Christmas is a bittersweet time of year. People long to spend time with loved ones, eat lots of food and even give and receive gifts! While many people do get to experience these joys of Christmas, there are many people who do not.
For as long as I can remember, until I was around 20 years of age, every single Christmas was a disaster. From drunken family arguments and tears to domestic violence and visits from the police, there was never a 'dull' year, just a disappointing one. I received a purple toothbrush for Christmas when I was 9 years old, while friends were receiving toys, games and cool clothing. I didn't even long to receive these things, what I longed for was a connected family who could spend a 'normal' Christmas together.
Now as a young 22 year old woman and over the past few years of the beginning of my adulthood, I have been doing what I can to help my community. I had been tutoring for about 6-7 years now and I had around 30 students for the year of 2019. What started with an idea for my own students, blossomed into a beautiful gesture that was appreciated by those who really needed it.
To celebrate all of my students hard work over 2019, I wanted to host a picnic for them and their families. I had tried to organise it for a few months and I had very little luck due to the hectic time of year that it was. I decided that even though only two students were able to come, that I still wanted to run this picnic. So, I made it public.
I made a post on Everything Sutherland Shire to advertise that I was having a community picnic and that anyone was welcome to attend as I wanted to bring my community together for Christmas time. I decided to take it a step further:
"I'm currently a tutor in the Shire, and in addition to my standard students, I work with lots of vulnerable kids or kids doing it tough. I grew up in foster care, moving from home to home and understand what it is like to have nothing at Christmas time. As a young child, I remember only receiving a purple toothbrush for Christmas, and even as a seventeen year old only receiving the *free* plastic P plates that you get from RMS. Long story short, I really want to help! I can't do a great deal, but I have been making lots of Christmas packs (not super exciting, but just an extra couple of little goodies that might make a difference this Christmas.) I have a couple of notes:
- if you know of a young person who might be in a struggling family this Christmas, and you'd like to nominate them for a gift, send me a message. Obviously I can only do what I can, so no guarantees.
- on Monday 23rd of December, at 3:30pm, come down to South Village park (the huge oval at South Village Kirrawee) for a picnic. Bring your picnic blankets, cushions etc, some snacks etc and let's all spend time together as a community. IF you are in a position to, bring a gift for a young person (just something simple), wrap it and write on the tag the age group and gender that it's most suitable for (I.e. girl, aged 5-7 etc)! Alternatively, leave them unwrapped. I will distribute to nominated kids and any left over will be donated to kids in hospital or any organisations that can pass them on.
If you'd like to support my facebook page, feel free to give it a follow, I plan to regularly organise things for my students and the public in 2020. Future Leaders Let's make sure no one in our community goes without this Christmas"
I was quickly inundated with messages of support offering donations of food, clothing, toys, games. books, school supplies, water and food for the picnic, live music for the picnic, monetary donations and so much more. I was also flooded with recommendations of families that could do with an extra hand. My post above received over 250 likes and 45 comments.
Thanks to the support of the community, I was able to make a gift PACK for boys and girls aged 0-18. Watch the video below for perspective!
We delivered to multiple families around the Sutherland Shire and their appreciation was endless. We had families who would have otherwise had nothing, be absolutely spoiled with gifts. One mother told me that she was unable to buy her kids gifts this Christmas as they were overwhelmed with court fees while trying to fight for full custody after years of abuse and violence. Their smiles were priceless.
We had quite a few left over packs. It was now Christmas Eve, and I wasn't sure where they were going to go. I called up Police Stations, Foster care agencies and Fire Brigades (this was during the middle of the bushfire season) and there were all already flooded with donations and were unable to accept any more. It was one Women's Shelter in Sydney's Inner West that needed it most. They had multiple women with children, and weren't able to provide them with much extra for Christmas.
My housemate Taylah and my partner James and I spent lots of Christmas Eve wrapping and labelling the gifts. James and I drove out there on Christmas morning to drop them all off. We were greeted with a wave of grateful tears from the volunteers who run the shelter. 'You have no idea the impact you have just made'.
James and I drove away with a feeling that I honestly can't describe. 'Can we please do this again next year?'
We had not just delivered some presents. What we had done was indirectly told these families and children that they were loved and cared about, and deserving of something at Christmas. THAT is a gift that will keep on giving, and the real 'gift' behind a gift.