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Lottery gives £180k to Forest Gate charity helping vulnerable mums and children

PUBLISHED: 07:00 10 May 2019 | UPDATED: 15:45 10 May 2019

The Magpie Project has been given £180,000 in lottery funding. Picture: Ken Mears.

The Magpie Project has been given £180,000 in lottery funding. Picture: Ken Mears.

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The National Lottery has given £180,000 to a charity helping mums with children under five-years-old at risk of homelessness to make sure it can keep its doors open for the next three years.

The Magpie Project in Forest Gate opened its doors two years ago and ran totally on the work of volunteers.

It helps mums and their children access support and services, brings in visitors to help with things like health and provides a space to talk with people in the same position they are.

This money from the Lottery's Community Fund means the organisation doesn't have to worry about bills or rent for the next three years, instead focusing on doing better by the people it helps.

"I'm a little bit in shock, really," said Jane Williams, founder of the Magpie Project. "I'm very excited obviously, but now we really realise that we have a lot of work and planning to do."

The charity is consulting with the mums that depend on its help as well as trustees and the community on its next steps.

The goal is not to do something new, but consolidate the good work that it's already doing. And the demand for what it's doing is there. Every week, around five women and their children come through it's doors for the first time looking for help.

Vulnerable families who have migrated to the UK and those from the UK who end up at risk of homelessness are both helped by the Magpie Project.

A big problem is families in temporary accommodation being moved to the borough and having no idea how to access the services they need in their new home.

"When families get here they're incredibly disorientated," said Jane. "They've never been here before. They don't know where to go to find a children's centre, support or advice and so on.

"For both migrants and non-migrants, it's the same story."

The project helped almost 300 vulnerable mums and almost 400 children from mid-2017 to April this year.

Every time it opens its doors, Jane estimates it gives out around 90 to 100 nappies to families who have trouble affording them.

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She said most of the women hear about the project through word-of-mouth.

It's something she's proud of because it means the most marginalised women, those who may not have had any contact with the authorities or services yet, can go to the Magpie Project.

This new money creates a foundation for the charity to grow what it does for these people.

"It means things will get done quicker and more efficiently, we can plan bigger and we won't have our time taken up trying to survive day-to-day," said Jane. "We can actually dream a bit bigger."

Money from places like Children in Need and the poverty charity Trust For London can now go straight to new ideas and projects to help people instead of keeping the lights on.

One of those ideas is to allow the mums to inform the services they rely on and the policies they live under.

Right now, around five of the women the charity has helped volunteer their time to support the next generation at the project.

"They act as a great beacon of hope to the mums who are coming in just at the beginning of their journey," said Jane.

"You can't underestimate how strong, wonderful, intelligent and funny the mums are and how, even when you give a little bit of support, they take it and they run with it.

"Anything that happens with the project, it's not my decision, it's their decision. They decide what happens next."

Despite this big influx of money, the Magpie Project is still dependent on the charity of residents in the borough.

Donations of food, time and money are all welcome.

"We just want to say a massive, massive thank you to Newham generally, who have really taken the project into their hearts."

Sacha Rose-Smith from the National Lottery Community Fund said it was delighted to be able to support the project.

Last year the fund gave out more than half a billion pounds to projects across the UK.

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