“Spare a Pair” is back

The success of Spair a Pair last Winter meant that we wanted to help Blooming Blossoms again this year. Although it is sad to witness that demand keeps increasing , the project is developing on many fronts and becoming a more permanent resource. Hannah Singer gave us this update.

Blooming Blossoms Trust nurtures children who are stunted from growing and developing due to poverty, learning disabilities or social barriers. Our support gives children space to blossom by honing their innate strengths. We offer a consistent scope of afterschool activities which include leisure provision and therapeutic services aiming to highlight and nurture children’s strengths and accept yet challenge their weaknesses.

Our Spare a Pair project distributes new sets of underwear and lightly used shoes and coats to children from most disadvantaged families.

After observing multiple cases of learning challenges in children who had no diagnoses of any learning disability, and yet lacked the ability to concentrate and learn, or were socially awkward, we got together to brainstorm for solutions. A teenager attending the consultation shared that initially, it was hunger that prevented her from focusing. Her mind was constantly on her next meal. She is grateful that her family receives help with food; However, she goes to great pains to arrive at school first so that no one can see that her winter coat is three sizes too big so that it will fit her for all of her secondary school years. To protect her feet from the rain, she lines her socks with a plastic bag so that she stays dry even when rain seeps into her torn shoes. Due to a lack of resources, she has to hand wash her clothes frequently and dreams of having a spare set of underwear so that she doesn’t have to. Clothing has a dual purpose. It is utilitarian, protecting us from the elements — the cold and the rain, the wind and the sun. The second function of clothing, on the other hand, is unique to humans. Our attire affects our state of mind; it influences how we feel about ourselves and the image that we wish to project. We feel unhappy when wearing unattractive or ill-fitting clothes, and feel good when wearing apparel that is flattering. We recognize that wearing decent garments can be an empowering, transformative experience, giving the wearer the self-esteem and confidence necessary to succeed at school and socially. Stepping into new socks or coat not only changes the way others see you, but also changes the way you see yourself. When you feel and look your best, you exude confidence and ability.

Psychologist Dr Mair says: ‘Being well dressed can improve our self-confidence and what we wear affects how we are perceived by others.’

It is hard to think of anyone heading out in the winter frost without a proper coat, a set of socks, and decent undergarments, especially a child, but this is the reality for far too many children. This challenge is escalated by the cost of fuel and many families are making difficult choices between eating and heating. Unfortunately, far too many children lack access to even the most basic of clothing items. A set of socks and new undergarments, when a child outgrows his old ones, are often unreachable to those families who are struggling to make ends meet due to rising fuel costs and cost of living crises in general. This challenge has caused families to make difficult financial decisions, leaving children without the clothing they need to keep warm and comfortable. But undergarments and socks are not only used as cold element protection. It’s a most basic items required by human beings. Underwear is the most under-donated, and most needed, item of clothing. Hygiene and physical comfort are only a part of this basic human need. New, clean underwear also provides dignity and self-esteem. We successfully distributed vital underwear, coats and shoes to over 500 children in London’s poorest boroughs Hackney and Haringey in the winter of 2022/23.

The project was an overwhelming success with children sending us the most heartwarming thank you letters telling us how much the new clothing and shoes mean to them.

Esther age 5 wrote ‘Thank you ever ever ever so much! You are the kindest people I know. I mean other kind people often send me food, but nobody ever sent me such cute and lovely shoes and such a yummy warm coat. And in purple my favourite colour. How did you know what colour I love most? I’m now not cold anymore when I play in the playground in school.’

makes all the difference

Unfortunately the Cost of Living crisis is still very much ongoing, and demand for vital undergarments, coats and shoes are increasing steadily. Our waiting lists are growing and thus we are seeking funding to re-launch this vital project for the Winter ahead. We will run a clothing/coat collection every three months and then launder, iron and display the gently used clothing in an attractive ‘shop’. Children and families will be invited to attend and choose new clothing in privacy. We will also purchase shoes, socks and undergarments in bulk from wholesalers at very discounted rates. These goods will also be displayed in our shop. The Spare a Pair initiative is an environmentally and financially sustainable model that focuses on community-based businesses and local families donating new or lightly used clothing items. This not only provides essential clothing resources to those in need, but it also reduces waste and promotes a circular economy. We envision that in the next 3-5 years, the shop will expand and we will offer pop-up shops at five local schools and five other community centres/shelters each school term making this program replicable to other organizations and scaling up services. In 5 years, we want to deliver 7000 clothing sets to poorest children in London.

This is important work being undertaken by Blooming Blossoms and we are all confident that Spare a Pair will continue to grow and help more children In London.