Updated: Aug 24
The last 6 months have been a rollercoaster for many people – and it’s certainly been a rocky ride for me and Happy Mums. When we were forced to stop Happy Mums peer-support groups in March, we initially carried on with chat groups on Facebook. But by the end of March I was facing some really hard decisions.
The previous project #MumsTogether was due to end on March 31, and with it our existing funding. I had come up with a plan to simplify our activities down to peer-support groups and to take the groups into communities, leaving behind our base at Aglionby Grange. That in itself had been a tough call. It meant closing the doors of the Happy Stars Creche and losing Kerry our amazing Creche Manager. The new project would also see Amy taking a step back from the day-to-day running of Happy Mums.
The new project #HappyMumbria, which was supposed to start in April, had another important goal – to work towards self-sustainability and so become less reliant on time-consuming grant funding. I was also acutely aware that we could use our experiences and skills to impact many more families by offering training to early years settings. This work would also, in time, generate the income needed to support stripped back peer-support.
So when coronavirus hit and the economic prospects of early years’ settings started to look less rosy, the feasibility of the entire project was called into question. I decided to furlough Katie and Sarah, and in doing so was forced to cancel any Happy Mums activity. It was horrible shutting down, especially when you needed us more than ever – I am so sorry we could not keep supporting you, but I reluctantly decided it was the only way Happy Mums would carry on into the future. I stayed on, working away behind the scenes to try and find a way we could carry on, once the immediate crisis had subsided.
I’m pleased to say I have managed to secure more than £80,000 of funding. Comic Relief have agreed to fund a further 18 months of work, and we have got new investment from the Suicide Prevention Fund, Rosa and National Lottery. This meant I could safely give new contracts to myself, Sarah and Katie.
Sarah has stepped up to be Project Lead for #HappyMumbria. She’ll be facilitating groups with me, and also working on developing a volunteer programme, including training, support and potentially new groups.
We will start out on Zoom, while we wait for further easing of lockdown. Then we will carry on with our plan to take groups into communities – first in Carlisle, then to Eden and west Cumbria. There’s a lot of work to do especially in those new locations but I am confident we can do it. We know how much need there is for mental health help during pregnancy and early motherhood. We also know peer support can make a massive difference.
So we are setting out anew. We have a new office, in the old creche. We have a new plan and I’m really excited to start. I’ve really missed you all and hope to see you soon….