Eight geotag journalists exploring your city. This week: Contrasting London.

Father's day out

By Xudong Zeng

Single parenting isn’t always single mothers. Fathers fall into this category too; but are seldom discussed.

There are many charities, workshops and outlets to aid single mothers, but when it comes to fathers they are left to help themselves.

Established over a century ago, St. Michael’s Fellowship is one such organisation helping to bring fathers and their children together.

“When one says single parent, they usually mean mothers. There are lots of activities for mothers during the week. We wanted an activity for young fathers,” says Michelle Thompson, the Outreach Manager from the St. Michael’s Fellowship.

Weekend with dad

It was a drizzling Saturday morning. Liz Atkinson Children's Centre seems closed from outside. However, inside it is totally different with the children’s cacophony of laughter.

The ‘stay and play’ session with the Father Nature Gardening Group for young dads and their children is underway.

Many of the young single dads who want to be involved in parenting their children are no longer involved with their child’s mother.

In some extreme cases things had taken turns for the worse and the fathers are cut out from the children’s life completely.

With the help of St. Michael’s Fellowship, each Saturday, mothers bring the children and leave them with the fathers alone, whilst some single fathers bring their children themselves.

They indulge in interactive activities together; they draw, read, play games or sing as fathers try to bond with the children.

Mark Pearson is one such dad who comes with his daughter Megan. “I have problems with Megan’s mother, but I want to be there for Megan. My father wasn’t there for me when I was a kid, but I want to be part of her life. I want to be proud of her,” says Mark.

Persistence pays

The programme is designed for weekends to help involve working dads, and fathers who can only have their children on weekends.

“There are some who can only see their children in the presence of a social worker,” says Michelle.

St. Michael’s Fellowship is one of the very few organisations that involve young fathers. According to Michelle, at times it is much more difficult than the programmes for young mothers.

“We phone the young dads, we text them. We invite them to our activities. We do all sorts of things until they agree to come. We are persistent and consistent. We don’t give up,” shares Michelle.

Maybe this is why the fellowship works well with the young fathers.
About the organisation

The fellowship started over 100 years ago with the aim of helping unmarried mothers. Now it deals with parents with parenting issues by providing skills training. In reality, it can be the last stop before the children are removed to the care of social workers.

The London Borough of Lambeth is one of the regions with the highest teenage pregnancy rate in west Europe. Funded by the Lambeth Council, the St. Michael’s Fellowship is the only organisation dealing with young fathers.

Some of the fathers in the programme openly say that their dad wasn’t around when they were children, but they want to be there for their children. Groups such as this Children Centre will undoubtedly help them do that.

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