Christmas can be particularly difficult time for people who weren’t brought up alongside their biological families. This year, a group of volunteers is organising a Christmas dinner for 18-30 year olds who have recently left care, creating festive memories for them that they may never have experienced before.
There are over three hundred care leavers living in Oxfordshire. It is by no means a given, but children who spend time in the care system are less likely than other children to achieve academic success or benefit from stable relationships. They are more likely to have problems with crime, drugs and mental health than their peers. As many as a third of care leavers are NEET (not in education, employment or training) compared to only 13% of all young people. A quarter of young women leaving care are pregnant or already mothers, and nearly half become mothers by the age of 24. All of these factors combined mean that Christmas can be particularly difficult time for people who weren’t brought up alongside their biological families.
The poet, broadcaster and Chancellor of the University of Manchester Lemn Sissay MBE hosted the first Christmas Dinner in Manchester in 2013. Inspired by the Tope Project, named after a young man called Tope who was brought up in care and sadly took his own life, the aim of the Christmas Dinner was to curate memories so that when the care leavers looked back at Christmas the previous year, they can say they had a great time. The Christmas Dinner has now become an annual event in Manchester and other cities, and The Christmas Dinner Oxford aims to replicate this experience for some of the 300+ care leavers living in Oxfordshire.
A group of volunteers, which include practitioners in a number of social spheres, youth workers, educators and artists with many years of experience in working with vulnerable children and young people in Oxfordshire are organising a Christmas Dinner for 18-30 year olds who have left care. This video captures the importance of the day for all the guests.
On Christmas day, volunteers will be acting as hosts, cooking dinner and giving presents to the care leavers who will be attending. The event will be held at a venue in central Oxford, and the group is now looking for corporate or individual sponsors to donate gifts or money to buy gifts for the guests. Sponsors can donate individual items or a voucher for a sum of money which could then be spend on gifts.