LED by Lemn Sissay, Chancellor of the University of Manchester and former care leaver himself, groups of volunteers all over the UK are putting on a warm and welcoming Christmas Day dinner for care leavers between the ages of 18 and 25.
A care leaver is defined as a person under the age of 25 who has been looked after for at least 13 weeks by a local authority since the age of 14.
First starting in 2013, after being inspired by The Tope Project in 2012, Manchester was the first city to hold the event which has now spread to 11 other cities; Islington, Hackney, Richmond, Stockport, Sheffield, Birmingham, Canterbury, Wirral, Liverpool, Leeds and Hackney.
So far just over £26,000 has been raised to allow 500 young care leavers across the UK to sit down to an amazing meal, receive gifts and experience a fun, supportive day surrounded by positivity and friendly faces and, where possible, means no care leaver will be alone on Christmas Day.
Lemn Sissay says: “Many care leavers are sat in flats, B&Bs and hostels, away from family, or sofa-surfing, and some are indeed living on the streets on their own at Christmas.Christmas is a reminder of everything they never had, I know because I’ve shared their experiences. But since 2013, thanks to passionate groups of volunteers supported by generous donations, we’ve been able to put on scrumptious Christmas meals and create a magical day to remember. The Christmas Dinners will be a life-changing and life-saving
[pullquote] Christmas is a reminder of everything they never had, I know because I’ve shared their experiences.[/pullquote]
All of the Christmas Dinners have an Amazon wish list, so you can buy a gift for a Care Leaver (prices start at just £2) with volunteers needed to help on Christmas Day as well as with wrapping the presents and setting up in the run up to the day itself.
Emma Lewis-Kalubowila, who works for Widening Participation at the University of Manchester and is also on the steering group of Care Leavers, said: “We rely on generous donations, and that’s where we’re hoping the NUS community will be able to help.
“2017 will be Manchester’s fifth year hosting the Christmas Dinner, and a special celebratory day for 50 young people is planned. This year we are very lucky to be supported by the University of Manchester, who will be providing a venue for the event to take place, as well as local care leaver charities and experienced arts and social care staff.”
Our little team of safeguarding and children in care nurses have £90 to buy gifts instead of office Secret Santa- I’ll be gift buying our behalf this week
— Carlene (@CarleneBaines) December 5, 2017
Carlene Baines, who has raised £90 with her team of safeguarding nurses instead of office secret santa, said: “I’ve been a children in care nurse in the Greater Manchester area for ten years now; the hardest and most heartbreaking part of my job is the fact that many children leave care at 18 with nothing.
“Our corporate parenting responsibilities should go much further than these children reaching adulthood or the end of a professional relationship.
“Events like these are so important for care leavers to help create positive memories and provide that family experience of Christmas many of us take for granted. I also want them to know that some of us will always try and be good parents long after they ‘leave care’. I am hoping our gifts demonstrate that in a small way.”
The £25,000 target initially set for December 1 was surpassed with any additional funds going to support The Christmas Dinner 2018.
To get involved, use the Twitter hashtag #TCD17 or search on Facebook: The Manchester Christmas Dinner. If you wish to donate search ‘The Christmas Dinner 2017 – Lemn Sissay Foundation’ on Crowdfunder.