For most of us it’s hard to imagine growing up without Christmas. But for thousands of children in the UK, that’s exactly what they are facing. On December the 25th, not only will they have nothing to unwrap, but many will wake up frightened, on a cold, dirty mattress to absent parents a lack of food, or will be simply living in neglectful, violent homes. During the festive season child suicide attempts increase five (CHK) fold.
All these are reasons why Kids Company has worked tirelessly for more than a decade to give them a Christmas day they’ll always remember.
“My little girl had never experienced true Christmas until she was three-years-old,” Sophie, 25, told Grazia last week. Sophie found herself homeless and starving at 17 after her family disowned her when she found out she was pregnant to an abusive boyfriend. “In those early years we had nothing. I was eating so little I couldn’t even breast feed my daughter, and ended up being hospitalised as I was so malnourished. My little girl’s first Christmas was spent on the floor of a tiny flat. I managed to get her some milk, and I ate cereal. Every day I tried to find a way to make enough money to feed her - for us, Christmas Day was just another one of those days.”
Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder and director of Kids Company [Dafydd Jones]
When social services threatened to take Tikita, now seven, away, Sophie was referred to Kids Company. They helped her with everything from housing and education to providing food for her daughter. Tikita is now just one of thousands of children who enjoy a Kids Company Christmas.
In their first year offering the service, Kids Company helped 250 children who had no-where to go, providing food and gifts. This year, on what will be their tenth anniversary and they will help more than 4,000 at the centre at a central location in London and more than 7,500 people in the community. Each child or young adult is picked up individually by car for a day of playing, face-painting, entertainment - and a proper Christmas lunch served up by more than 200 volunteers. They are then given a bag of presents and a haul of food to take home for later.
Kids Company's Christmas fun [Susanne Hakuba]
In the UK, there are 3.5million children living below the poverty line - that’s more than one in four - and more than one third of the 350,000 people who rely on food banks in the UK are children.
“We started opening Kids Company on Christmas Day because suicide attempts amongst kids rose on dramatically at Christmas, as kids dreaded spending the thought of being on their own and having no family to turn to at this time of year,” Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of Kids Company says. “One little girl described being so frightened on Christmas Day that she would lift the carpet in her room and urinate between the floorboards because she was too scared to come out of her room because her house was so violent.”
Because of Kids Company, that’s a scenario so many children no longer have to face. Now, Sophie and Tikita have their own flat after moving out of a hostel they’d lived in for almost a year. Tikita is excelling at school and Sophie is studying to be a nurse. “The first year we spent Christmas with Kids Company, when Tikita was three, I cried the whole way home. We’d had such a brilliant day; I didn’t want it to end. For the first time, she’d genuinely enjoyed Christmas. She’d experienced as a child should.”
Kids Company need your help to provide for more children than ever this year. Just £50 can provide a child Christmas. “This year, once again, we’ll be an extra family for our children and give them the hope and sense of belonging they’re yearning for,” Camila says. “With your help, we can transform their despair into childlike joy. Give them the Christmas they deserve.”
How you can help
£5 will pay for a child to be taken to our Xmas party.
£10 will pay for a stocking full of presents for a child to keep
£20 will pay for 5 children to have Xmas lunch with all the trimmings
£50 provides a weeks worth of food for a child over the Xmas period
To make a donation for a child’s Christmas day click on to: www.justgiving.com