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Louise first came across Red Hen when she spotted an advert for our Cooking On A Budget course on social media and signed up. It was the start of her getting outreach support from us.

She said: “It was a fantastic course. I got lots of tips. We were trying different foods as well, things we wouldn’t have thought of or eaten before. It was absolutely brilliant.

“I had my little one with me in the room but she was kept occupied. Seeing her confidence grow during that course was amazing.

Louise was a single mother of one when she met her partner who also had children, and in a short while, her family grew to 5 children. It has been a challenge to step into the role of mother to multiple children, including step-children.

“Then I started going to Red Hen coffee mornings. It’s a bit of a breather for me, after looking after five kids all weekend. It’s nice to offload and my little one can go and play there. They give advice as needed or a shoulder to cry on. They are not preaching to you, they understand.

“They’ve helped out with collecting food from the foodbank as well. I can’t bring all the food we need from the foodbank in one go and they have helped with delivering it to us.”

Through Red Hen, Louise has been able to give her family experiences they wouldn’t have access to otherwise. They attended a summer day trip to Stanwick Lakes last year, which her children still talk about, and they helped create a community quilt with Kettle’s Yard, which has led to one of her sons taking up sewing. Louise also attended our online safety course.

Louise said: “I feel I’m a stronger, more capable mother because of Red Hen.

“I recently did a story books course with my youngest. Each week we went on a journey. The one that sticks in my mind was being a pirate and being on a pirate ship. Through that I found a new way of telling stories. I have five children and I learned something new with my youngest.”

When Covid-19 hit, Louise’s partner’s hours at work were reduced. We were able to support the family with fruit and veg boxes from Cambridge Fruit Company and art packs from Kettle’s Yard and Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination.

Louise said: “Red Hen are my angels, they really are. Since the pandemic, we’ve had five deaths within my and my partner’s family. Trying to grieve as well as keep the children on an even keel has been tricky.

“That continuity of having Red Hen around and being on the end of the phone has been such a help. They do help wherever they can.

“Those fruit and veg boxes meant my children were eating a different variety of fruit and veg which was lovely. My children are eating fruit willingly because there’s always an assortment.

“It was nice to have a 5-10 minute chat with whoever had brought round the fruit and veg box as well. It’s been the one thing that’s been consistent throughout this pandemic. I clock watch, waiting for them.”

The Red Hen Project runs a range of outreach group activities including parenting courses, coffee morning, drops-ins, workshops, family activities, trips, and volunteer opportunities. Find out how you can support our work and make a difference to more families like Louise’s.

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