First Love Blog

From March 2020, we aim to inspire and uplift with every post we write. The First Love blog has always been about documenting the support of the community, our success stories and the like – but we are living in a very testing time right now. We hope you can come here to unwind, be inspired, and leave wanting to create positive change. We hope you enjoy!

Mental Health and Crisis

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week #MHAW17 and the theme is ‘Surviving or Thriving?’. Mental health is often an underlying reason to why people are referred to us.  It is estimated that 1 in 6 people in the past week experienced a common mental health problem. (1)

For people facing crisis and who are isolated from a support network, their health and well-being is prone to decreasing. The poorer and more disadvantaged are disproportionately affected by common mental health problems and their adverse consequences. (2)

That’s why we’re here, so no-one has to face crisis alone.Fenna

We interviewed our Project Worker, Fenna, about mental health and why this can be both a cause and an effect of crisis. Fenna has ten years’ experience of working with people suffering from mental health issues in various different settings, from psychiatric wards to social housing.

Why are people referred to First Love Foundation?

Our service is for people facing crisis. We define crisis as having no money and no food to support yourself and your dependents. Food crisis is the main issue for being referred but this is often as a result of other underlying issues which may have triggered mental and emotional problems. For example, debt, housing, unemployment, bereavement and family breakdown can all lead to an income shock, thus creating a food crisis.

What is the relationship between mental health and crisis?

I think it can become a negative cycle that can trap people. For example, the crisis may be due to an issue like a income delay or change, which may have a negative impact on someone’s mental health. It is this cycle, that can make a person vulnerable to experiencing food crisis again in the future if they are not able to seek and access the help they need.

How would you define good mental health?

Good mental health is about having an outlook in life that encourages healthy behaviours and relationships. I believe our mental health is closely related to our emotional, physical, and spiritual health. I believe a part of maintaining good mental health is being able to build resilience and also develop coping mechanisms that are not destructive.

What steps can we take to look after our mental health and build resilience to cope with the demands of life?

A lot of the time, mental health issues have occurred from circumstances that were beyond a person’s control. But I think there is hope of gaining back a meaningful life.

  1. At times, we need to deal with traumatic experiences that have happened in the past – this is where counselling, psychotherapy or the creative arts therapies can really help.
  2. The highly regarded Recovery Star Model is a good example of how mental health practitioners work with people to help aid their recovery. The holistic approach promotes the importance of having a balanced life in areas like work, physical health, friendship/relationships, spiritual life and education and helps to build resilience.
  3. Developing self-awareness and having a support network in place can help build our resilience to mental health issues. Having self-awareness can lead to us making healthy decisions about our life that can benefit our health & wellbeing.

What would you suggest for people who may be struggling with their mental health?

Depending on the condition and the severity of it, I would advise that they go and see their GP for advice as soon as possible. There are a range of therapies available to help unpick the triggers and begin the road to recovery, examples are counselling, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and the creative therapies. People can also find huge benefits through their faith and this can be the hope at the end of the tunnel for some. Where the mental health crisis could be serious or life threatening, where immediate help is needed, there are crisis helplines like Mind and locally based Community Mental Health Teams (GPs can refer people to), who are there to help.

Donate now to help the people we meet thrive, instead of just survive. Your donations help us to support those facing crisis build a more stable and hopeful future. Read Alfred’s story to find out how we help.

First Love Foundation, Tower Hamlets Charity

For more information about Mental Health, visit the Mental Health Foundation website.

To contact the Mind Info Helpline for advice and support – call 0300 123 3393 or text 86463


  1. McManus S, Bebbington P, Jenkins R, Brugha T. (eds.) (2016) Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014. Leeds: NHS Digital. Available at: [Accessed 5 October 2016]
  2. Patel V, Lund C, Hatherill S, Plagerson S, Corrigall J, Funk M, & Flisher AJ. (2010). Mental disorders: equity and social determinants. Equity, social determinants and public health programmes, 115.

The YMC’s fantastic quiz night..

This week The Insurance Institute of London’s Young Members’ Committee organised their first ever charity quiz night and kindly chose to support us. The quiz was held at the Steam Wine Bar Restaurant – thank you to Steve and the team for kindly donating the space for the night.

