Scotland

The bakers helping children with free birthday cakes

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Media captionFree Cakes for Kids make cakes for families who find it difficult to provide a birthday cake for their own children.

A baby who has not had the easiest start to life is approaching her first birthday. She lives in temporary accommodation in Glasgow with her mother and two siblings.

The family have little money and no support from any other relative in the area. They are being helped by the Glasgow Women's Aid charity, which assists women and children affected by domestic abuse.

Meanwhile, in another part of the city, a retired headteacher Davida Cook is in her kitchen. She is decorating a cake inspired by the popular children's show In the Night Garden.

The baby and Davida will not meet each other, but Davida is about to put a big smile on the baby's face. She has volunteered to make her a free birthday cake.

Davida volunteers for Free Cakes For Kids, an organisation with independent groups across the UK who all have one simple mission - to make personalised cakes for families who find it difficult to provide a birthday cake for their own children. The bakers make and decorate each cake, and pay for it all themselves.

Image caption Davida Cook is a retired headteacher and now volunteers with Free Cakes for Kids.

Back in Davida's kitchen, the former teacher reflects on why she spends her free time to help children in this way.

"Seeing the pleasure that my own grandchildren get from birthday cakes, made specially for them - I think they just love to have it.

"It makes them feel special and I'm a great believer in celebrations and birthdays. It is lovely to be able to give it to somebody."

Free Cakes for Kids was founded in 2008 by Henriette Lundgren in Oxford. Since then, it has grown to about 60 groups across the UK.

In Scotland, as well as the Glasgow team, there are volunteers baking cakes in Edinburgh and Dumfriesshire.

Image caption Faiza Hansraj-Jackson runs the Glasgow group of Free Cakes for Kids.

Davida is joined in her kitchen by Faiza Hansraj-Jackson, who is the Glasgow coordinator of Free Cakes for Kids.

Faiza is contacted by charities and organisations who tell her who the cake is for, how old the child will be on their birthday, why the family would struggle to provide a birthday cake themselves, and what the child likes. Frozen and Spiderman are popular choices.

The Glasgow volunteers make between 20 and 50 cakes a year.

"We work with partner organisations who usually work with disadvantaged or vulnerable children," said Faiza.

"Usually, the families are not in a position to provide a birthday cake themselves.

"This could be for a number of different reasons - they might be living in a refuge, they might be in temporary accommodation, they might be fleeing some sort of domestic violence or some other difficult situation.

"They might just be financially constrained.

"So what we do is we provide a birthday cake for this child that wouldn't otherwise have a birthday cake."

Image caption The Glasgow group of Free Cakes for Kids makes between 20 and 50 cakes a year.

In this case, Faiza was contacted by Glasgow Women's Aid to make a cake for the girl.

The Glasgow group have also made cakes for children involved with HomeStart Glasgow North, Children 1st, Glasgow Association for Mental Health (GAMH) and Glasgow North West Carers team.

Faiza added: "The girl's family are not in a situation where they are really able to afford a cake at the moment.

"They don't really have family support nearby either, so it's a nice thing that we can do for her and for her family.

"What we do know is that she likes In the Night Garden."

With the cake finished - complete with edible versions of Igglepiggle , Upsy Daisy and Makka Pakka - Davida packs it into a box and takes it to Glasgow Women's Aid. They will deliver it to the one-year-old and her family. It would be unusual for the bakers to ever meet the children they are baking for.

Image caption The cake Davida made for the girl was inspired by the hit TV show In the Night Garden.

For the charities and organisations helped by Free Cakes for Kids, these acts of kindness can make a big difference.

Pauline Taylor is a family resource worker with Glasgow Women's Aid. Her job is to support children with the transition of moving into a refuge when they are fleeing their homes due to domestic abuse.

She said: "Mostly all of the families come into refuge with limited belongings. They have no money or benefits in their name and are isolated and have no, or minimal, family support network. Birthdays can be a stressful time when there are all these issues and no finances. They cannot afford a special cake on top of everything they have to buy.

"Cakes like the ones that Free Cakes for Kids make are ones that would cost an absolute fortune to buy in the community, something that would usually be so out of reach and inaccessible for the families we support.

"A birthday cake that is not only special looking, but tailored to the child's wishes, is an amazing surprise and one that the women in our service are truly grateful for. Each and every time I collect one and give it to the family they are amazed at how kind and generous people can be."

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