Christmas Day 2019 will once again see more than 50 local young people who just left the care system care homes enjoy a Christmas like no other. For the third year running, members of the community will get together to put on a traditional, family-feel Christmas Day. Our aim is very simple: that no young adult care leaver should spend the 25th alone.
Earlier this year, we were absolutely thrilled to be voted Richmond’s Community Heroes. Not all heroes wear capes; some wear Santa hats it seems! Our steering committee of volunteers from all walks of life, splits its responsibilities across 7 areas, from food to presents via venue and entertainment, to gently direct the goodwill, generosity and drive of local people who find us through friends, family, facebook, school, work, church and more. Everyone is very welcome. There’s always something to do.
The Richmond Christmas Day dinner was set up by Sian Thomas, a nurse by background, after a chance meeting with a young homeless man. “On Christmas Eve 2016, I met a young man sitting on the ground outside the local Burger King. We had a chat, went for a burger together and had a nice couple of hours,” says Sian, who lives in Twickenham.
“What was so sad was I could have told you his history before he spoke – 22-years-old, parents alcoholics, had been in care with placements broken down, foster home to foster home, children’s home to children’s home. Now totally alone, he was spending Christmas Eve and Day alone. Society had totally failed him. Who knows where people like this young man would spend Christmas Day? It inspired me and a number of other people to do something about it.”
Lemn Sissay, a care leaver himself, set up the Christmas Day Dinner initiative in 2013 and there are now more than 17 UK wide, each one unique. “The thing is,” says Sissay, “I remember saying when I left care, ‘I don’t want to just survive. I want to live.’ And the Christmas Dinner isn’t about surviving; it’s about living.”
The team’s vision is to ensure this is not just a normal Christmas Day. With no public transport, guests are picked up by taxi, driven to a top-notch venue, served the best food from a great chef, and handed a goody bag with amazing gifts.
Planning for year 3 kicks off in earnest in September 2019 but please do get in touch at any time.