We know you’re used to getting letters from the children and families across the world who love Christmas. We can’t blame them, when you have people to celebrate with, and a safe and happy family, Christmas is magical. We’ve only found that out recently.
For lots of care experienced people, Christmas is a time of year that fills us with dread.
Christmas doesn’t always mean being surrounded by people who love us unconditionally. It doesn’t mean writing letters to you and it doesn’t even mean Christmas dinner.
Other families come together naturally at Christmas.
For us, when we are in care, that’s called contact and it has to be planned and approved. That has meant being told that we would be seeing our brothers and sisters on the 25th, but waking up that morning to find out that it wouldn’t be happening.
When we have left care, going home and staying over depends. Depends if our foster family have a new young person in what used to be our bedroom, depends if we grew up in a residential house that welcomes people back, depends on whether people even want us back.
When you are care experienced, the relationships you’ve had aren’t a guarantee. For us, Christmas can sometimes mean broken promises and a reminder that we are just not like other people.
The thing is, Santa, we’re not always without offers on the 25th. Well-meaning friends make the effort and ask us round. But when we go, we can’t help but still feel on the outside. On the outside of their family stories, their jokes, their love. We feel guilty, because although they mean well, we’re in the way.
When we were in care, picking a present meant being given an Argos catalogue and a budget. To be fair, that means we always get what we want but sometimes, it’s when your family shows that they know you with an amazing surprise when you feel most special.
When we leave care, there’s no guarantee we’ll even get a card in the post. This Christmas, some care experienced people will be waking up in bed and breakfasts or temporary accommodation. Some people will be alone, isolated in their own tenancies with no public transport to get them anywhere.
This is why we wanted to tell you about the Who Cares? Scotland Care Family Christmas Dinner. We wanted you know that, to us, it finally feels like Christmas.
On the 25th of December, in Glasgow and Edinburgh, we are making sure that care experienced people have somewhere to go and to feel like they belong.
Some of us were so nervous the first time that we went. Maybe even a little suspicious. It takes courage to put yourself out there on Christmas Day.
There’s a connection that care experienced people have though, and it was just as present on Christmas Day. Maybe it’s because we’ve all been through the same thing. Maybe it’s because we all knew that this was a chance to make Christmas different. There was no judgement, no stigma – just love.
Almost instantly, we felt at home. We weren’t on the outside looking in any more. This was our Christmas. We met people for the first time who already felt like family.
It’s not what we expected. It’s not a day of people helping us because they feel sorry for us. All the stops are pulled out to make it an amazing day that’s about us. It’s a full Christmas dinner, presents that are surprises and have thought put into them. It’s decorations that Who Cares? Scotland members have helped to make. It’s pulling a cracker with someone who really wants to celebrate with us.
It’s also the amazing volunteers. They’re not there because they have to be. They’re not there for their own personal gain. They’re not there because they’re getting paid. They’re there because they want to celebrate with us. We can’t wait to thank them again this year for making our Christmas so much more special. It’s partly thanks to them that now we can start to take a happy Christmas day for granted. Something we never imagined.
It’s also thanks to the Who Cares? Scotland Care Family Christmas dinner that we can finally write a proper letter to you, with what we want for Christmas. Our Corporate Parents, businesses and members of the public have been so generous in donating gifts. We want to make sure that you, them and everyone else who’s donating knows what we’d love to open on Christmas day:
- Something special. It’s so much better to make someone feel amazing with one great gift, than donating loads of small ones.
- Treat us like family. What would you get your brother, sister, niece or nephew?
- Being care experienced can be tough whether you’re in or out of the system. Money can be tight. We often have to choose between basics like heating and food in Winter. Things we want, like spending time with friends, aren’t often possible. Gift cards are a great idea. For fun things like the cinema, or for a supermarket where we can get something we’ve wanted for ages. If we’re living on our own, furnishings can be expensive to buy and aren’t a necessity. Nice homeware can really make us feel at home wherever we’re living.
Thanks Santa, we can’t wait to finally feel Christmassy this year. If your broadband in Lapland extends to it, you should visit our Care Family Christmas website or donate to our Christmas Appeal.
See you soon!
Who Cares? Scotland members and care experienced young people across Scotland