Head of Newham parents group steps down after eight years in charge

Kelly with her children, (left to right) Maximillian, 5, Zavier, 2, and India, 8. Picture: Lily Sawy

Kelly with her children, (left to right) Maximillian, 5, Zavier, 2, and India, 8. Picture: Lily Sawyer - Credit: Archant

Newham’s NCT is saying goodbye to its branch coordinator after eight years.

Kelly Drake, 53, joined the parent’s network when she was pregnant with her first daughter, India in 2009.

After moving from user to volunteer to branch coordinator, she’s stepping down from the post, and is looking for someone to fill her shoes.

“I was your typical Newham resident – I lived here but worked in town, so I didn’t know many people,” she said.

“I was a single mum and I didn’t have local parents to talk to, so I started going to NCT’s bumps and babies.”

NCT is a network for parents and pregnant women which provides free advice, classes and support groups. Sessions range from the serious – like breast-feeding and postnatal depression – to the social, with dads clubs, book clubs, and museum or park trips.

“It’s an organisation for supporting parents, to cut down the isolation they feel,” Kelly said.

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“We’ve done a big emphasis on mental health, because having a baby is a real shock. You have sleep deprivation and people throwing advice from all over the place. You feel completely bombarded by conflicting advice.”

The mum of three, who lives in Forest Gate, struggled especially with sleep – India didn’t sleep through the night until she was two because of colic.

“You don’t know what to do with them, you look at books and google but it’s not like there’s a manual,” she said.

“What NCT provided me with was other parents who I could speak with about these things. It’s just nice to be able to say, I have no idea what she’s crying about – you can share and not feel judged.”

Newham’s NCT has close links with local maternity services, sharing feedback from mums about their births in order to improve the service. But Kelly said finding volunteers is a constant struggle.

“Recruiting volunteers is very difficult, getting busy people to commit to offering time is a challenge,” she said.

“But the best thing about it is meeting other fantastic parents. My children will grow up knowing there’s a network of other people around them who are there to support us.”

Newham NCT are holding an open evening on Tuesday from 7.45-10pm at the Salvation Army in Stratford, for people to learn more about their services and volunteering roles.