Care leavers are strong. They have to be. Especially this time of year: Christmas can be an intense reminder of everything they’ve never had. It was for me. They’ve left care: Some are sofa surfing, some are homeless, some of them living alone in rented accommodation or in hostels and many without a family.
As soon as the adverts come on television, you know the ones, the John Lewis adverts, the arks and Spencer adverts, the young care leaver senses they are being drawn to the memory of what they’ve never had. I felt just the same when I left care….. so we create positive memories for them to recall next year when Christmas Comes along. The Christmas Dinner is for care leavers between the ages of 18 and 25. There are an average of 50 at each dinner. We create smiles and laughter and hope.
Each steering group begins meeting in October (yes October!) with nothing but a positive attitude to make tThe Christmas Dinner happen. Each steering group uses The How to Guide . They source a venue, a chef, transport, guests, hosts, presents and food. They go out into the community to raise these seven magical elements.
There have been lifelong friendships made via the steering groups and even one marriage. You can find out all about the steering groups via The Christmas Dinner Web page.
The main idea is simple: that the care leaver has a wonderful Christmas Day of the surprises and kindness and hope. Each steeering group sets up an Amazon Wishlists for presents for the young people so that they feel special on Christmas Day.
The Tope Project inspired me to do this in 2012.
With your support The Christmas Dinners started in manchester (2013), and continued in Manchester & London (2014), in Manchester, London & Leeds, (2015). In Manchester Leeds Liverpool, London and Oxford (2016), In Manchester London Leeds Wirral Oxford Islington, Richmond, Hackney Birmingham, Sheffield, Stockport, Canterbury, and East Sussex (2017) .
In 2018 they are in Manchester, Leeds, Hackney, Richmond, Wigan, Sheffield, Wirral, Barnsley, Scotland, Canterbury, Stockport, The Tope Project, Birmingham, Ellesmere Port, Oxford, Hull, Nottingham. Care takes action and so does community. We provide a Christmas that the young people will never forget.
The Lemn Sissay Foundation offers each Steering Group a few thousand pounds for each dinner. There are no fees for workers or buildings or administration. Every single penny is spent on The Christmas Dinners. What doesn’t get used this year will be used next year.It’s contingency money because the main idea of the project is that we raise all the seven elements for free. But the buffer of a few thousand pounds can be really helpful to achieve our goals of making this incredible day.
This is the best thing I have ever been involved in. I have seen it work time and time again, year after year. Everygroup in every area is independent. We are not a national organisation. A few of The Christmas Dinners raise money themselves. We are a movement of community groups who are independent and yet unified by one aim: To Care for the person who has left care on Christmas Day. Please support us.