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!
It’s World Food Day this Sunday (16th) which is a global day of action when people around the world unite to show their commitment to fight hunger. Like Harvest, it encourages us to reﬂect, be thankful for everything we have and do our bit to help those who are struggling to provide for themselves and their families.
No money, no food, what did you do!?
Here are just some of the heartbreaking things we have heard from people referred to us.
Even though Britain is in the top 10 of richest countries in the world and Tower Hamlets has Canary Wharf within its borough; hunger can affect anyone, anywhere. We see people of all different ages, genders, nationalities and faiths who are facing crisis. Reasons of referrals range from benefit delay, sickness, domestic violence, ex-servicemen, school holidays, mental health, carers and many more.
Giving them emergency food will help but only in the short term. That is why we provide solutions focused, specialist advice and support so that they do not have to face those difficult situations again.
Can you donate this World Food Day for people facing crisis in Tower Hamlets?
Thousands of calories were burnt over the weekend of the 6 and 7 of August, to raise funds for, and awareness of, both our and Wandsworth Foodbank’s vital work. Fundraisers collectively cycled 1000km at Southfield Gym in Wandsworth with a goal of raising £1000.
It was a great event, they smashed their target and raised nearly £3000! We are so thankful to the chief organiser, Mark Cazaly, Southfields gym for hosting, the amazing fundraisers who gave their time and energy, and of course their friends and family who sponsored them.
This event was run by Donate 4 Fit, a new fitness inspired fundraising initiative. Mark explains why he chose to start fundraising, “Foodbanks in London are vital to helping those in need with the very basic things in life. The volunteers at these charities make a life-changing difference to people in times of crisis with help for the long term as well as emergency food parcels. That’s why I’m raring to go and get fundraising… and tick off my exercise for a while!”
Our Enabling Lives Programme Manager, Debbie Pemberton, went to the event to cheer the fundraisers on, “Their ‘doing good, feeling good’ initiative is a creative and fun way to fundraise. The money raised will support those facing crisis in Tower Hamlets, whom we help by providing emergency food, advice and support to build sustainable and hopeful futures. In a borough where 49% of the children are living in poverty this is really important.”
It’s amazing that so many schools, churches, business and individuals generously donate food every week to our foodbank to tackle food poverty. But crucially too, it is our supporters who fundraise and donate money, that help us transform lives from crisis to sustainability through our Advice & Support project and seasonal programmes.
To register your interest in fundraising for First Love Foundation, whether you would like to fundraise big or small, mountain climb or bake sale, please fill in this form and we will be in touch with how you can get started.
This was the busiest week so far with lots of fun activities for both the children and the parents. There was something for everyone to enjoy.
Activities for the children included clay modelling, bracelet making and t-shirt decorating and shadow puppet making with David Graham from Wilton’s Music Hall in Wapping. Our wonderful partners and friends, Hannan and Richard from Rainbow Collective also came and did an animation workshop with the older children.
Hannan from the Rainbow Collective said, “We have been working with the wonderful team at First Love for the last couple of years doing Films for Food events, where we raise food donations through monthly film screenings in East London.” (Check out Films for Food here)
“We volunteered at LOVE Summer this week to do animation workshops with children. The workshops went really well and the children were even able to show the animation they made to all the families at the end of the session. At Rainbow Collective, we believe it’s important to teach young people from the community that they can use film and animation as a way of expressing themselves. We are grateful for the opportunity to teach a group of talented children from Tower Hamlets and we look forward to partnering with First Love again to deliver a week long animation workshop during half term.”
This week we held our first parents-only activity, which was an art therapy session run by First Love Foundation’s Project Worker by day, and artist by night, Fenna. The parents really enjoyed this activity, they found it relaxing and valued the time to do something for themselves while their children were happily being entertained and looked after by our volunteers.
A great team from Boots Opticians joined us again and conducted vision screening tests as well as kindly giving out free sunglasses, sun cream and goody bags! They also brought with them a fantastic story teller, Tony Dallas, who delivered fun, interactive stories to the families.
Denise Bentley, Co-founder & CEO of First Love Foundation commented that “For someone facing crisis, organising a trip to the opticians is not often a top priority. So being able to receive a vision screening test during Love Summer, ahead of the new school year, has been so beneficial for the families to their health as well as their wellbeing.”
