Case study: The Christmas Dinners

The last article before Christmas is about, well, Christmas. It’s a great story so we make no apologies. It has been told before but is worth telling again.

Lemn Sissay is an amazing person – poet, champion of care leavers, children’s rights activist and chancellor of University of Manchester. But he is possibly best known as the instigator of The Christmas Dinner.

Originally held in Manchester in 2013, this year sees Christmas Dinners in Manchester, Leeds, London, Liverpool and Oxford. As a care leaver himself, Mr Sissay recognised the loneliness of Christmas for those without a family. His early Christmas memories of Christmas were of empty children’s homes with staff who don’t want to be there. On leaving care, Christmas reinforces the realisation that you do not have one. He put together 12 professionals, joined Crowdfunder to raise money and pledges, enrolled other supporters and a Christmas dinner for 45 care leavers aged 18-30 was held that year.

In a BBC interview last year, he said “At its most simple the Christmas dinner offers a memory so next year the person can look back and think I was worth something then.”

Mr Sissay epitomises Ideas Hub ethos of celebration of people’s strengths and experiences. He has written and spoken eloquently about why care leavers are amazing people who have survived against the odds. In his TED talk he highlights that literature is full of examples of children and adults who are orphaned, fostered and adopted; they are the heroes – think of Cinderella, Superman, Harry Potter. Yet, he wonders, why do many parentless children feel compelled to hide their pasts and why as a society we do not make the connection and respect and revere real children with similar stories.

Mr Sissay credits his inspiration for The Christmas Dinner as The Tope Project, a volunteer youth led project to combat loneliness in care-experienced young people. We recommend you treat yourselves to this and other links and learn more about these wonderful people – for Christmas.

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