This month, we acknowledge Carole Baker and Lynn Hayward for their unwavering dedication to seeing the lives of children and families transformed in their community. Not even a pandemic deterred their commitment. Read their story below, which is nothing short of inspiring…
Hello from Felixstowe in Suffolk, a coastal town with the biggest and busiest port in Britain and one of the largest in Europe, where we run Kids Matter out of Christchurch for the local community. Christchurch is located between the local Morrison store and the skatepark.
Many years ago, I had one of those God-made moments and a chance meeting with someone in London, who shared her vision to roll out parenting programmes through a local church in the community. That contact led, several years later, to an introduction to Kids Matter and I just knew that this was the right organisation to partner with. I was head over heels with excitement! Last year, Lynn was looking to be involved in something similar and on hearing during a Sunday service that I was looking for someone to launch the programme with, was keen to find out more. When Lynn emerged and spoke to me, the bond was sealed for Kids Matter to start.
As a result, we trained as facilitators last Autumn. After connecting with our local school and other community contacts, we ran our first programme earlier this year with a great support network in church including; prayer, pastoral care, admin, refreshments and creche. We felt really blessed with such wonderful support.
It was such a privilege to welcome our group, made up of mums, a dad, a grandparent and a foster carer. The parents came from within the church and from the wider community to explore together the joys and the difficulties of parenting. Some of the parents joined our messy church group and had great fun mixing in a new environment and meeting new people. Then came the Covid-19 pandemic! We had to skill up, stay at home – protect the NHS – save lives and do the booster session online! This worked surprisingly well. We have been able to keep in contact with the group through socially distanced catch-ups at the beach, a WhatsApp group, and through the delivery of activity packs which they have all been surprised and delighted to receive. It has been such a joy to witness the parents growing in their confidence and parenting skills and the way in which they are ready to support each other. What’s been really touching is the way that parents continue to keep in contact and some have been courageous enough to ask for help when needed during the pandemic.
We are currently partway through our second Kids Matter programme (this time fully online – on Zoom) and, once again, have been so touched by the willingness of the mums and dads taking part to share their sometimes very challenging parenting stories and to support each other, especially now as we go through the potential isolation that comes from being in a second national lockdown. It’s been challenging technology wise to manage a new programme and run it on Zoom but it seems to work and parents still connect together, contact one another and share openly in the group. Another wonderful benefit of running online is that parents who would never have attended a face-to-face group have been willing to connect from their homes on Zoom which means that the programme has a broader reach and parents don’t need childcare to attend, which also means more parents can attend together.
We are looking forward to our Kids Matter journey developing next year. We are both training to be Babies Matter facilitators and are so excited to see how we, as a church, will reach out into our community with both programmes.