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Why I make a 24 mile round trip to attend toddler group – Joanne

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I am a very blessed working mum of two beautiful children aged one and three. I am lucky enough to have the best of both worlds, working three days a week and spending the other four days with little ones, Emily-Kate and Lewis.

I work as a Livelihoods Worker for Communities First/Oxfam, a Welsh Government anti-poverty programme. In this role, I work with families in poverty or disadvantage in Newport, South Wales. The programme works with parents who are usually difficult to engage. We have a number of projects and services in tailored one-to-one and group support, and our aim is to break down barriers to learning and break down the ongoing cycle of income, social and educational poverty.

I’ve been taking my children along to Liberty Lambs toddler group in Hatherleigh every Thursday morning since the group started, and we all absolutely love it there. Over the past twenty or so years I have attended numerous toddler groups and none of them come even close to the level of dedication and well thought-out sessions that Liberty Lambs offer – so much so that I do a round trip of 24 miles each week to get there!

Everyone is made to feel welcome and valued, both parents and children alike. The team endeavours to ensure that all carers get a hot cuppa as this is such a rarity when you are a carer of little ones! The session follows the same routine each week, which includes a mixture of free play, creative crafts, snack time, singing and instruments. These are always well planned and follow different themes each time.

There is nothing like being able to speak to another mum or carer at toddler group after you tried to get out the door that morning only for one child to have a tantrum because the grass is green whilst the other fills his nappy. It sometimes feels like an impossible task, but is so worth it once you are there and you realise that you are just human! I did enjoy it recently when I was away with work and my husband had to get both children ready and to the group by 9.45am! Ha! Not as easy as it looks, is it?

I’m delighted to say that Liberty Lambs recently introduced the same toddler group to Duffryn (the area in which I work) on a Thursday afternoon. Duffryn is a recognised deprived area and this group has been a real asset to the community as the sessions cost only £1 and there was no provision like this in the area before.

This group has been a lifeline to some people who were feeling socially isolated after having a baby or are simply new to the area. It has helped to create a new support network and new friendships for many that simply wouldn’t have happened it if wasn’t for the group.

Whilst at Liberty Lambs one day I met up with Care for the Family’s Playtime coordinator, Helen Lock. I have since accessed Playtime’s web page and look forward to using the information and advice there to help further support the families in our area.