Bonny Downs Community Association: Helping children and families in poverty


W Bro Richard Cavanagh LGR reports


More than 400 local children and their parents from disadvantaged backgrounds in Newham will benefit from a major package of support thanks to a grant of £40,000 from London Freemasons to Bonny Downs Community Association (BDCA).


BDCA is a community-led organisation, working in Newham to promote community cohesion, encouraging wellbeing and healthy lifestyles, as well as tackling isolation and addressing the root causes of poverty. 

Newham is the third most deprived borough in London and in the top 10% of most deprived areas in England.  Around 50% of children in the borough live in poverty – well above the London average of 37%.  Many families live in long-term poverty, often in overcrowded homes and with no access to state support or benefits. Roughly three-quarters of children supported by BDCA were born to mothers who were themselves born outside of the UK.  In addition, Newham has the highest prevalence of common mental health disorders in London (per Public Health England).

To combat these social ills and provide much needed succour, BDCA delivers targeted projects across a range of areas including sports, youth, children and families, over 65s and community support.  Having transformed previously derelict spaces into four thriving community hubs, the charity uses these spaces to provide a community nursery, a food bank, a day centre for homeless adults and a centre for advice and support for people in debt. 

The Children and Families Project supports disadvantaged children and young people up to 19 years in the local area; gives support during times of crisis; improves mental and physical wellbeing; reduces isolation; increases resilience; and provides a community support network. 

BDCA’s projects include:

• A weekly “tots haven” group to provide low-income families with a healthy breakfast and a mental health peer supporter for children and their parents.

• A weekly family-friendly Yoga session to enable parents to enhance their physical wellbeing without worrying about childcare as their pre-school children can join in.

• A weekly Family Hub session giving tailored advocacy and advice, including Immigration and Domestic Abuse Specialists; English lessons; and provision of a clothing bank for children’s clothes. 

• Intergenerational activities and support by trained peri-natal mental health peer assistants.

• Bringing communities together for interfaith celebration events for Christmas, Eid, Easter and Diwali, thereby encouraging appreciation for each other’s cultures.

• Funding free places at a 3-week summer scheme for 100 disadvantaged young people at risk of becoming victims or perpetrators of crime, including learning leadership skills.  Without this subsidy, these children would otherwise not be able to attend. 

The MCF grant will help BDCA to run these activities, supporting over 400 beneficiaries.  A recent survey of the current BDCA beneficiaries found that 71% were supported at a critical moment, 84% found a better support network and 87% felt less isolated in their circumstances. 

Sulthana Begum, Co-Director at BDCA, said: “We’re very grateful to London Freemasons for their generous grant which will benefit hundreds of local children and families. We aim to support a family’s physical, mental and financial wellbeing through specially targeted projects to transform the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”

For more information on the Bonny Downs Community Association please visit

This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 52 August 2023 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.

Read more articles in the Arena Issue 52 here.