Ideas and Pioneers grantee Little Village on the power of kindness
Little Village provides good quality baby clothes and equipment, donated by local families, to local families who need it in London. Director, Sophia Parker ruminates on the importance of connecting communities, putting kindness into action and the charity’s growth. The Ideas and Pioneers Fund supports people with unusual or radical ideas to improve the life chances and opportunities of people in the UK.
“Start by starting”. As I sat at my computer one cold evening in January last year, this was the phrase I muttered to myself as I posted on a local parents’ Facebook group about setting up a ‘baby bank’ – where people could donate their great quality, unwanted baby clothes and kit, in order to pass them on to other local families in need.
Little did I know that 18 months on, I’d be running a fully-fledged charity, with two branches, and a third in the pipeline. In our first year, Little Village helped 450 families across Wandsworth and Camden, and we’re on course to more than double that this year. This four minute video tells you more about our work and what’s important to us.
Over the next 5 years, we want to grow a network of Little Villages. While the kit we give out is a vital lifeline to families who have nothing – one mum called the double buggy we gave her ‘liberation’ as it meant she could finally leave her house with her toddler and newborn, Little Village stands for much more than the kit alone.
First, our mission to make everything we give out a gift, rather than a hand-out, brings families together across the social divides that otherwise shape our lives. In London, where the richest and poorest of society live cheek-by-jowl, it is all too easy to only talk to people like you. Through participating in Little Village we connect families through the sharing economy, and in doing so, we educate people about the growth in inequality and the impact that has on people’s lives.
Second, we tap into a desire to find ways of putting kindness into action. So much of the feedback we get is about how it feels to experience kindness when so often you’re used to be treated badly. “You made me feel special” was one piece of feedback that we treasure. Our volunteers work hard to ensure everyone feels that way. And what we’ve found is that giving kindness is as powerful as receiving it. Our volunteers tell us they come back again and again because they know they are making a difference.
Third, we are powered by frustrated female energy. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is juggling Little Village with three kids under five years old. Little Village is powered by an incredible network of women who are skilled and talented and yet can’t find work that fits with their family life. That’s crazy. We work with the grain of people’s family needs. None of us work more than a three-day week; some of our volunteers bring their children with them; we offer flexible shifts – and we have access to talent that extends well beyond our core business as a result.
As one of our donors told us, “Mums want to help other mums. This is how.” Please check out our website to find out more about how to get involved and support our work.