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Almu and Valeria

BD Giving

BD Giving

We are Almudena Segura and Dr Valeria Giannuzzi, co-founders of the Hug Support Group: a community organisation which provides a safe space for mothers to feel heard, ask questions, and share their experiences.

Valeria

I live with my 21 month old son and my partner. With all that’s been going on, I do consider my family vulnerable because my husband works for the NHS, so we are more exposed to risk. We try as much as possible to reduce our physical contact with the external world.

Almudena

I live with my little boy and my husband. My partner works in a climbing centre, which had to close a week before the lockdown. I couldn’t carry on either because I was working in nurseries and on community workshops. I am asthmatic, so really we had been living in lockdown even before it was locked down.

We both come from countries that have been experiencing this crisis earlier than the UK, seeing their governments taking action quicker. It was a relief to finally see something happening here. I think it is so much better knowing what is coming and seeking to gain some control rather than acting like it’s nothing.

Valeria

I was actually away [when lockdown started], so at the beginning I just wanted to be home. There were a lot of emotions to digest in processing what was happening, how it would affect my child, the risk from travelling… But though it may sound strange, having friends and a community here has made all the difference.

I spoke with my neighbours for the first time in a while and it made me happy to see them show their appreciation for my husband, plus the other 7 or 8 houses joining in to clap for the NHS.

I think this government underestimated things a lot. When the Prime Minister spoke about people needing to be ready to lose someone you love, I remember thinking what’s up with those kinds of words? Hearing about that pregnant nurse dying on the frontline was so awful, bearing in mind my loved one works in a hospital too.

Almudena

Somehow, we managed to make a positive out of a negative: we came together with other mums thinking about how we could create tools and support parents out there. We took the same approach behind The Hug Support Group to provide resources which meet the same needs in a different way.

One of the problems for our community is the humongous amount of information out there. It was really difficult to find straight to the point content without being overwhelmed.

So then we thought, why not create a website where we can just extract very useful suggestions with great resources? So that’s how another project at the heart of what we do was born: World At Home.

Valeria

One topic of discussion at the Hug Support Group is the lack of clarity on the government’s plans to protect families. For instance some nurseries are still charging even though they are shut. Some won’t give any refunds, and others only pay back 50%. It’s just such a huge business in this country, one of the most expensive things. The government is not taking it into account.

I’m talking about a single mum, imagine her having to give up all her now reduced salary to pay for a nursery. Both the nursery and the government are not willing to give her the money back.

In future I just hope that changes happen. We need to think about the rights of workers, finally taking into account the delivery people and other key jobs which are not treated fairly. It is wrong when people say we’ll go back to normal. That normal was a huge injustice. Hopefully now we can rethink how capitalism should work. The state has to protect their citizens, not preserve other things. We don’t need to protect an entity, we need to protect people.

It is wrong when people say we'll go back to normal. That normal was a huge injustice.

Meeting of the Hug Support Group before the lockdown

Almudena

I remember someone kindly reaching out saying, “I live in your area if you want a friendly chat over the phone let me know as I’m a social worker.” I think one positive thing that coronavirus is doing is breaking that fear of contacting your neighbour. Sometimes it seems we are so scared in this country of who lives next door, that we miss all the chances to build that sense of community.

I’m a strong believer in that if you want to change something do it. Don’t wait for the government, don’t wait for anybody else. I think that small changes come from within.

Valeria

We’re going to all need help when we come out of this. There are going to be loads of consequences and we need to look closely at our communities and see where the needs are. Community organising is the way that people are coming together reflecting on how it should be, and then thinking about how you’re going to hold those in power accountable.

For motherhood in particular, the parenting experience is a revolution at every possible level of society no matter where you’re from – we see that in our work. Preventing the feeling of isolation is more efficient than curing it after it’s already had damaging effects. We’ve been putting in the same amount of effort that other organisations are putting on in being inventive and also thinking about the future as to how we can support these community groups.

At the Hug Support Group I feel that we are flourishing, I know it sounds weird but somehow I sense that we are understanding our mission more and more.

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