Every year our Child Friendly Ambassadors and Business Partners offer their time and support for various communities of children and young people over the festive season. The Child Friendly Leeds (CFL) team were not sure what Christmas would look like this year due to the continued effects of COVID-19, however the kindness and generosity they witnessed far exceeded their hopes for the children, young people and families across Leeds.
The team found themselves having to work in new and innovative ways, as did our partners. Deadlines were pushed back, online wish lists were made, gifts were delivered to a variety of places, presents had to be quarantined, masks were worn and all interaction and activities had to be conducted online or in a socially distanced way, but together we have achieved so much.
CFL want to share just how our ambassadors and partners supported families over the Christmas period. Read on to find out about the many contributions made. It has made such a difference.
The British Library kindly offered us 40 tote bags with craft items and activities relating to classic children’s books like the much loved Gruffalo for Key Stage 1 children. These were distributed to a number of very appreciative families via Whitecote Primary School. We continue to work with the British Library on an exciting virtual storytelling project in January and February 2021.
Central Yorkshire Scouts work with over seven thousand children and young people in the region. They wanted to support our foster and kinship families and offered them the chance to join an online Festive Funday in December. Morley Glass donated over 800 beautiful wooden boxes that were filled with Christmas items and resources, a booklet that explained how to do each activity and these were supported via online sessions. There was also a chance to meet Santa online, play games and join a virtual campfire sing-a-long. 15 boxes were gifted to us and we purchased another 25 at a generously discounted rate as demand was so high for them. Central Yorkshire Scouts also donated children’s books and selection boxes for the families that CFL work with.
first direct bank are pioneers in the banking services they offer but also in their work with communities, partners and charities. First direct employees have for a 4th year supported parent care leavers by purchasing personalised gifts for their babies and young children. Around 160 babies and children received a very special personalised gift in time for Christmas day. Members of Leeds City Council Colleagues Facebook also gave generously to support this collection.
Trinity Leeds is home to over one hundred national and international brands as well as over forty places to eat and drink. In previous years, they have supported by hosting Christmas parties for foster and kinship families, but this year they decided to dedicate their Giving Tree to Child Friendly Leeds. Supported by the Heart Angels, from 3 – 20 December, they collected donated gifts and monetary donations from visitors to Trinity. These presents (over 1300) were distributed to children and young people who are supported through the Leeds social care teams.
The Grammar School at Leeds (GSAL) recently named the Sunday Times North Independent Secondary School of the Decade, offered to collect selection boxes and advent calendars to support the Gipton Partnership’s ‘Bags of Joy’ project. The Gipton Partnership wanted to create a bag of fun to give to families in the Gipton and Beeston locality and wished to include some edible goodies. GSAL went above and beyond and collected over 500 items which were then shared amongst the bags. The collection only just fitted into the campervan collection vehicle!
GRAHAM are a nationwide construction company with offices in 14 cities. The Leeds office worked with their employees and sub-contractors and collected over 80 presents for families that our social care teams work with, but also for children and young people supported by voluntary sector organisations including: Leeds Women’s Aid, PAFRAS and Shantona Women’s and Family Centre.
Park Square Barristers are based in the heart of the legal quarter Leeds and have a large staff team. This year the amazing staff team supported children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), as well as Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) under the age of eighteen by purchasing over 170 personalised gifts for the children and young people for the festive season.
In previous years, White Rose Shopping Centreand M&S at White Rose have supported the families we work with by hosting a Christmas party and visit to Santa’s grotto but due to Covid this was impossible. Instead they collected selection boxes, advent calendars and arts and craft items that were also included in the ‘Bags of Joy’. The bags were distributed to families identified as needing support through The Old Fire Station at Gipton, Space2, community groups and local Councillors.
Finally, the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust who in the past have offered day activities through their Green Guardians programme to our unaccompanied asylum seeking young people, really wanted to support our families during Covid. They came up with the idea of Festive Craft Bags and offered us ten of these to pass ontothe various families that CFL support. The bags included green and eco resources for teenagers to get involved with and included making your own eco Christmas cracker.
Wrongsemble who won CFL’s ‘Inspiring Creativity Through Arts and Culture’ award in 2020, have over the last threeyears offered us free tickets to their Christmas show held at Leeds Central Library. Obviously ‘the show must go on’ and it needed to be virtual! Their new online show HUMBUG was a huge success and we were able to purchase the show at the reduced rate of £3.50 (from £10) for one hundred of our families. Accompanying the online show was a special fact file package filled with artefacts and clues to try and find out who was responsible for ‘closing down’ Christmas!
“This was a brilliant activity for us to do with our 9 year old who’s looked after but also with our birth child who is 15 years old. They both entered into the spirit of it – making notes and sharing clues and ideas of ‘whodunnit’. We thoroughly enjoyed it and it was a bit of light relief for us after the year we’d had. It took our minds of my husband being well and truly on the front line nursing Covid patients. Thank you!” Foster carer feeding back re. HUMBUG
And here are just a few more of the thank you messages that we received from families and colleagues..
“A big thank you for the Christmas presents for the children of the care leavers I work with. The quality of the gifts were great, the young people were really appreciative and I was present when one of the children opened their gifts and they absolutely loved them. The mums were really grateful particularly as some of them couldn’t afford to buy the presents for their children that they would have liked.” Personal Advisor (PA) in the Leaving Care Team.
“We were able to gift to a family of four who are living with Nana after a really difficult year and nana was unable to buy any gifts. Thank you so much for helping our children feel less ‘the odd one out’ ”. Social Worker linked to Kinship Care
“S’s mum sent me a little video of her latest musical composition with the message below. She clearly loves her pink guitar as it was the first thing she said when we Facetimed her after Christmas. Mum said: ‘Don’t think she’s struggling with the weight of the guitar?! She loves it and we are very grateful – it was very generous.’ A big success I’d say!” Social Worker
“We have been able to bless a family of five (all under 10 years old) who, without your donations would have nothing to open. They were so excited!” Social Worker
“We would like to give you a big thank you from Shantona staff and the families, children and young people we support. Please give our thank you to all the people who donated the gifts and the gift cards which has made a difference put a smile on their faces in such trying times.” Shantona Women’s Centre
“We have four children that come to us on short breaks. The box had a torch in which the 16 year old boy used to take the dog for a walk. It had a glass mug and recipe to make microwave chocolate buns which the 14 year old girl enjoyed and it had lots of craft items with instructions which the 8 and 10 year old girls enjoyed making. All packaged in a lovely re-usable wooden box. Thank you very much.” Short Breaks Foster Carer for four children feeding back re. the Scout’s Festive Box
Child Friendly Leeds has many strands and one of these is ‘enrichment’. Our enrichment work focuses on supporting children and young people who are in the care of the local authority, and those who are leaving local authority care (care leavers) and working with partners to reach other children and young people to access a range of fun and meaningful opportunities that support their aspirations, learning and personal development.