Mums on Mission
Great ideas start with a Mum.
Meet Lola, a 25-year-old single mother of two children who lives in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. A product of the care system she found herself in a victim of domestic violence and then a casualty of the well- publicised housing crisis. Lola found herself temporarily housed on the notoriously troubled Mark Gates estate.
She was seeing her own children at risk of youth violence, targeted to sell drugs, fearful of local gangs and straying into the 'wrong' postcodes and becoming a statistic trapped in a cycle of hopeless poverty. Looking at her fellow Mum's in similar situations, scammed by agencies representing landlords, dealing with financial and domestic crises everyday, oftentimes accompanied by a deterioration of their own mental health. Looking at the decline of public services and the appropriation of communal spaces for gang activity – even the local library was a risky place to send her kids.
What made Lola different is she decided to take action and organise bi-weekly youth groups at the library with free food and drinks. An open free safe space to support both Mum's and kids. A mobile boxing gym for Mum’s and exercise classes. She organised a community to deal with their specific issues, and in doing so reclaimed public spaces for public good.
I've changed Lola's real name, but she is real, and what makes her unusual is she took action, didn't give up and now supports a community of people. There are currently 70 kids at her gatherings, and the library is a safe place to go again. What will these children go on to do with their lives? We cannot predict but for some, Lola’s intervention could be the factor that sets a cascade of positivity in motion.
Many would read Lola’s story and think, we need more people like her. The point is, there are already more people like her – quietly doing civic action, for the most part overwhelmed and under-resourced, or wanting to do civic action, but lacking the confidence or time to start.
How can we support Lola and many more? Our vision is a Mum on a Mission in every London Borough, joined up in a network of strong peer-to-peer learning and support. The network would also face upwards to different layers of government, distilling lived experience into clear policy asks. And it could benefit from partnerships with our contacts in the creative industries and the philanthropic sector. With Partners like Telco Citizens UK, we could role out this initiative across all inner and outer London boroughs.