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Romford charity opens school uniform shop to more struggling families

The shop has uniforms from schools across the local boroughs (credit: SMILE London and Essex)

A local charity is opening its free school uniform store to more families in Havering and Barking & Dagenham.

SMILE London and Essex, based in North Street, Romford, provides free second-hand schoolwear to those who are living in poverty or having financial struggles.

Uniforms for schools across the two boroughs are donated and then made available within the shop.

The charity’s chief executive, Maria Quaife, said: “Normally we would only have it open to our clients registered as being proof of low income but because of the current situation with Covid-19 affecting people a lot more financially, we’ve opened it up now to anyone who deems themselves as struggling.”

SMILE London and Essex has a number of different projects to help families living in poverty, and has seen a surge in enquiries since the pandemic began.

Maria said: “We’ve had a lot more families who were in a very precarious situation before Covid and then been struck really hard with the fact they’ve lost their little bit of income they did have, so it’s made a huge difference.

“Last Thursday and Friday, we had 48 new families referred to us, which are the normal numbers we would pretty much do in a month.”

The charity needs donations for several schools in the area (credit: SMILE London and Essex)

Uniforms are donated by residents after their children grow out of them and are no longer needed.

Maria said: “If you want to donate, then email us what school you are donating for as there are certain schools that we’re overwhelmed with, however, there are schools we’re in desperate need of.”

“We need uniforms for pretty much most primary schools in Harold Hill, from Drapers Maylands, Drapers Brookside, Hilldene, Mead Primary, St Edwards Senior and Primary School, Rainham Village, Crowlands Primary School, and Warren Senior School.”

The charity is also a cross-referral agency with other charities such as Hestia, The Salvation Army, The Quaker Social Action, and The Welcome Centre.

It also partners with 20 local hostels as well as working closely with social services, local government departments, and welfare agencies. 

Anyone needing support can enquire by emailing info@smilelondonessex.com directly.

More information can be found on the SMILE website.

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