Help families fleeing war by donating old baby carriers

Heather Bancroft with 17-month-old Ellie Bancroft and Julie Shaw of Simply Baby, launching the collection.
Heather Bancroft with 17-month-old Ellie Bancroft and Julie Shaw of Simply Baby, launching the collection.

A Lancaster business and a local mum have joined forces to launch a collection to help refugee parents fleeing warzones with young children.

Simply Baby has installed a collection point at its temporary shop at 12 New Street for pre-loved baby carriers, which will be distributed to parents carrying babies and toddlers as they arrive in Europe.

The collection will move to the shop’s permanent home in North Road when the business moves back mid April following large-scale refurbishment after the floods.

People are being asked to donate their ‘gently used’ soft structured carriers – such as the Baby Bjorn, Ergo, or Mei Tei style. These types of carriers are the easiest to fit and demonstrate to parents in the chaos of the crowds, in a limited time and where there is usually a language barrier.

Julie Shaw, owner of Simply Baby, said: “The whole situation for the refugees is terribly sad, and it must be so hard to carry a baby or young child for hundreds of miles, tiring and worrying that they could get lost or hurt. This seemed like a really simple way we could help to make a big difference to families who have fled their homes with nothing. We heard about the charity through one of our customers and felt we were in a good position to help by acting as a collection point.

“We’ve got a box in store where people can drop off their carrier and when it’s full we’ll courier them down to the main collection point in London to be sent out to Greece with the volunteers.”

The collection will be ongoing indefinitely, with monthly delivery to Carry the Future HQ in London. The next distribution trip is April 9 and will be followed by another in May.

People can donate their carrier directly by posting to Carry the Future UK, Suite 3, 3rd Floor, 148 Cambridge Heath Road, London, E1 5QJ, or drop off at one of the local collection points.

Customer Heather Bancroft organised a series of collection points around the county after coming across the charity on social media.

She is delighted Simply Baby has agreed to help, and said: “I think the baby carrier collection is a fantastic idea as it’ll not only give the parent’s arms a much needed rest, but it will give a lot of comfort and security to the child.

“Like many people I’m horrified by the refugee crisis and want to do something useful to help. I have supported Oxfam, UNHCR and Save the Children with small financial donations, but this is a very real and practical way I can help.

“My daughter’s old Baby Bjorn carrier is now in Athens and may well have already been given to a refugee family, along with a few treats I pinned to it.

“So many friends have said they’d like to do the same and I figured there would be lots more support if we spread the word far and wide enough.”

Heather is appealing to other organisations to support the collection and anyone who can act as a drop off point.

She added: “There’s no deadline for this, the refugee crisis isn’t going away, but it would be great to set ourselves the target of getting 100 carriers collected in Lancashire over the next few months.”

The charity started in the USA September 2015 and the UK branch opened in London in January 2016. Volunteers collect carriers which are then transported to Athens, where another team of volunteers hands them out at the port.

More than 7,000 carriers were fitted to parents between September and December 2015, and a further 118 were donated through the UK branch in just the first three months. The distribution is now being extended to other landing points.

Nicola Cook from Carry the Future UK said: “We’re so grateful for the support we’ve received right across the UK, and we’re delighted that a caring group of people in Lancashire have decided to join in and help collect carriers.

“The refugee crisis can seem like an overwhelming problem and I am often asked what difference can one person make. But when you see the happiness on the faces of the parents, their gratefulness at the kindness of strangers, and the relief that they have been given a helping hand on their awful journey, you realise just how much of a difference one person can make.

“Our motto is that we can’t change the world, but we can make life a little easier for one family at a time.”

To get more details and see updates on the collection and distribution by Carry the Future UK, please like their Facebook page /carrythefutureuk or to donate money to help with shipping costs please go to www.chuffed.org/project/carrythefutureuk

To donate your carrier directly, please post it to Carry the Future UK, Suite 3, 3rd Floor, 148 Cambridge Heath Road, London, E1 5QJ.