Toy appeal: Thank you for making them smile

Neil Pickford and co-ordinator Jeanette Walsh with some of the toys
Neil Pickford and co-ordinator Jeanette Walsh with some of the toys
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In the weeks leading up to Christmas generous Northants Telegraph readers backed our annual Gift Appeal and donated hundreds of presents which were then distributed to those in need across the county.

Here, a teenager who benefited and social workers share their stories and report back on what a difference the appeal made to the people they work with.

TEENAGER’S STORY

I was 16 years old when my Mum took me down to the local authority. She said that she just couldn’t cope with me anymore - she left me there and walked away. I was confused because I was just like any other 16-year-old.

Now that I am 19, I can look back and admit I wouldn’t always listen to my mum and I would back chat but I never in a million years think she would split me up from my family and “dump” me. I got put in emergency accommodation that night, which was horrible. I felt alone, scared and lost, not knowing if I was going to see my family again. I was sorry – I just didn’t know what to do.

I then got moved into semi- independent support with other kids my age. There was staff there. It was weird for a very long time and I struggled to settle. It was never home!

I was in contact with my family but couldn’t be with them. When I was 18 I moved in to my own tenancy. It was really hard to get used to having no-one around me. I have been there a year now and I still find it very hard.

I don’t really have any support from anyone - friends or family. Luckily I have a good personal advisor from The Leaving Care Team to guide me and cheer me up – and take me for hot chocolate at Waitrose.

As you can imagine, Christmas is a very sensitive time of the year for me. In fact I really struggle with it.

I was so happy when my personal adviser came to my flat with Christmas presents and a food hamper.

That was the only thing that made me smile that whole month. It came at a good time because I am not the greatest with money and didn’t have much food put away for Christmas time.

The presents were great. Thank you to everyone that helped me have a Christmas.

SOCIAL WORKER’S STORY

I’m an agency/independent social worker, so I get to work in many authorities.

First of all, I’d like to say how amazed I have been at the sheer number and quality of the donations here in Northamptonshire, as compared with some of the others – where Christmas donations can sometimes be very sparse indeed.

I have a lady who has experienced appalling domestic violence; she recently had to move to get away, yet again, from her ex-partner who is still hassling her – so she has had to borrow money to try to make the new home nice for her two boys who are five and seven, and have seen, as you might imagine, far too much in their short lives.

So there was pretty much nothing left over to even think about buying a few bits for the children for Christmas.

When I brought her a big bag of goodies for the boys, she just stared for a moment and tears came into her eyes.

She asked: “Who’s done this, who’s given this?”

I explained that we have had lots of things really kindly donated and we can pick out and put by stuff for the children and young people we work with.

She grabbed my hand and replied: “That’s so amazing; can you tell them, thank you so much.”

I promised I would – so I am doing!

I think sometimes we all get a bit overwhelmed with all the so-called commercialisation that surrounds Christmas – but it’s when I get this kind of heartfelt gratitude, that it makes me stop and think how grateful I am too, for all that has been given so freely.

It’s hard to do social work at the best of times, and fighting the poverty that so many of our families have to deal with as a way of life – well, when you can bring a bit of joy to a family, it really helps.

SOCIAL WORKER’S STORY

This is just to provide you with some feedback regarding one of the families I have been working with, and the child involved was given a few small gifts from the array which was kindly donated.

The family involved were a mother and son aged four, recently moved from a refuge into temporary accommodation.

This family unit did not have many personal possessions and virtually NO toys at all for the little boy.

Sadly, due to the erratic lifestyle, the little boy became “looked after” shortly before Christmas.

The mother claims that the gifts she had purchased for the little boy had been stolen.

He was given a set of cars and a car mat.

This was given during a Christmas Eve contact session I supervised with them.

I will never forget the look of happiness and excitment at receiving this wrapped gift.

It provided me with the opportunity to get down and play with him, and to demonstrate to his mum on how to play with him appropriately at his level.

He has limited speech, but his comprehension is fine.
He clearly loved this time with his mum, and similarly his mum seemed to appreciate the time with the little boy – something I have not witnessed before!

SOCIAL WORKER’S STORY

I have a single parent mother with two children who is being evicted and had no money for Christmas for her children. I was able to give her gifts for the children for her to give to the children Christmas day. When I gave her the gifts she fell against the wall and began to cry as she was overwhelmed by people’s generosity.

I have worked in the care sector for over 15 years and I have never witnessed such amazing support, of which the young people/children within have received around Christmas due to the generosity of such special people. I would personally like to thank all who donated. Thank you for ensuring that my most needy cases received a little something over Christmas.

Many of my young people have no family network to spend Christmas with and more often than not struggle to receive gifts, so from the bottom of my heart I need to express my genuine gratitude as you all have made a difference.

The children I am working with feel very special and parents are over the moon with the help and happy their children have lots of presents to open and no longer are ‘different’ from their peers. Thank you to the donators for the tremendous generosity which is greatly appreciated by the children.

Many of my young people were overwhelmed that complete strangers would think of them and would be happy to buy that extra gift. The feedback I received was so positive.

On behalf of every one of my 21 cases I would like to thank you for your support with all your hard work and donations. The smiles and their gratitude were tremendous so well done you and keep up the good work  

I delivered presents to a 15- year-old girl and eight-year-old boy who have been through horrific experiences. A tiny gift seems so small given what they have been through, but has made a massive difference. The little boy said he felt all warm when he got a present, it made him feel loved.

One of the families I delivered to has no heating due to the cost and Christmas presents was at the bottom of the priority list until the donations came. Parents will be wrapping these as a surprise but cannot be grateful enough. It’s a shame the donators can’t be there to see the reactions of the children.

The presents I’ve delivered are the only sign of Christmas in the house and the smiles on their faces are smiles that I have never seen in the three months I have been working with the children.