In 2018, Sutton Council hosted its first ever Christmas Day Dinner for young people who have recently left care.
The Christmas Day Dinner for young people was inspired by the festive events first set up by Lemn Sissay in Manchester in 2013.
Lemn Sissay is a poet and MBE who grew up in care. He has reflected on the challenges that Christmas Day presents to anyone, but especially young people who have left care.
Isolation can take hold at Christmas and the pressure of Christmas can be overwhelming. It’s a time of reflection and for many care leavers, of painful memories. One of the main goals of holding a Christmas Day Dinner for care leavers on Christmas Day is to help provide them with new, positive memories.
In 2018 a small steering group of passionate staff and volunteers set out to make sure that no care leaver is alone on Christmas Day and not only that, but also the day is full of gifts, food and magic.
Initially the fundraising team set a goal to raise £1,500 but a total of £5,950 was raised. Alongside this gifts were donated by businesses and individuals across the borough and all of the guest on the day received a ‘wow’ present and a big stocking full of smaller gifts. Some of the guests had never experienced anything quite like this and the shock of opening the gifts was overwhelming.
The money raised was used to employ a chef to create a 3 course meal and a roast with all the trimmings, to decorate the building and transform it to a grotto, to purchase presents, food hampers, taxis, snacks and drinks. On the day we had games, a photobooth, a quiet area and a salon for nails and hair styling. There were raffle prizes and a taxi for each young person to escort the guests to and from the event in style.