A community-led school uniform swop shop in south west Birmingham has helped hundreds of children in the last academic year.
And now, as the number of donations grows, they are seeking help from the community to create a storage space!
Rubery Schools Community Swop Shop was set up by Rubery resident Kristina Murphy in November 2018.
While sitting on an exclusion appeal hearing panel, Kristina, who works in the education sector, was struck by just how much not having access to the correct uniform and equipment can disrupt a child’s education.
Kristina, who has two children at Waseley Hills High School, said: “The concept of turning up at school, knowing you don’t have the right shoes on, knowing you are going to get told off or punished and pretty much starting everyday getting grief for not being ‘compliant’ – wouldn’t that make you feel angry, anxious and have an aversion to education?”
With some families struggling financially with the cost of school supplies and others having an abundance of hardly worn uniform, Kristina decided to ask the community to help balance the difference by donating surplus used and new items to a community swop shop.
Kristina feels this makes a great difference, especially to those most in need. She said: “[Now] they can start the day without additional anxiety of punishment, bullying or embarrassment because of some cloth!”
As well as receiving donations from local families, Kids Essentials (Northfield & Rubery based) also donate old and unused stock.
Kristina uses social media – including B31 Voices – to shout out for certain items where a family with a particular need is identified.
Used items are washed and checked by volunteers before being distributed to those who need them.
She said: “Although, officially, at the moment we primarily provide uniform for schools local to Rubery, we really cover any schools that we have uniform for and where a family require it – and providing that we can get it to them. We have provided as far as Telford and Acocks Green – with a request from West Brom at the moment!”
Schools across south west Birmingham have also supported the Swop Shop, with lost property being donated by many, including: Holywell, Holly Hill, St Columbas, St. John Fisher, Reaside, Colmers Farm, Meadows, Albert Bradbeer, Green Meadow, Northfield Manor, Forestdale, Cofton, St Joseph’s, Woodgate, St Peter’s, St Bridgid’s, St Laurence, St Francis and Turves Green primaries; Rednal Hill Infants and Rednal Hill Junior Schools; Colmers School and Sixth Form, Waseley Hills High, Shenley Academy and Turves Green Boys’ School and Rigby Hall Special School in Bromsgrove.
The swop shop is a real Murphy family affair. Kristina and her mom Lorraine both spend hours every week running the swop shop; her dad Colin helps with washing and deliveries; husband Simon and children Teddy and Connie support when they can.
And the local community is really getting behind the idea, providing support in many ways from washing, providing drop off points and getting schools involved.
Kristina said: “Recently, people from the local community have supported by encouraging their schools to get involved, ringing around schools; and there have been the washing volunteers who enabled us to plough through the zillion tonnes of washing!
She added: “CC Balloons [Rubery] have supported us exponentially in being a drop off point for donations, pretty much since we set the Swop Shop Up. Without them we would still have to be collecting individual donations from homes!”
Kristina says that NewStarts in Frankley have also “been amazing”. They have provided a second drop off point for donations and are also assisting by being a collection point for families to pick up items, meaning Kristina and volunteers can focus on deliveries for those with a real logistical need.
How YOU can help!
The most pressing need at present is the need for storage space for the huge amount of items donated! At the moment, items are mainly stored in the Murphy house – meaning their living space is becoming more and more compromised!
Kristina has access to a double garage which has been cleared but now needs some work to make it clean, dry and secure to store the uniform items.
If you want to donate any school uniform items – including local school uniform with logos, as well as shoes, coats, bags, plain shirts, blouses etc – you can drop them in to CC Balloons, 226b New Rd, Rubery B45 9JH or NewStarts, 6 Arden Road, Frankley B45 0JA
Kristina would like to develop the swop shop to benefit more in the local community, by supporting young adults aged 16 and older. She hopes that as the organisation grows and develops, she may in the future be able to offer internships to young adults with difficulties such as ASC, ADHD, anxiety and depression. She hopes this will help them “to understand and appreciate their skills in a working environment and the positive impact they can have on their community.”