The quiz consisted of multiple rounds ranging from history to sport to films. The night finished with a well-supported raffle in which people won amazing prizes of champagne, haircuts, meals out and not to mention, a mattress!

Congratulations to the winners!

Congratulations to the winners!

We are greatly appreciative for their kindness and generosity organising the event. They also gave Andrew Manning, our Trustee and former Insurance Underwriter, the opportunity to speak at the event; he raised awareness of the key critical issues in Tower Hamlets and shared about the work First Love Foundation does to address this and promote change in the community and society as a whole.

“The Insurance Institute of London’s Young Members’ Committee was delighted to support First Love Foundation at our first Charity Quiz Night. We selected the charity after learning of the stark reality faced by those in crisis in Tower Hamlets, compared to our experience of working just down the road in the Square Mile. It was amazing to see the charity’s work in person and hear how its services result in 67% of immediate issues being solved on first visit. It shows what a need there is for this service and how it really benefits the community we work in. We were humbled to help raise awareness and money for such a great cause.”

Sydonie Williams ACII, Insurance Institute of London Young Members’ Committee & Senior Underwriter, Gen Re

After totalling up the cash donations from the raffle and ticket sales, the grand total raised was an amazing £2447.85 – a brilliant result from such a fantastic evening!

In his speech, Andrew gave some examples of how the donations will impact our work:

  • £10 will cover the cost of drinks and biscuits provided at one of our Crisis Centre sessions.
  • £50 covers the cost of a 1-2-1 session with a project worker to unpick a client’s problems and begin the journey out of crisis
  • A monthly donation of £20, with gift aid will provide us with £300 per year, which will help deliver a bespoke package of support to help a person move towards employment, live sustainably and no longer having to rely on emergency food support.

Thank you to everyone who was involved in the event’s success, particularly Lindsey, Sydonie, Hannah, Cat and Holly from the IIL YMC; John the Quiz MC for the night; Steve and hiIMG_20170329_193157s team at the Steam Wine Bar for hosting; and of course, everyone who attended and donated so generously. You will make such a difference to people in Tower Hamlets, helping them break the cycle of crisis and start the journey towards a sustainable future.

Please fill in this fundraising form if you are interested in hosting a charity quiz night or another fundraising event for First Love Foundation – we would love to hear from you.

Check out this video from the night produced by Steam Wine Bar.

Does poverty affect decision making?

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation recently published a new report looking at how “decisions and behaviours play a vital role in helping avoid and escape poverty”. Their findings showed that poverty and low socio economic status does have an influence on the process underpinning decision making.

We define crisis as having no money and no food. We know crisis has a huge effect on someone’s ability to think clearly and rationally. When you are stressed and hungry, life becomes all about survival and making it through the day, so naturally decisions that will benefit in the short term are made. The findings in this report outline examples and reasons to why this might be the case. For us, the report reinforces how important our holistic approach is for people in poverty, to help them discover and resolve the root cause of the crisis through specialist welfare advice and relational support, as well as giving short term help in means of emergency food support.

There are three findings in the report that we could particularly relate to having come across situations in our work:

  1. “People living in poverty make decisions focused on coping with present stressful circumstances, often at the expense of future goals.”IMG_20160808_141321528_HDR_mini

We run our LOVE Summer holiday scheme for families who struggle when their children aren’t receiving free school meals because of the extra expense it causes. Our scheme is an opportunity for families to receive weekly support, a chance to build relationships and have fun together. Families also meet with our Project Worker for additional support and have access to a benefits health check in case they are not in receipt of all the financial support they are entitled to. These families are in survival mode; trying to make it to the end of each month without unexpected expenses or situations arising, for example replacing a child’s lost school blazer becomes a financial worry. Long term goals or dreams seem unreachable. However, we put more than food in bellies, we put hope in hearts. Anybody can achieve anything with the right opportunities and support.

