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The Christmas Dinners campaign launched by Lemn Sissay is coming to Folkestone to ensure young care leavers are not alone on the big day


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Volunteers are staging a special festive party for young people who have recently left the care system and might spend Christmas alone.

Up to 50 youngsters aged 18-25 will be welcomed for a traditional yuletide meal at the bowls club in Radnor Park, Folkestone, on Christmas Day.

Poet Lemn Sissay OBE started the Christmas Dinners campaign in Manchester in 2013. Picture: Tim Stubbings/The Marlowe
Poet Lemn Sissay OBE started the Christmas Dinners campaign in Manchester in 2013. Picture: Tim Stubbings/The Marlowe

The event is being organised under the banner of The Christmas Dinners - a growing movement of people who want to ensure that young people who may have experienced a troubled upbringing are left to spend the big day alone.

There are still places available for the party, which will include a Christmas dinner and presents. A £2,000 grant from Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) has helped fund the meal along with smaller donations raised online.

Tom Wells, who is part of the group of volunteers arranging the Folkestone event, said: "More than 10,000 young adults leave the care system each year nationally, and up to 300 in Folkestone and Hythe.

"Many will have had difficult and disrupted childhoods, most with experience of trauma and abuse. Christmas can be a difficult time for them as they start out without a wider network.

"It's fantastic to have the support of FHDC and councillors. Putting on an event like this is complicated - to know the council is behind the volunteers makes a big difference. It will be an event Folkestone can be proud of and that the young care leavers will enjoy."

"No one should have to spend Christmas alone..."

The Christmas Dinners concept was created by poet and author Lemn Sissay OBE, who was himself in care as a child, and started in Manchester in 2013.

A guest speaker at Folkestone's 2019 Book Festival, he described his experiences in the care system in his memoir My Name is Why.

Cllr Jenny Hollingsbee, FHDC cabinet member for communities, said: "The dinner will be a very special celebration and one that the council is proud to be part of.

"No one should have to spend Christmas alone and this wonderful project - entirely organised and run by a dedicated team of volunteers - ensures that, for one day at least, some of our young care leavers will be in the company of others, having a magical time. I'm sure it will be a day they won't forget."

Any young care leavers in the district who would like to attend the dinner are asked to email thexmasdinnerfolkestone@gmail.com

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