Botley Bridges in 2020

What a strange and difficult year it has been for families. Botley Bridges is the local charitable family support service which provides help to families with young children through groups and courses. Before March 2020 all of our work was face to face and then came the lockdown. The trustees decided it was important not to furlough our one part time member of staff  but to look at alternative ways we could support families. We are very proud at the speed in which we transferred our services to online and came up with alternative provision. From the beginning of April we started up twice weekly story, singing and craft sessions using Facebook Live.  These sessions were well received and many families joined in with our sessions.  We also moved our popular baby group online and hosted twice weekly zoom groups for parents with babies under 1 year.

We  realised that there were lots of babies being born in lockdown and parents  were unable to access any of the face to face support from professionals that would usually be available. Parents were also not able to get support from wider family members so we started up a zoom group for parents of babies born in lockdown.  This group is still continuing and we have well over 100 Oxfordshire parents that regularly join our sessions. We now have two weekly sessions and have split the groups into breakout rooms. We were able to form professional partnerships with The Maple Tree at Wheatley, Flos in the Park, Donnington Doorstep, Oxfordshire Health Visitors, Oxfordshire Breastfeeding Support, Oxford Sling Library, Motherkind Café, OXPIP and Home Start as well as lots of other independent groups such as Baby Sensory, Baby Sing & Sign, Fit & Healthy Mums to name but a few.  We have facilitated one off zoom groups for this set of parents to cover issues such as traumatic birth, introducing solids, common childhood illnesses and returning to work. Botley Bridges also facilitates a twins group on line for parents to share ideas for caring for 2 babies

For the past couple of years, Botley Bridges have run very popular  holiday sessions in the local parks but due to Government restrictions we were unable to do that in 2020.  Instead we decided to run weekly themed craft sessions on our facebook page during the Summer, October half term and Christmas school holidays.  Our themes included superheroes, fairytales, pirates & princesses, space and dinosaurs.  We made up craft packs and families collected these from a designated collection point and then followed Hayley (on Facebook live) who went through how to use the packs and explained all the craft activities.   Just over 250 of these packs have been made and distributed to families.

(children joining in with the craft sessions)

In the Autumn we were able to return to some Covid safe face to face sessions for parents with babies under 1 and used the new Seacourt Hall. We ended up running 3 sessions with over 20 parents attending a group each week. For parents with a young baby it was lovely to meet up with others. Sadly, as I write this in January 2021 we are back to remote sessions but hoping that we will be able to return to face to face sessions as soon as it is safe to do so.

In conjunction with Abingdon and Witney College Family Learning team we have hosted some courses – again initially face to face but now again remotely. A popular course has been looking after your family’s emotional well- being. In these strange lock down times this is really important.

Finally Christmas 2020 saw a fantastic joint venture with the Botley Community Larder and Food for Charities. During the week before Christmas and thanks to the use of St Peter and St Pauls Church Hall a group of volunteers took in lots of fantastic donations from the local community and Community Larder and made up 92 Christmas Hampers which were collected or delivered. It was a lovely community event and 23 people volunteered over the 3 days of collecting and sorting. Thankyou to everyone who helped out and donated toys and goods.

Botley Bridges are very proud of the amount we run on very little and we are looking to develop other services . We have 1 paid part-time coordinator and 7 volunteers.  We are very grateful for the continual funding and support from both Cumnor and North Hinksey Parish Councils and have over the year been supported by other small grants from companies. Please see our annual report if you would like information about where our money is spent. You can also donate if you would like to contribute to the work.

If you are interested in joining our baby groups and have a baby under 1 – contact

If you would like to join our online baby zoom group contact

Happy New Year to all

Sue Dowe

Chair of Trustees.