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Annual care leavers Christmas dinner needs donations for socially-distanced celebration

PUBLISHED: 17:02 02 November 2020 | UPDATED: 17:53 06 November 2020

Last years Hackney Christmas Dinner for care leavers. Picture: Andrew Leo Photography

Last years Hackney Christmas Dinner for care leavers. Picture: Andrew Leo Photography

Andrew Leo Photography

A Hackney project is looking to make its annual care leavers Christmas dinner extra special by gifting donated laptops and tablets.

This year each care leaver will be getting an individual gift and food package. Picture: Andrew Leo PhotographyThis year each care leaver will be getting an individual gift and food package. Picture: Andrew Leo Photography

For the last five years, Hackney Christmas Dinner has brought together 50 young care leavers for a Christmas Day celebration, providing them with presents, food and company.

This year, however, the project’s volunteers have had to think of a socially-distanced way of celebrating due to the coroanvirus crisis.

They wish to provide care leavers with laptops or tablets and data packages so they can stay connected over the festive period.

READ MORE: Help give young Hackney Care leavers a great Christmas day this year

Last year, care leavers had dinner together, took part in activities and, each received a Madlug backpack and other girfts. Picture: Andrew Leo PhotographyLast year, care leavers had dinner together, took part in activities and, each received a Madlug backpack and other girfts. Picture: Andrew Leo Photography

“Christmas was the most difficult time of the year, because it was a reminder of everything I’d never had,” said poet and Hackney resident Lemn Sissay, who set up the project having grown up in the care system.

“The Christmas Dinner is about our community coming together to help a young person have a wonderful day and a memory that they can look back at the next year and know that it was a good memory.

“We offer warmth, laughter and joy.”

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The event is organised by a dedicated team of volunteers who begin planning in early autumn.

This year, organisers have been met with the added challenge of bringing people together at a distance, deciding to deliver each care leaver with an individual gift and food package to be enjoyed along with activities and personal connections online.

READ MORE: Lemn Sissay’s Hackney Christmas Dinner for care leavers: ‘It’s about respect’

Volunteer Naomi DePeza, who is responsible for the Hackney Christmas Dinner theme and design, told the Gazette: “The important switch this year has to be moving the focus away from the physical decorations and instead creating an equally beautiful ‘event’ in a box.

The dinner usually has about 50 care leavers come together to share a big Christmas meal, then play games and take part in activities like hair and nail salons. Picture: Andrew Leo PhotographyThe dinner usually has about 50 care leavers come together to share a big Christmas meal, then play games and take part in activities like hair and nail salons. Picture: Andrew Leo Photography

“The vision is of each person opening up their box on Christmas Day and being thrilled by the personal touch of exquisitely chosen gifts wrapped beautifully for them to enjoy.”

The initiative is asking businesses to donate new laptops, tablets and wifi dongles. It is also in need of drivers, fundraisers, gift experts and entertainers.

To help out, contact hackneyxmasvolunteers@gmail.com

To donate, click here .

The Hackney Christmas Dinner initiative was set up by poet and Hackney resident who grew up in the UK care system. Picture: Andrew Leo PhotographyThe Hackney Christmas Dinner initiative was set up by poet and Hackney resident who grew up in the UK care system. Picture: Andrew Leo Photography

Follow Hackney Christmas Dinner @HackneyChristmasDinner on Facebook and @xmas_dinner on Twitter.


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