Megan and I are care leavers and we are trying to create a christmas for care leavers who will be spending christmas alone. No care leaver deserves to feel alone at christmas! Last year we both attended the Oxford Care Leavers Christmas Dinner 2016 - which some of you may remember. Lemn Sissay has been amazing at setting these up around the country with the help of volunteers. Neither of us planned to attend this year but last weekend we found out that Christmas for care leavers in Oxford had been cancelled. If you watch the video of last year you will see how amazing it was. With the short amount of time to organise something this year we desperately need your help! Your donations will help us to pay for a venue, taxis, food, and some gifts for those who attend. Due to the time constraints our Oxfordshire Care Leavers Association Christmas 2017 will not be the same as last year. But we feel that it is important for care leavers not to feel alone around this time of year. We are trying to arrange a day where care leavers in Oxfordshire can come together, share the Christmas spirit, play games, watch Christmas movies, open a few presents and feel valued. Let us tell you a little about our backgrounds and why Christmas is so important for care leavers...
About Áine - Áine was severely abused as a child and was eventually placed on a full care order when she was 7. Her time in care was very disruptive and she had multiple placements. Her little sister (who had complex health needs and disabilities) was her savour and gave her the motivation to work hard to improve both of their futures. Áine is now a PhD student at the University of Oxford and is funded by the Wellcome Trust. Her research is exploring how we can improve health outcomes for children and young people in care. Here is what she has to say:
"Sadly, last year my little sister died. It was the first Christmas I had without my sister and I was finding it a tough time of year given the emphasis placed on spending time with loved ones. Luckily, I was invited to the Care Leavers Christmas Dinner 2016 - I spent Christmas morning pretty upset; grieving for my sister. But come lunch time a taxi arrived to take me to a surprise destination for Christmas. I quickly settled in to the care leavers Christmas dinner and felt part of a family for the day. It was not the presents or the amazing christmas dinner that made my day - it was the Christmas spirit and the coming together with others in a similar situation; it was watching a Christmas movie, sharing stories and laughter, and feeling valued by society. What could of turned out as a very lonely and isolated Christmas actually turned out to be something I will treasure for the rest of my life."
About Megan - Megan spent her teenage years in care. With very few family members still in contact, she felt very isolated - especially around the holidays. Megan now works in retail and is at university studying social sciences, as well as caring for her five year old daughter and younger brother. She too was invited to the Care Leavers Christmas Dinner along with her daughter and her brother. Here's what she had to say about the day:
"The christmas dinner felt like a dream come true; I've spent years dreaming of the perfect family Christmas. I was shown that I didn't need all my family to have a perfect christmas. Not only was it an amazing day for my daughter and younger brother (I was worried that I couldn't give them much of a Christmas) but it gave me spirit and hope for the next year (2017). I can proudly say that I've achieved more this year because Christmas made me feel like people cared about me."
Please help Megan and I give something back, and ensure that no care leaver in Oxford has to spend christmas alone! For more information about why Christmas for care leavers needs to be the same day as everyone else please see our blog:
**Any money that is not spent on the care leavers Christmas will be donated to the Oxfordshire Care Leavers Association - a new social enterprise set up by a group of care leavers (including Megan and Áine) to help improve the lives of children and young people in and from care.