Hello! Me again! (Lauren)…

Facing Christmas in refuge can be extremely difficult and upsetting for our clients, now more than ever due to COVID-19.

Living in a refuge can be really difficult, even more so when the holidays come around. Christmas is a time for families to be together but this can be difficult when you have moved miles away from friends and family in order to come into refuge. Some of those fleeing domestic abuse are fleeing their mothers, fathers, aunties, uncles, brothers, sisters etc. so can understandably feel even more isolated and lonely during the festive season.

In addition to this, moving into communal living can mean living with strangers and sharing kitchen spaces; this can be extremely frustrating and cause your surroundings to feel even less familiar. In order to keep our residents as safe as possible we have had to lock off all communal areas such as our playroom and living area in order to reduce the risk of possible infection meaning that a large group celebration is unfortunately not possible this year. Add in the recent further restrictions and let’s just say Christmas has been difficult in refuge this year!!

Therefore, it only seemed appropriate to try even harder this year to give our incredibly deserving client’s and the children a special Christmas!

Of course the families within refuge were involved in making the refuge look extremely Christmassy and we’re very proud of how amazing it looks this year, and our Christmas tree is one of the best if I do say so myself!

One of things we ran this year was a drawing competition, something we were able to run safely and also a lot of fun! The drawing competition involved drawing a monster Santa and had numerous requirements to be included! Take a look on the website to see some of the entries!

Usually our refuges are one of Santa’s first stops at Christmas but of course as travel is restricted he had to visit our families virtually. We were able to get Santa up on the big screen and ensured our families had some one on one time with Santa! He had even sent the children’s sack of present’s first class and ensured the refuge staff was on hand to give them out!

Of course inside the present sacks were toys and other bits specially picked out by Santa after receiving all of our children’s letters, the refuge staff made sure their letters to Santa were received at the North Pole.

Now of course Christmas in refuge would not be possible without the hard work, dedication and incredible generosity of the many people who donated to us for Christmas. We have all been overwhelmed with how many people got together to help us this year and we have been inundated with Christmas presents, food, Christmas accessories and so much more. Thanks to our donors all of our children have something to open on Christmas morning and have enough food to have a Christmas dinner with their family. Our incredible donors made sure no one was left out and every woman and child has been given presents this year. We were even able to gather the children one by one and have them pick out some presents to give to their mothers on Christmas morning, we supported them in picking out the presents and wrapping them up secretly so mum was none the wiser! Some of these children have never been able to provide their mum with a Christmas present so it was extremely moving to be able to give them this opportunity.

The Christmas accessories donated have also kept the kids busy this month with so much Christmas arts and crafts to go around! Due to closing off the communal areas the kids have been spending more and more time in their rooms so we’ve been very lucky to be able to provide them with creative bits and bobs to keep them occupied and it’s also a good opportunity for family time!

Something that has caused quite a stir in refuge is Elf on the Shelf!!!! We have a number of families in refuge participating and WOW has it been comical! The refuge staff has taken a liking to this mischievous, cheeky elf and we kind of don’t want him to leave! I know I speak on behalf of me and my colleague when I say our morning health and safety checks will never be the same when we aren’t looking out for Elfy! Take a look at some of the pictures on our website to see what he’s been up to!

My favourite Christmas activity this year has most definitely been our Christmas story, a couple of months ago we thought how amazing would it be if the refuge wrote their own Christmas story?? The kids in refuge were able to pick the name of the main character and so Porridge the Unicorn was created! The first stage of the story was written by refuge staff and then the families wishing to participate took it in turns to each add a chapter until the story was finished! We weren’t able to have our grand unveiling of the finished book but I have been able to voice record it and send it to the families via email to enjoy (move over JK Rowling please).

As mentioned previously, we have been overwhelmed with people’s generosity this year and wanted to do something special as a thank you. So this year one of our refuges decided to record a couple of Christmas songs and have these sent to our donors as a massive thank you. The clients in refuge were able to vote on what songs they wished to sing and in bubbles we were able to sing Jingle Bells, Merry Christmas Everyone and Santa Claus is coming to Town. These voice recordings were sent to our donors with a thank you note and they have gone down a treat!

So that’s Christmas in refuge for another year over and done with, let’s be honest, it’s been a difficult, frustrating, confusing, unpredictable journey, however it’s also been as Christmas always is; one of my all-time favourite times to work in refuge. I am a diehard Christmas fan and for me Christmas started November 15th!!! Personally I think my colleagues are glad to see the back of Christmas just so I stop belting out “Step into Christmas” at random times.

It’s one of the hardest times of year but also the absolute best, I’ve seen the clients experience the negative side effects COVID has, as surely so many of us have, however if there is one thing I’m proud to say about Safer Places it’s that no client will experience those lows alone, we’re there to help and support always, just as we are when it comes to celebrating the highs!

Wishing you a safe and happy Christmas with the hope that next year may be brighter for all of us, lots of love and best wishes from all of us at Safer Places.

Lauren x