Young care leavers in Richmond will gather for a specially-arranged Christmas Day Dinner this year.
Founded by Lemn Sissay, official poet of the 2012 Olympic Games and a care leaver himself, the initiative ensures an extra special Christmas experience for care leavers aged 18-25.
The festivities will be feature a dinner, presents and Christmas cheer aplenty.
Sian Thomas, the nurse leading this year’s Richmond Christmas Day Dinner, said: “There is no pressure on guests to be anything other than what they are on the day; happy, sad, melancholy as we understand that Christmas can evoke emotional feelings in everyone.”
Now in its fourth year and returning to London for the second time, the project has proved a great success in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Oxford and solely relies upon the dedication of volunteers and donations.
Upon leaving the care system, many young people are faced with the harsh prospect of spending Christmas alone at a time which can often hold negative associations for some.
In the true spirit of the season, the Christmas Day Dinner aims to ‘create new memories and bring people together as one ‘family’.’
Resources throughout South London have been mobilised with locals and businesses donating food, services and presents to the cause.
Ms Thomas said: “One of the key things we need is presents for these young adults. Many here never had presents at Christmas before so we are appealing to local business to provide these presents, especially ones that have that ‘wow’ effect.”
Adriana Thomas, who has worked with care leavers for the past eight years and is volunteering at this year’s event, said: “Christmas is such a family time and through no fault of their own many are denied this experience.
“Every day since I started volunteering I’ve been blown away by the continuous flow of kind gestures and contributions from our wonderful community. It feels like an incredible thing to be part of.”
Twickenham MP Vince Cable, who will also be in attendance on the big day, has shared his praise for the initiative and urged others to volunteer or donate if possible.
He said: “I am delighted to be able to spend part of Christmas Day with 50 of the Borough’s care leavers. These young people have a lot to contribute to society but do not have the family support networks most of us do.”