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Kind-hearted volunteers get into the Christmas spirit to bring joy to young care leavers

Kind-hearted volunteers get into the Christmas spirit to bring joy to young care leavers

Teenagers and young people who grew up in the care system and are facing a lonely Christmas on their own are set to receive some festive cheer thanks to dozens of kind-hearted volunteers.

Around 200 16 to 25-year-olds, who all live independently in homes across Derbyshire and Staffordshire, are all set to receive Christmas hampers packed with goodies and delivered to their doors, along with an individually handwritten Christmas card.

The hampers and cards have been prepared by members of Derbyshire Freemasons, who give up their time every year to ensure that the young people, who grew up in care homes or with foster carers, enjoy some Christmas cheer.

The majority of them are now too old to be in care and so live on their own across both counties, meaning that they have no family to spend Christmas Day with and are often socially isolated.

In previous years the masons have hosted a large Christmas party for them in the days leading up to the day itself, laying on a three-course meal, singing and games after bringing them on minibuses from across East Staffordshire and South Derbyshire to the Ashfield House freemason hall in Burton.

The COVID lockdown meant that last year’s event had to be cancelled, but it was replaced with donations of hampers which were individually packed at Ashfield Hall and sent out to their homes instead.

The continuing pandemic has meant that volunteers will be sending out hampers again this year, with the contents of the giftboxes including biscuits, chocolates, gift vouchers and even a small teddy-bear each.

The Christmas lunch was originally the brainchild of Trandeep Sethi, the district leader for children’s services for South Staffordshire at Staffordshire County Council, who realised how children who had left the council’s care programme and had been found new homes were particularly lonely and isolated at Christmas.

He approached the masons to ask for permission to prepare a Christmas meal at Ashfield Hall, only for the masons to step in and organise everything for him.

Among them was Malcolm Prentice, a member of the lodge and the managing director of Swadlincote-based MTMS, who has continued to support the cause for every year, including raising funds and asking for donations.

Thanks to his and everyone’s efforts, the lunches grew from meals for 30 young people to 120 and more hampers will be sent out this year compared to last.

Trandeep said:

“So many people take it for granted that they will see friends and family at Christmas and there will be cards and presents and a big turkey meal for everyone to share.

“That isn’t the case for children who have left the care system, many of who have complex issues and no family or social network to support them and can really struggle at this time of year.

“The lunches and the hampers make a huge difference to their lives because it makes them feel that they are not forgotten, and we are so grateful to Malcolm and everybody else for giving up their time to support us.”

Malcolm said:

“All of the young people we help have been brought up in care having started their lives in extremely difficult circumstances, and now they are having to fend for themselves, and all through no fault of their own.

“The lunches were a wonderful way to bring them all together and it was heart-breaking to hear one child say that they were saving opening their Christmas card until Christmas Day because it was the only card that they’d received.

“I’m passionate about making sure that they don’t feel alone at Christmas and although it’s a huge pity that we can’t host our lunch party again this year, we’re determined that these hampers will make a difference to their lives, even if it’s just for one day.”

You can donate to the Christmas Hope hamper appeal by visiting

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