends donate 60+ hours volunteer work a week in project managing and developing the charity, which currently has no employees.

‘When I came here I was too much disturbed mentally.  Cry too much, tension too much. The team in happy mama very much helpful. They help me with things. They also help me to come to life.  I was hopeless.  They gave me hope when I was ill.’

‘I am going to start with why it is important for me. I don’t have family and friends to support me through my pregnancy in the UK. I was told about the happy baby community. I loved it. You feel like you know everyone since ages. I love the yoga, the gathering, seeing everyone so welcoming. People are asking me how they can help.’

‘Rooted in the conviction that God resides within every person, Quakers across Britain are working to welcome people seeking sanctuary.’ From Sanctuary Everywhere 2020.

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