Over 120 ladies enjoyed our 1940s-themed afternoon tea at the Chester Hotel on Sunday 22nd May.

The event which had been postponed from May 2020 was hosted to raise funds and awareness of our work in providing practical and emotional support to families, who have at least one child under the age of five, and are struggling to cope.

Guests, many of who were dressed for the occasion, were thrown back in time and entertained by Scotland’s top vocal harmony trio, The Vintage Girls.  Entertaining with an array of songs from the era including Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again, to modern-day Mr. Brightside with a vintage twist, it certainly felt like ‘happy days were here again’. 

In contrast, as well as raising vital funds, the event was an opportunity to raise stark awareness of the growing need for help from families across the city.  The last two years have had a severe, and sometimes traumatic, impact on families in many ways.  Operating for over 30 years, we’re experiencing the highest volume of referrals for help than we’ve ever seen. 

Becca Lilley, a local mum supported by Home-Start Aberdeen volunteers spoke at the event, sharing her story and the impact Home-Start has had on her and her 4-year-old son Alfie. 

At the age of 26 Becca lost her husband to a sudden death while away at work.  The previous year she lost her gran to cancer.  “Both were my trusted and closest friends and I’d lost them both within a year of one another.  I found out I was 5 weeks pregnant just before my husband’s funeral.  Alfie was born with additional support needs and spent the first 5 months in hospital. 

“I’ve always struggled with my mental health and I was now feeling very alone and had lost all confidence in myself.  I was referred to Home-Start where I gained support from volunteers and Home-Start’s various projects.  I was learning to cook healthy meals, gain peer support from other mums and families, as well as building friendships. 

“The lockdowns throughout the pandemic were really tough and in 2021 I was struggling with high levels of depression and anxiety.  As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I wasn’t coping and I felt I couldn’t get the support I needed for Alfie. 

“I was connected with a coordinator and a volunteer from Home-Start Aberdeen who have been an absolute lifesaver.  They have helped me in so many ways from finding techniques to play and interact with Alfie, to managing sleep routines, building my confidence and growing in strength to speak up for myself and to gain the support I need for Alfie.”

General manager, Eleanor McEwan warned that the true impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is now flooding through and combined with soaring costs of living, families across the city are struggling to cope financially and emotionally. 

Speaking at the event Eleanor said: “The impact of the pandemic on children and families has been severe. The foundations for lifelong health and happiness are laid in the early years and there is clear evidence that supporting healthy development during this time is key to giving children the best start in life. Poverty, isolation and a lack of opportunity during early childhood can have a profound and adverse effect on children for the rest of their lives.

“Throughout this time Home-Start has continued to be there for families. Our practical and emotional support has been a vital lifeline for families struggling to cope.

“Now it feels like we’re finally coming out the other side of the pandemic. At Home-Start, normal service has been resumed, with volunteers visiting families at home and groups meeting in person.

“But the impacts will be long-lasting and many families struggling to recover from the experience have now been dealt a further hammer-blow by the current cost of living crisis. Since the start of this year, we have seen a huge increase in demand for support and it’s clear that our services have never been more needed.

“We’re so grateful to everyone who joined us for the afternoon tea, raising vital funds and awareness that will help us to make a difference to families’ lives.”