A worker for the National Childbirth Trust, Rose McCarthy, supports the many women who are socially excluded, including asylum seekers and refugees in Yorkshire. Rose works collaboratively with the aid of several organisations and Churches.

Rose McCarthy has set up a long-standing collaboration between SureStart, the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) and the local Catholic Church to help support women in a deprived area of Yorkshire where many socially excluded and asylum seekers live. Rose works for the charity, National Childbirth Trust (NCT) and teaches antenatal classes to perspective parents. For the last five years part of Rose’s role has been to work in partnership with Chapeltown Children’s Centre in Leeds, to lead local classes that are mainly attended by asylum seekers. Many of the women Rose comes across have very little, living on £35 vouchers a week, as you can imagine their needs are very basic, such as food, shelter and clothing.

The work has had a profound effect on Rose’s sense of solidarity, three years ago, she heard that one of the pregnant mums had fainted from hunger and all the lady had for her baby was one baby grow and a moses basket. Another was raped whilst trying to flee Africa and arrived here to discover she was not only pregnant but had got aids too. She did feel under pressure to abort but being a very strong catholic, just couldn’t do it. She came to the group and Rose was privileged to be her birth partner. Rose wasn’t sure if she was going to keep her baby but once the baby was born she said with tears running down her cheeks, “where is my Angel? She is so innocent” She called her baby Angel and afterwards said to Rose that “the group gave her hope”. That was last year and just recently Rose was delighted to hear that the lady had been granted refugee status, is going to college and Angel is free of aids! Realising the desperate need Rose appealed to her local parish, St Mary’s in Horsforth for help. Asking for donations of goods and clothing at each of the Sunday masses, she was amazed at the response. To this day Rose is inundated, people catch Rose after church or outside the primary school attached to the parish and she regularly takes car loads of goods across to the poorer part of the city.

At the Children’s Centre Rose and her colleagues have set up a Clothing and Goods Exchange and people are encouraged to take what they need and many return the goods for others to use when they no longer need them. They have become so established that they get requests from local midwives and family support workers who take goods to families who need them and they also get donations from their local hospital and from other parents in the NCT. It is really such an easy way to redistribute wealth.

On uniting people, Rose comments “We get people from all over the world and some times I can have six interpreters at one class! Initially people are very wary when they attend because all they see is how different everyone is but once we get talking about how they feel about giving birth, they soon realise that we are all the same! I believe birth is a brilliant way of uniting people and one of our main aims is to build a supportive community for people who have had to leave their own communities behind”.

At St Mary’s they also have a very active Children’s Liturgy group and each advent they hold an advent workshop. As part of the workshop Rose and her colleagues say to the children that Christmas is a time of giving as well as receiving and they ask the children to bring one of their toys to give to another child less fortunate them themselves. They get loads and Rose has the great job of bringing the gifts to the Christmas party at the Children’s Centre. She says she feels like Fr Christmas and the parents are so grateful and pleased to be able to give their children a toy at Christmas. Not all of them are Christian, infact the centre probably have most of the major world religions but they still are touched by the generosity of the children.

Rose was inspired by her teenage son while discussing the lives of asylum seekers and refugees a few years ago, he empathised with his mum’s situation and said “Mum people do care, you just have to ask the right questions”. Since that time, as well as setting up this collaboration, Rose has been constantly sourcing goods, like the free nappies a factory was recently giving away as they were changing their packaging and most importantly giving her time, talent and expertise to befriend the women and welcome them into the community.

We wish Rose and her colleagues many blessings on their work.



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