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The volunteers helping to make this a special Christmas for care leavers in their community

The Christmas Dinners project founded by poet Lemn Sissay helps to support care leavers across the country by inviting them to a Christmas party or gifting food hampers.

Volunteers across the country will be spending Christmas cooking up a feast for care leavers in their communities.

The Christmas Dinners project was founded in 2013 by poet Lemn Sissay OBE, who grew up in the care system. The aim is give the youngsters a day they will never forget and each year local groups across the UK pull together to do just that.

In Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, the Action Transport Theatre team are currently fundraising for their fourth annual event. Like all of the projects, the pandemic means they’re having to do things a bit differently for a second year running.

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Thirty care leavers from across Cheshire will be given Christmas shopping vouchers, as well as food hampers based around recipes from a cookbook designed especially for care leavers and a slow cooker. Top chefs from across the area will also be filming tutorials on how to whip up the meals.

Jess Egan-Simon of Action Transport Theatre told The Big Issue: “We are a children and young people’s theatre company that wants to give young people a voice, especially if they’ve not had a voice before. So this really aligns with what we are trying to do.

“It brings the community together. We have so many people getting in touch saying they want to show their kids a different side of Christmas. To see Christmas is about helping others. I’ve got two kids, and for children who are lucky and privileged to know there are people out there who don’t have that is important.

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“I just say to them, ‘Can you just share mum for a bit? I’m going to be their family on the day’. If I’m not there for a few hours on Christmas Day it’s not the end of the world.”

Down in Folkestone, Kent, 15 youngsters aged 18 to 25 will be welcomed for a traditional Christmas dinner at a bowls club.

Organiser Tom Wells said he set up the project this year because he has two adopted children himself.

“It made me think what could have happened to my children had we not adopted them,” he told The Big Issue. “There are care leavers who do spend their whole childhood in the care system and come out of it with limited support around them.

“We’re going to put on a full day event with games, bingo, the meal and a quiz. We’ve been overwhelmed with offers of help so we’ll also be giving out food hampers and gifts.

“We want people to come along and enjoy themselves and go away feeling there are people who do appreciate them and care for them.

“Being where we are we are also hoping to get more unaccompanied asylum seeker children along – we have a few coming already. Having come from overseas they are likely to be on their own.”

Anyone who knows a care leaver or asylum seeking child who would like to attend the dinner can email thexmasdinnerfolkestone@gmail.com.

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