As leading BAME fostering agency Banya celebrates its 25th anniversary, the team is appealing for more foster carers to come forward – the need post pandemic is greater than ever.
Set up in South London in 1996 by Nyasha Gwatidzo and her late husband Dr Paul Soper, Banya’s directors are all black women and 98% of the staff are also female.
Nyasha explained: “Here at Banya we pride ourselves on supporting our foster carers through their fostering journey, whether they are new to fostering or more experienced. As a result, we are on average ten times more successful when it comes to making successful placements as we support both the children who need excellent care and the adults providing that care.”
She stressed the fact that more foster carers are urgently needed as more children are in need of a safe home environment post pandemic.
“I started Banya because of my own personal experience as a foster carer and running a therapeutic children’s home. I believe that every child deserves a loving family and Banya strives to provide a safe and secure home for children who have often suffered neglect, abuse or other trauma. Sadly, the number of children coming into care has increased due to the Covid pandemic with more family breakdowns,” she said.
The London-based foster agency has become national and now serves children and foster carers not just in London, but also Birmingham, Eastbourne, Hampshire, Cambridgeshire and Yorkshire and is currently looking for more foster homes in Greater Manchester with families prepared to look after children with complex needs and backgrounds.
Gloria Blackburn is one of Banya’s original foster carers and has cared for more than 60 children over the last 25 years. Living in South London she said:
“I’ve helped many children through trauma and bereavement from babies to younger children through to teenagers and asylum seekers. I even adopted two children – twins who were ten days old when they came and are now 26. All the children I’ve fostered call me ‘mama’ and just one of my stand-out memories was to give a home to a young boy from Vietnam who couldn’t speak English. Now he is doing his A-Levels in computer science ready to go onto university.”
Nyasha and her team have had to face many difficult issues during lockdown and the Covid pandemic – having to move some children to more Covid-safe environments, supporting carers with underlying health and mental health issues and finding it more difficult to place children in need during the pandemic.
There has also been a huge increase in domestic violence within families and people with mental health problems, all of which increases the number of children needing foster care.
The Banya team is now planning to celebrate their 25 years as a leading UK fostering agency with their foster carers, families and children, and will also be supporting Foster Care Fortnight from 10th-23rd May 2021. Nyasha has literally come a very long way since she left her rural village in Zimbabwe to study in the UK. She now runs the foster agency, nine successful social enterprises, events and a charity. She has also recently been given the Lifetime Achievement Award in the Thames Valley Business & Community Awards.
She said: “I love what I do, as it’s very rewarding to match a family with a child, who needs a home, and being able to make a huge impact and difference to that child. I feel privileged to work with these children and the carers, who are my unsung heroes.”
To find out more about Banya visit Banya.co.uk