Áine Rose Kelly is a DPhil student at Green Templeton College and the Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education. She is also a Wellcome Trust Scholar. Having grown up in the UK care system, Áine is passionate about improving health outcomes for children and young people in care, with an aim to influence knowledge and training. This year, Áine has set up the Families in Need 2021 initiative to support those facing financial difficulty this Christmas.
Supporting those most in need
I have been shocked by the sheer number of families who are experiencing significant financial difficulties and who are worried about how they will feed their children over Christmas, while ensuring they have a gift from Santa. After speaking to a mother who was in tears because she was worried about providing for her children over Christmas, I offered to send out five Christmas Eve boxes, only to then receive nominations for over 200 children within 20 minutes of my offer. We are now up to over 400 children who are all over the UK, with around a further 200 children on a wait list.
Many families have opened up to me about their struggles. Some parents have fled domestic violence, others have had to stop working due to illness or have a child who is seriously unwell, who has a long-term disability or complex health needs. Some have had to unexpectedly take on the responsibility of extended family and most have been hit hard by the withdrawal of the extra £20 a week in Universal Credit.
What children can hope for
I have heard so many stories about these children seeing their friends receive fancy gifts from Santa and believing that they are ‘naughty’ or that Santa does not like them because he did not bring them the same things (even when parents try and offer explanations). Or even that Santa must have forgotten about them. I have also been told that some of the teens on my list have stated that they do not want anything for Christmas because they are already aware of how much their parent(s) are struggling. Those teens with younger siblings have even told their parents not to worry about them and to focus on their siblings instead.
The aim of the project
I want every child on my list to experience the magic of Christmas and so I am creating a Christmas Eve box for children to receive that will include a letter from Santa and a number of activities and presents personalised to each child.
Supporting the Christmas Eve boxes