We are a volunteer-led group of Teesside volunteers, who come together to support young Care Leavers from across Teesside on Christmas Day, to ensure that they are not alone or feeling isolated. This initiative was introduced to our region in 2021.
This link will take you to a short video taken at our event last year, and gives a feel for what we do and why (10) Care Leavers Christmas Dinner 2022 – YouTube
Christmas, says the poet Lemn Sissay, divides the world into two sorts of people. One group gathers around the domestic hearth: all jocularity and teasing, memories and traditions. The other group is, as in the Victorian cliche, outside the window looking in. They have never felt the warmth of the homely festive glow. Most of us have families who, even if it’s with some reservation, we join for Christmas. We roll our eyes and sigh, we anticipate the annoyances; we steel ourselves for the nuances that only we could ever understand.
Everything we take for granted about a family Christmas is a luxury. “They are a luxury, and you do take them for granted. But rightly so – we should all be able to. We don’t walk around saying: ‘I’m breathing.’ But take your breath away, and you soon realise that you’re utterly dependent on it – and that’s the closest way of describing what a family does. Everything in life is connected, and everything is connected to family. People say: ‘If you’ve got no family, you can always have friends.’ But what they don’t understand is that your friendship-making skills are themselves connected to being part of a family.”
The people who would care, who should always care, would be family; and that caring and that noticing and that reflecting who we are and what we have become is as intrinsic to this time of year as the presents under the tree. Christmas is a moment to pause, to look back, not just year on year but across a lifetime. And it’s about the future, too.
Christmas, as for any child in care, can be the hardest time: when the festive lights serve only to expose what is missing, and will never be there. “It can feel like an incredibly risky time, that makes these young people want to fold themselves into themselves. All the memories are of Christmases that haven’t been good.”
One of the things that Lemn needed most while he was in Care was a hug, and a hug was the last thing he got. Young people in care are acutely aware of how they’re not love or pleasure for anyone – they’re an obligation. A social worker is just that – a worker. She or he is being paid. However brilliant the relationship with a social worker is, for them it’s a job. The Christmas Dinner plays a small yet vitally important part in giving these young people a day/experience that will give them a positive sense of how things can look and feel.
We’re looking for people who would love to help us give in the region of 50 care experienced young people a Christmas Day to remember. We’d love you to think about joining one of our teams. Don’t worry if you’re not available on Christmas Day, there’s plenty to do in advance.
Gift wrap squad – we need people who love help at our annual wrap-a-thon on Christmas Eve, when our presents are packed and beautifully wrapped ready for the big day.
Decoration Squad – can you sprinkle a bit of Christmas magic on our venue? We need people who are dab hand with the fairy lights to plan and put up our decorations. .
Kitchen Team Are you a dab hand with a whisk or a vegetable peeler? The food makes the day for your young people. Can you help our Chefs make it extra special?
The Entertainers – are you the life and soul of the party? Do you love games and activities? You could help us plan the entertainment for the big day. Everything from Christmas crafts to festive music and the Christmas Movie.
Logistics Lovers Are you good at making lists? Do you love a good spreadsheet? Could you help us with the transport and timings for the big day? That includes getting everything to the venue – gifts, food, decs and the guests!
If you’re interested in getting involved or would like more information email us on email@example.com
There is a role for everyone interested in helping. Get in touch and express your interest if you’d like to be involved and we can take it from there…
Volunteers with a sense of humour, good people skills, who are willing to work alongside other volunteers to help us create the magic