Several years ago I was listening to a radio programme discussing care leavers and in particular what was an ‘appropriate’ age for them to leave care and fend for themselves. (Do any of us ever feel ready for that?!)
I was full of admiration for these young people, many of whom had overcome an extremely difficult start in life.
So when I heard about this brilliant initiative I jumped at the chance to help provide the Christmas extravaganza they deserve!
Together let’s spread the joy of Christmas! It’s our chance to show we care.
Would you like to follow Dee and volunteer for Christmas Day Richmond? Click here
Together let’s spread the joy of Christmas! It’s our chance to show we care.
“I have previously volunteered and spent time working with older people around the festive period and have always found it to be extremely important to tackle isolation.
My current role now involves working with children and this project sounded too good to not be a part of.
I love our steering group – it’s a great thing to be involved with and we hope to provide a fantastic Christmas to as many young people as possible.”
“Christmas has always been a big thing for me, spending time with family, laughing, eating, drinking and generally over-indulging on everything good and bad! I have always appreciated what I have because I know that not everyone is as fortunate to have such a close family to make those memories with.
Even the fraught moments, when it looks like it’s all going belly up in the kitchen….or the countless hours spent building Lego dragons! So, when I saw Sian’s post about getting involved to make Christmas Day special for others, I wanted to do what I could to help.
Even if it’s just time, I think so many of us have so much to give, but don’t always know where to channel that help, so this was the perfect solution.
I’m beyond excited to be part of such a eclectic group of volunteers, all with a common goal in mind – sourcing a venue, decorations, gifts and food, to ensure that care leavers in our community have the Christmas Day they should have; full of love, warmth and wonderful memories.”
Fifty vulnerable young people from Richmond are going to receive a once in a lifetime Christmas Day, thanks to a project inspired by Lemn Sissay MBE, a care leaver, and the official poet from the 2012 Olympic Games.
The Christmas Day Dinner will come to Richmond Borough for the first time, after Sissay galvanised members of the local community to provide a Christmas Day for care leavers (those who have left foster care) aged between 18 and 25.
The organisers need a volunteer chef and a maitre d’ who would love to cook and offer their services to help make this event one our care leavers won’t forget. Could this be you?
We’re planning a full Christmas Day dinner with all the trimmings. The majority of the produce, including quality meat and veg, has already been donated by local suppliers. We have a great venue with parking in KT1 that has catered for weddings previously. It has a kitchen with access to two catering ovens.
We’ll have a team of 25 hosts and helpers to prep, serve and wash up, making the day as fun and stress-free as possible. If transport’s an issue, we’ll get you there and home too.
Lemn’s vision is to ensure this is not just a normal Christmas Day but a once in a lifetime event. Guests are picked up by taxi, driven to a top-notch venue, served the best food from a great chef, and handed a goodie bag with top-drawer goods.
If you are interested and available on Christmas Day please can you contact us on:
Interested Chefs will need to provide a CV and references.
“I used to get involved in charity work when I worked for the bank and since I retired I didn’t know where to start.
I stumbled across this event on Facebook and saw this as an opportunity to get involved and knowing how lucky my children have been, wanted to help those that haven’t been as fortunate.
I am really looking forward to helping in any way I can.”
“I have such happy memories of childhood Christmases, good food, a walk in the woods, games, a film and too much chocolate. Earlier this year my elderly father died, and I am feeling pangs of loneliness in his absence. He embodied Christmas for me – good humoured, generous, fun loving and indulgent.
I want this Christmas to be different, and to honour his memory, I want to bring his spirit to The Christmas Dinner as he would have loved to be there too.”
“I can still remember the childhood memories of anticipation building into excitement, wishing and hoping coming true along with the inevitable surprises, and a feeling of being loved unconditionally at Christmas without ever having to question that each year would be the same. (No matter how many chocolates I over indulged in from my selection box which often spiraled me into making the wrong sugar sponsored decisions, or the inevitable display of sibling jealousy as the presents were unwrapped!)
As an adult I now know the energy and hard work that goes into Christmas Day, all woven together with the most important elements of love and thoughtfulness. I wanted to get involved with the Christmas Care Leavers lunch to help be a part of creating those feelings and memories for others – which I was lucky enough to have experienced as a child.
We are never too old to feel the excitement of an unopened gift, to indulge in the other-worldly-ness of a decorated space, or to feel the virtual love around you that simply because you are you, someone has shown you that they care enough to celebrate you.”
Click here if you have been inspired by Sarah’s words to get involved with our project… We need your help
“As someone who during my professional career has been touched both directly and indirectly by caring for young people in care & having left the care system; I am inspired and motivated by this brilliant project.
As a parent myself, knowing how much I care for my children, I have always struggled that as a society, our care leavers are often left to survive after 18 years old, alone. Christmas, a time of togetherness – should be about celebrating and enjoyment- exactly what Lemn Sissay’s Christmas Day Dinner is all about!
When asked to join the steering group I didn’t hesitate! I know we can make amazing memories and provide something that all our wonderful volunteers will be so proud of. The Christmas Day Dinner project brings people together and makes everyone know they are valued – both guests and helpers.
Many years ago, a young care leaver in a women’s refuge made a lasting impression on me. In a letter I received from the 21 year old girl, she wrote “you will never realise how special it was to have someone listen to me and be there for me and my daughter; I will never forget you.” I wish I knew where she was now as I would like to tell her that I didn’t forget her either.”
Inspired by Zoe’s words? Join the group by clicking here
“I am a nurse who has seen over the years many people who have left care and spend Christmas alone, not because they want to but they have little choice. This has sat so, so unhappily with me and I always knew that the community would want to help if they just knew this was someone’s experience…
I came across Lemn Sissay around a year ago via his poetry, then I saw him on stage in the Report where his health report from the time he was in care was read out live on stage. I felt absolutely compelled to do something; I picked up his Brand New Guide to The Christmas Day Project about 10 times and kept putting it down as it felt just such a huge thing to organise; I kept wanting to be invited onto the project rather than the person initiating.
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Anyway, on the 20 September I decided I would do it. I have met so many new and committed people who want to create a day that is warm, fun, caring and comfortable. There is no pressure on guests to be anything other than what they are on the day; happy, sad, melancholy as we understand that Christmas can evoke emotional feelings in everyone.
A care leaver has contacted me saying: “Christmas was a terrible time for me when I was young, so just having people around will be a bonus”…. this is not a day of pity but a day to come together as one and enjoy our Christmas Day.”
We’d love to have new recruits for the project team.
If you’d like to help, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Facebook by searching Christmas Day Richmond.
We’d love to hear from you.