How NEST is supporting 140 families living in abject poverty this Christmas
We immediately launched a Christmas hamper scheme, ensuring each family received one containing all the food and treats they would need on Christmas Day, writes Les Nicoll. | PA Images
We deliver used furniture, white goods and kitchen implements to families in need completely free of charge. This month we are giving 140 of the poorest families in the community everything they need for Christmas Day.
North Essex Support Team, NEST, is a charity which focuses on direct action to support people and families living with poverty, poor mental health, domestic abuse, homelessness, illness, dementia, age and infirmity.
Our very first promise to those we help and those that support us is: we never judge. That is not our role. We are very much a get on and help, rather than a campaigning charity.
Our core aim is to source used furniture, white goods and kitchen implements, that would often otherwise be destined for landfill. We collect, store and quickly deliver them to families in need completely free of charge.
The charity has given cots and beds to families where children were sleeping on the floor and replaced beds for elderly and vulnerable people where illness or dementia has led to severe soiling. We have delivered pre-loved cookers, washing machines, fridges and freezers to families who have been existing without one, along with kettles, toasters, TV’s, microwaves, crockery, cutlery, saucepans, towels and bedding.
We gave every family £20 for gas and electric so they could keep warm and cook the food we gave them
Our volunteers even move furniture to allow people to return home from hospital or create room for hospital beds to support palliative patients. Covid-19 has made our services particularly important with families locked down in poorly furnished properties without any stimulation. By partnering with local children’s charities, we have sourced and delivered toys, games, pens, paper and crafting kits to give these kids one beautiful day free of poverty.
Four years ago, I was approached by a school welfare officer. She had three families attending the school who were so poor they would have no presents at Christmas and very little food. I was stunned. This was 2016 in Britain – in my community.
We immediately launched a Christmas hamper scheme, ensuring each family received one containing all the food and treats they would need on Christmas Day. It was funded by local donations and a JustGiving page on Facebook. We also collected new toys which we wrapped and bagged for every child. Finally, we gave every family £20 for gas and electric so they could keep warm and cook the food we gave them. We tried to provide everything they would need to have a Christmas Day as similar to one you or I would have.
This year we will be supporting 140 families. Our hampers remain the same, but we have added sanitary products for teenage girls, toilet rolls, soap, shampoo and shower gel.
This year, through NEST, we asked each of our recipients if they had a cooker, fridge-freezer, plates, cutlery and saucepans. We were once again shocked by their replies. We had several requests for fridges, freezers, crockery and saucepans which we were able to supply through our stock. Most upsetting was the seven requests we received for a cooker. That’s seven families who had no working cooker in their home and no way to cook wholesome, healthy meals for their children.
This is just a snapshot of two initiatives we run. We also operate a ‘Winter Warmers’ initiative, giving over 100,000 items of preloved winter clothing, shoes, boots and bedding to families living in poverty. We have helped victims of domestic abuse, cooked and delivered over 4,000 free meals to elderly and vulnerable people in our town, created a free Santa’s Grotto for children in poor families, helped with cash for electric/gas, organised a ‘Walk and Talk’ for people recovering or suffering from mental illness and set up cooking for people with dementia.
Thank you so very much for taking the time to read about our little charity.
Les Nicoll is a the founder of North Essex Support Team, NEST.