The last few weeks have been big! We re-launched face to face breastfeeding and early parenting support services under the Baby Umbrella charity. Believe it or not, this has been 18 months in the making!
It was back in September 2019 when Karen, Jennie and Laura first met to discuss forming a new charity which would bring together the existing breastfeeding support groups in Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells. We had a dream of bringing Baby Café Tunbridge Wells and Kent Baby Matters West Kent together under one charitable organisation which would allow us to work even more closely together for the families we support. We discussed building our existing service to support families with breastfeeding and all aspects of early parenting, as well as adding extra support with physical and mental health. And so our journey began.
We did not know that just a few months later COVID would hit and severely hamper our ability to run our services. Kent Baby Matters moved to an appointment based system and all Baby Café face-to-face services were paused. We pivoted, and between our six practitioners, supported families voluntarily through text, messenger, email and zoom calls over Spring and Summer 2020.
Behind the scenes, the work to set up our local charity was still continuing. In April 2020 we had our first official board meeting and appointed our three founding trustees made up of Ema and Nicola, who are passionate former users of our service, and "The Jane" who comes with 40 years of experience as a midwife and lactation consultant.
In August 2020 our charity registration was confirmed, and in September we finally opened our bank account. (Note to self: do not attempt to open a charity bank account during a global pandemic!)
In October we voted in five more fantastic trustees: Alison, Alissa, Bronwen, Chloe and Hope; bringing huge amounts of experience from across operations, finance, legal, governance, marketing and fundraising, and work began in earnest.
In November, we launched our Baby Umbrella website and social media presence, began fundraising and won our first grant. In February 2021, we waved goodbye to Baby Café Tunbridge Wells and began online services as the new rebranded 'Baby Umbrella'. A bittersweet moment for Jennie who set up Baby Cafe TW and ran it for eight years.
And now, here we are, having just migrated the Kent Baby Matters West Kent services into Baby Umbrella too, as well as re-launching a face-to-face support service in Tunbridge Wells after a year online!
The launch went off to an absolutely brilliant start with face-to-face appointments running across all three locations in Tonbridge, Otford and Tunbridge Wells adding to our existing online appointments and zoom group. We were 90% booked for all services, branding looked fantastic, and it was great to see some familiar faces and to be back in our beautiful space at Christ Church Tunbridge Wells after over a year's break due to COVID.
Already it’s just feeling wonderful to be working together so closely across what was Baby Café Tunbridge Wells and Kent Baby Matters. We're really working as one now, seeing mums coming back and forth between different venues and sharing information and joint expertise about different mums, babies and families who pass through our doors.
Word is starting to get around about Baby Umbrella charity and we're getting questions and people recognising the name and asking about it, so it’s really exciting.
There’s loads more to come - this is just the start - but it’s a huge achievement already and recognition of all the work that we have all put in over the last 18 months.
With relief, joy and excitement!
Laura, Karen and Jennie