My name is Stella and I have been a single mum for 9 years. I have been raising my three children
alone without any support family members. My beautiful children are 11, 4, and 2 years old. The
past 3 years have been extremely difficult for me. I lost my home, my work, and my father passed
away. I had no family support, no income and no benefits. I would have to go to the food bank to
feed my kids.
Without my friends, I don’t know how I would have survived. They helped look after my kids when I
was sick. I am thankful for my friends who let me sleep on their couch for 4-5 months. They also
uplifted me emotionally and physically.
After my stay with my friends, I moved into a hostel with my children for 2 years. Here I had first
hand experience of parents who were suffering much worse than me. I thought what can I do to
help other parents who are in similar situations? With help from my friends, who also had their own
challenges in life, we decided to meet once a week for breakfast to offer support to each other. We
would laugh and cry together, but as time went on, we all became much stronger and whenever we
would meet, we knew we could lean on each other.
I had depression until I decided to snap out of it and do something about it. Because as a mother,
you do not have the luxury of staying stressed or depressed. You have to keep going no matter what
as you have children to look after. You simply have to get on with it.
I started volunteering 3 years ago, but I worked in a charity shop when I was 16. It was here that I
developed a passion for community and charity work and realized the important impact it has on
families. For the past 7 months, I have been working as a Community Builder. I am also a
community connector, which means I link people in the community to different groups. I have been
a Parent Champion for the past 2 years through Home Start and was selected as a finalist for the
Parent Champion Awards conducted by the Child and Family Trust.
After this, I began the Circle of Parents and Friends. This is a support group for parents with various
challenges in their life. It is based in Home Start in Central Croydon. It is currently running on
Mondays and Thursdays from 10:00 AM – 1:30 PM. The main purpose of the group is to bring
parents together, make friendships, break barriers, and stop social isolation. To date, we have
supported over 200 women. We helped them regain confidence. We support women in any way
we can, whether it is regarding domestic abuse, social services, finances, schools, and dealing with
any organisations that they are involved with. In addition, I have organised many social outings for
the women and their children, such as most recently I took a group of 72 women and children to
Bournemouth by coach for a day out on the beach. Many had never been there and would never
have the opportunity to make the journey alone.
I am running some other groups as well, such as the community group in Heathfield’s residence in
Selsdon to support other parents in the community. The Little Stars is a project that supports
parents who have lost babies through miscarriage or stillbirth. This group takes place every Saturday
at St Francis Church, in Monks Hill, Selsdon. I am also running Jewellery making workshops for
families at Selsdon Library. I also run a Healthy Eating group.
The best thing about my job is that I can bring my children to the activities. Through my work, I have
gained a more positive outlook on life and I do not feel sorry for myself anymore. I feel fulfilled for
finding my purpose in supporting other parents. I was also supported by Home Start at one stage,
and it is important to give back to the community. My biggest advice for anyone struggling out there
is to take it easy and take one step at a time. Find your local support groups and make friends.