The impact of partnering with Boots Opticians this year is already evident with one of our LOVE Summer children. Rayan, aged 8, was seen by the team from Boots Opticians at a previous LOVE Summer session this summer. His glasses were broken and had been for a while, but after receiving a vision screening test and getting some advice from the team, he proudly wore his new glasses this week to show us all! As a team, we hope that he will have a better start to the new school year because of the help he received at LOVE Summer.
Thank you so much for supporting this event – none of this would have been possible without your food donations and giving. It’s amazing that so many have already donated £3 towards tackling holiday hunger and isolation. To join them and show your support, text ‘SUMR03 £3’ to 70070 and donate right now*.
*You will be charged at your standard network rate. Just Giving will never record your mobile number so it cannot be passed on to the charity or any third parties.
LOVE Summer this week was all about Animals & Nature and we had some special guest visitors…
The parents and children learnt about snakes, giant African snails, millipedes, donkeys, goats, rabbits and chickens to name just a few! They had the chance to get up close, stroke and even hold them too. Families also did a fun activity together of planting their own herb garden in recycled tin cans.
The summer holidays can be an isolating time for families, so it is wonderful to see them spending quality time together and having the chance to get further support from our project worker if needed. A LOVE Summer attendee said, “You really do feel so alone, particularly if you haven’t got the network of family and friends.” “It’s nice to have somewhere to go. Everyone’s been really nice and accepting.”
One child even said that LOVE Summer is the best thing about the holidays, and that he is really enjoying every week and learning lots!
A huge thank you goes out to Spitalfields City Farm and the Wiggly Wild Show for bringing the animals and reptiles to show us. Of course, none of this would have been possible without the generous support from you and our valued partners. This week, SapientNitro kindly sponsored the event and also provided a group of lovely volunteers.
Here are some pictures and quotes from the team and volunteers from the day:
“The wiggly wild show was a fantastic hit for the kids who were fascinated by the creepy crawlies”
“Parents, children and volunteers conquered fears of creepy crawlies by holding a snake and huge snail”
“It was great to see children get in touch with their nurturing side by stroking the rabbits and feeding the goats and donkeys”
We are now busy preparing for Arts & Craft week! Please continue to support us by donating vital fund. You can donate online or by texting ‘SUMR03 £3’ to 70070 to donate just £3 for families facing crisis. Find out more about LOVE Summer and how you can help here.
Well the school summer holidays are now well underway and so is our programme of much needed support, advice and fun activities for Tower Hamlets families facing isolation and food poverty.
We had another fantastic LOVE Summer event which again, wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity and kindness of the Tower Hamlets community, our dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers, our LOVE Summer partners including Boots and Genesis Cinema, and sponsorship and support from WellsFargo.
This week’s theme was Theatre & Entertainment and it certainly proved to be very theatrical and entertaining! The families who came enjoyed the movie screenings and popcorn, and engaging in activities such as making a pop up card version of world famous local music hall, Wilton’s and watching an exciting Paper Theatre production. Each family also got to take home a free family cinema ticket so they can enjoy a movie screening of their choice, courtesy of the great Genesis Cinema team in Stepney Green.
In addition to this, we also had our CPAG Welfare Advisor, Niz there to provide vulnerable families with a ‘benefits health-check’ to ensure that they were on track to get the full support they need and are entitled to.
One parent who attended for the first time said, “it has been a brilliant day. I’m overwhelmed by the food we have been given and the best part was seeing my son playing with new friends”.
Debbie Pemberton, our Enabling Lives Programme Manager and LOVE Summer coordinator, was also encouraged that more families were able to attend this week. She was able to welcome new faces and reach out to vulnerable families to help reduce any feelings of isolation and the financial strain that arises during the school holidays. Debbie said, “it’s good to see parents and children enjoying the activities together and making new friends as this time of year can be quite isolating”.
With the programme now heading for its third week, we are looking forward to the ‘Animals & Nature’ theme – complete with a creepy crawly creatures and farm animals!
Thank you so much once again to all who have donated food, money or your time so that LOVE Summer can be a success. You can get involved and support families facing holiday hunger by texting ‘SUMR03 £3’ to 70070 and donate £3 right now!
More news to come next week…
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