  1. “For many individuals living in poverty, the choices made are not always bad ones, but are adapted to the constraints of life with very few resources”

i-daniel-blake-3Sometimes the options are very limited. For example, when a person fails the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and they want to challenge the decision but in meantime they will receive no income; they apply for Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) not because they are fit for work but because they need money to pay living costs and bills. This is just one example of when choices have had to be made in order to adapt to a life with very few resources. This particular situation is recently highlighted in Ken Loach’s ‘I, Daniel Blake’ film. If you feel passionate about social justice and the welfare system, we would recommend that you watch this film. Here is a link to the trailer.

  1. “People with lower socio-economic status have a significantly lower sense of self-worth, which can dampen their motivation to improve their condition.”

First Love Foundation, Tower Hamlets CharityThis finding was evident when our First Love Foundation hero, Alfred was referred to us. He was so stressed and low in spirits that he had to bring a friend with him to speak on his behalf. His income had been drastically reduced following the introduction of the bedroom tax. He was left with £43 a week to cover all bills and expenses. “I was eating a sandwich, maybe once a day. You’ve got to make £10 last a week before you get paid again.” Although looking for work, Alfred was struggling and losing hope. “It’s no joke. When you don’t eat properly you starve. You lose your self-esteem and everything. I was sending out my CV 15 times a day to companies. Sometimes you get replies back and sometimes you don’t.” Fortunately, we were able to help Alfred get back on track with the right advice and support, which resulted in him getting a job and having a sustainable life. Read his full story here.

The report concludes with, “people living in or near poverty experience a shift in psychological, social and cultural processes that may hinder their ability to make decisions that are beneficial in the long term”. People in poverty are forced to adapt to circumstances and do whatever is needed to survive, even if it could have potentially negative implications in the long term.

These decisions focus on four aspects:

  • The present
  • The actual
  • Those socially close
  • The ‘here’

The way we work, at First Love Foundation, is to tackle poverty and social justice in Tower Hamlets through a unique and holistic approach. We address the immediate need by providing emergency food support, but the heart of what we do is provide advice & support to tackle the root cause of their problems and underlying issues – to break the cycle of crisis. We guide and enable people to get themselves back on their feet so that they have a new hope and resilience for the future.

By donating today, you can support people referred to us to ensure the poverty cycle is broken and lives are transformed. Just £10 can start a journey out of crisis for someone.*

Click here if you would like to read the full report by Joseph Rowntree Foundation and their findings.

*£10 is the estimated cost of providing a one to one meeting with our Project Worker.

Give up and give…

Lent has become an opportunity to not only give up chocolate, coffee or Facebook. It is also a time to be kind, thoughtful, thankful and generous.

We are challenging you to GIVE UP AND GIVE this lent. Give up something you love and show love by donating the cost of what you save.

Yochoc cakeur support has the power to change a life like Alfred’s

“It’s no joke. When you don’t eat properly you starve. You lose your self-esteem and everything. I was sending out my CV 15 times a day to companies. Sometimes you get replies back and sometimes you don’t…” Click here to the find out how Alfred went from this crisis to having a sustainable and hopeful future.

£50 could provide the opportunity for someone like Alfred, Lorna, Sandra or Claire to meet with our project worker and get the advice and support they need to start their journey out of crisis.

How to get involved:


  • Join our #firstlovelent appeal and commit to GIVE UP AND GIVE this lent.
  • Donate through our website or text LENT10 £3 to 70070 to donate £3 and support someone like Alfred get back on their feet.
  • Want to increase the impact of your giving? Swap the number after the £ sign to donate a different amount e.g. £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10

Sainsbury’s Store Opening

There is a new Sainsbury’s store opening near Stepney Green station and we are thrilled to have been chosen as their charity partner!

We meet people every week from across the borough of Tower Hamlets who are facing crisis. Over the past week alone, reasons for referrals have included issues surrounding Universal Credit, family breakdown and homelessness.

The support we receive from Sainsbury’s and their customers will help us continue to reach those most isolated and vulnerable in our community. We provide much needed advice, support and an emergency donation of food to help people get back on their feet.

There are a number of ways that Sainsbury’s customers can support us – you can make a donation at the till points where there will be permanent collection tins. Or even join us at our upcoming supermarket collections and fundraising events to be held in store throughout the coming year.

We are looking forward to attending the opening of the new Stepney Green station store on the 2nd March and hope to see you there!

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