Bouncing baby Harrison Essex was a little too young to understand 2007's summer flooding – he was only one month old, after all – but for his mother, the implications were all too clear.
When their water was cut off in the midst of the crisis, Annabel was very much left holding the baby with no bathwater. Little Harrison obviously still needed to be fed and bathed regularly, but there was virtually no water to be found anywhere.
At first, a couple of friends tried to help out but, as water supplies dried up, it soon became a losing battle. Annabel remembers: “I tried going to the local supermarket, but people were panic buying so I was only able to get one bottle.”
“Then my mum and I tried another local supermarket, but there was a three-hour queue. Mum has arthritis in her legs, so had to give up after a while. And with a baby, it would have been impossible for me to wait. He would have needed a change and feed in that time.”
For a mother with a month-old baby, things were looking bad – but they were about to get even worse. Annabel said: “I heard that the bowsers were being vandalised and my midwife got in touch to say that Harrison shouldn’t use it at all. I was happy to risk using the bowser water for bathing myself, but I just didn’t want to risk it for my baby.”
However, help was just around the corner. It was through a neighbour that Annabel’s mum, Ruth Essex, happened to hear about the Red Cross while chatting with a neighbour. She said: “My neighbour has Parkinson’s Disease so she couldn’t get out to find water herself. The council had referred her to the Red Cross, so she gave me the number too.”
The next day, three volunteers arrived with water, food and plenty of things for the baby. Annabel said: “The volunteers were amazing – they came over so quickly and bought much more than I expected. As well as water, they bought some food for me, baby food, nappies and baby wipes. They even offered to come back in five days time to replenish my supplies.”
Annabel added: “It was great – I didn’t have to worry about queuing for water and could even wash Harrison’s clothes. Although he’d better not get used to having them handwashed in mineral water!”
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