Merle first came to Little Village when she was pregnant with her daughter, Marley, who is now two. Merle was living in a hostel, following the breakdown of her marriage. Merle said:
“I was overwhelmed with being pregnant, I was completely broke, and we were just going into the pandemic, it was very scary. I’d been living in a hostel for three months … my husband was violent and the marriage broke down. I had to fight and fight to get myself a council flat but I got there in the end.
“When I first came to Little Village I couldn’t believe how much stuff there was. I’d not had a baby before and there were items I didn’t even know existed! It was great, the volunteers were so lovely.
“Marley goes to nursery twice a week. The cost of childcare is prohibitive, it’s far too much. I’m in a position now where I need to put my life back together… I need to feed my kid, but I’m completely stuck. But I am fortunate that I was able to educate myself … I know that when this is over, I’ll be able to pick myself back up and get my life sorted. I am sharing my story for people who cannot do that. I want to highlight the fact that poverty’s a real f**king thing.
“Poverty takes away choices, I don’t have the luxury of being able to choose better quality food. What you put inside your child is fundamental, nutrition is health to your child. Poverty forces you to ignore the nutritional value of food, because you have to feed your child. I actually live next to a farmer’s market – but I can’t go and by anything there. I couldn’t even afford a potato!
“Poverty is playing Russian roulette with your bills, negotiating every single week with your bills because you can’t pay them all. I’m on Universal Credit and I am receiving £500 a month, and that’s for everything… bills, food, council tax. There is nothing left at all. I haven’t thought about myself at all since having my daughter, all I care about is feeding my child.
“I’m living on £6000 a year from Universal Credit, that’s well below the poverty line. I’m already struggling so how am I meant to survive when the cost of every single thing is rising? It’s terrifying.
“I really hope that one parent reads my story and it helps … that they know that they can reach out to Little Village and that they’re not alone.”