Send a message of hope and postivity
Ordinarily, CHICKS’ retreats would be filled with children and young people from far and wide,…Read more
Most children in the UK couldn’t imagine a Christmas that wasn’t spent with their family in a warm home, with a stocking at the end of their bed and presents under the tree. Sadly, many of the children referred to CHICKS can only dream of a Christmas like this. The reality of their lives is hardship: crowded temporary accommodation, reliance on food banks and no money for electricity or school shoes, let alone luxuries like Christmas food and presents.
At Christmas, we open our doors and invite children who have some of the most desperate home lives to spend this special time of year with us. This year, for the first time in our history, they’re coming to our Daleside Retreat in Fenny Bentley, Derbyshire.
In this series of stories first published by the Ashbourne News Telegraph, read how CHICKS will make Christmas wishes come true this year and how you can be part of the magic. In the first of our series meet Adam, who has given up two of his own family Christmases to volunteer with children at CHICKS.
Adam, left, with other volunteers on last year's Christmas break
"Growing up, Christmas always meant plenty of presents, plenty of food, and plenty of family time. As I grew up and moved away, I would still try and see my family at Christmas, and whilst the presents became smaller, there was still just as much food to eat! I then found myself working more and more Christmases, and it wasn’t until my nephews were born that the magic of Christmas began to return to my family.
"Christmas should be a cliché; it should be too much food, The Snowman on TV, presents everywhere and wrapping paper piled high, eating a box of Quality Streets half an hour before a huge Christmas dinner and having food left over for days after. Children should be excited about Christmas for these reasons and many more, and it’s a particularly sad reflection on our world today when this isn’t a possibility for many.
"I had never imagined anyone else’s childhood or Christmas to be any different to mine growing up. I began volunteering for CHICKS in 2011 and my eyes were quickly opened to the huge difference in children’s situations.
"Although as a volunteer you are not briefed on the specifics of a child’s background, during the week things may come out in conversations with them – like the child who’s dad had asked for them to come to CHICKS for Christmas as he could not afford to buy them any presents, or the child whose siblings were being adopted away from their foster home while they were away.
"Going on a CHICKS break gives these children the chance to be away from whatever is going on at home, and I could only have imagined then what a difference a Christmas at CHICKS could mean to these children.
Children enjoying their Christmas presents at CHICKS
"I was very excited when I first found myself in the situation to apply to volunteer for a CHICKS Christmas break. It is a feeling like no other. From explaining to your family why you won’t be with them to celebrate Christmas, having their full support for what you’re doing, then the magic of arriving at the CHICKS retreat and seeing the children’s faces when they find it converted into a winter wonderland!
"The children throw themselves into every activity, whether it’s cheering along with a panto, wobbling around an ice-skating rink for the first time, waiting patiently for their turn to open a present or wearing their Christmas cracker hat over a feast on Christmas Day.
"The magic of Christmas is sometimes tinged with the reminder of what Christmas may have been for these children. From the girl who wanted to keep the wrapping paper as it was part of her presents, to the girl who celebrated her birthday on Boxing Day and cried when she saw her cake. These moments act as a stark reminder of the situations in which many children and their families find themselves at this time of year.
"My Christmas at CHICKS was everything I expected it to be and more – a Christmas filled with presents, food, laughter and enjoyment."
Give a child the best gift they could have wished for in 2019. Call 01822 811020 to refer them to the CHICKS Christmas break, or make a donation by visiting www.chicks.org.uk/christmas. Thank you for helping to make this Christmas the best ever.