Rebecca May Marston is the director of Dora Brown Homemaking, made up of self-described ‘sturdy girls’ transforming homes for families in need. Here, Rebecca explains the difference Team Dora can make to people’s mental health
I founded Dora with my best mate, Sacha, and I do anything from scrubbing black mould off kids’ bedrooms walls to organising fundraising art auctions. What Dora does is make over family homes that have gone to sh*t and are ruining the family’s mental health. We’re talking unusable rooms piled with broken furniture and rubbish; gardens that look like people moved put long ago; severe levels of furniture and hygiene poverty – kids with no beds and dirty school uniforms. It’s overwhelmingly shocking to walk into Dora homes. Our families need serious help and support to climb out of the issues. Dora’s immense army of volunteers does decluttering, deep cleaning and furniture provision as well as nice bits like rugs and artworks and mirrors etc. We support our families long term too, until they can fly solo.
When did you first have the idea for Dora Brown Homemaking and what’s the thinking behind it?
Sacha and I were chatting about her volunteering for HomeStart one day and how she was desperate to get up, clean and organise the mum’s home as that would immediately have improved her wellbeing. It went from that fragment and snowballed at quite a pace to where we are today.
Who is on the team and how does it all work? So, you are all ‘sturdy girls’?!
The most delicious bunch of humans make up Team Dora! We have four at HQ, five mega trustees and then a growing group of over 80 volunteers. Our volunteers range from their 20s to 60s. All humans are welcome, but we are all ’sturdy girls’ and work at a ‘helluva’ pace so bad backs aren’t ideal!
Where in Suffolk do you cover?
Our pilot hub is Ipswich, also covering Felixstowe, Woodbridge and surrounds. Geography is quite important as volunteers, furniture donations and vans, waste, corporate sponsors etc all need to be within an area.
We’re in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis – do you feel you are in demand more than ever? How big an issue is furniture and hygiene poverty?
In truth, the fact that our homes reflect our souls is a forever-issue – and poverty, including furniture and hygiene and food, is always present in any society. But yeah, the first quarter of this year has seen referrals to all charities rise exponentially in the UK.
What difference can a clean and tidy home make to people’s mental health, in your opinion?
It’s immeasurable. Truly. We all know this intimately because of lockdown and how important our homes became for our own mental health. It’s hard for most people reading this to imagine the state of the homes Dora helps. The rubbish, the broken furniture, the lack of anything, the dirty beds, the missing beds, the smell, the flies… we crack on through as many homes as we are able, to transform and rebuild the lives of as many families as we can.
How can people get involved and help? There’s also a shop, to help raise funds?
A few ways! If you’re local to us and are up for our bawdy bunch and getting stuck in, then please volunteer: our volunteers are everything to us. If you’re local and have pristine quality home goods that you’d like to donate, check our web page for what and how. If you’re anywhere else: follow our socials and hop on our website and hit that donate button: every single penny counts and we’re so grateful.
How can families access the service?
Social Workers, Health Visitors or any professional refer families to us. However, any professional/charitable agency could refer if they needed to – if the family didn’t have a social worker.
What are your hopes and dreams for Dora Brown?
To keep plodding on, mainly! To underpin our pilot hub and its processes and resources, then to expand to a second hub and to mushroom on from there. Families everywhere and social services everywhere need the help that we offer.
Featured image by Julia Bostock (Rebecca May Marston is third from left)