The church-run baby bank supporting families in Lewis
Published on 7 October 2021
A baby bank founded by a church congregation on the Isle of Lewis has helped more than 70 families experiencing difficulties since it was started at the end of 2019.
'Oisean a' Chalman' or 'Doves Corner' was started by Uig Church of Scotland with a £5,000 grant from the Church of Scotland's Go For It fund and now serves the whole island.
Joanne Murray-Stewart, who helps to run the project, explained that it was established to assist families who are experiencing difficulties with items such as clothing, shoes, winter jackets, nappies and bottles.
"The baby bank helps to provide the basics - it restores dignity," she said.
Mrs Murray-Stewart, says that part of the key to establishing the baby bank has been to make sure that those seeking their services are able to do so discretely.
"The baby bank can be accessed by calling or texting its own dedicated number (07903311934) or we accept referrals from third party agencies as well as by personal commendation. "
"When people contact the baby bank we discuss with them what they need, what we have and arrange for the items, consumables or clothing to be uplifted and or delivered to them as soon as possible".
"It's been a bridge to hope."
For Mrs Murray-Stewart the level of demand has noticeably increased since the project first launched, which she puts partly down to the impact of the pandemic.
"People have lost their jobs, prices have risen sharply on the island and they find themselves worse off," she says.
"Also, a lot of the families coming to the baby bank are working and because of their low income they don't quite meet the threshold for benefits and need a little ongoing help. For others it might be an unexpected fuel bill and for that month only, they need help getting nappies, consumables or an item of clothing."
"It's a situation that any one of us could find themselves in."
Rev Hugh Stewart, who is married to Joanne and also the minister of Lochs in Bernera linked with Uig, said that due to the volume of both demand and donations, a special store had to be built to accommodate the baby bank.
"Members, adherents and friends of the congregation gave their labour, talents and time free to erect the store," he said.
"The words of Isaiah 65:24 spring to mind: 'before they call, I will answer; And while they are speaking, I will hear'.
"The Lord knew about the pandemic and the needs families would experience long before we did and He just loves to bless the wonderful babies, children and families through the baby bank.
"The inter-generational support and generosity received, both financial and in-kind, locally and across the island has been humbling and crucial to maintaining the baby bank.
"We thank the fantastic staff involved in the Go For It Fund for all their help, continued support and advice.
"All people are warmly invited to access the baby bank."
Find out more about the baby bank via their Facebook page.