Wish it could be Christmas Everyday?

December 9, 2009

As I am sitting on my sofa this evening, looking at my wonderfully decorated Christmas tree, sipping a glass of red and chilling out, I find I can not quite settle.

It is only 16 sleeps until Santa and yet, I wonder if I have to resign myself to the fact that the majority of the young people for whom I am the corporate parent, will not be ‘having themselves a merry little Christmas’, they will probably be feeling more isolated, more lonely and more vulnerable than they do for the rest of the year- and that’s saying something.

I decided in September that I was not going to allow Christmas to be as bleak as it was last year for the kids my colleagues and I work with. Last year we received a few gifts from a lovely local Church. It was very generous of them really but many of the gifts were totally inappropriate, poorly wrapped and came in on around the 22nd December, way to late for us to plan who would benefit and how they’d be delivered etc. As I am constantly saying, they wouldn’t have been good enough for my kids, not good enough for yours so WHY did we think they were good enough for these kids?

I am not being ungrateful but, I work with these young people, I have the privilege of getting to know them- hearing what they like, what they enjoy, what they think.
I should be able to spare the time (but can’t) and our service should be able to spare the cash (but can’t) to give them a thoughtful Christmas gift that they will appreciate.

I wrote a letter to around 30 local companies and so far have had back…
£10 from Tescos
2 cinema tickets
A radio
and lots of sorry letters….

I really want to make these (260) kids feel valued, loved and appreciated, especially at Christmas- want to help?

Great stuff- it’s not too late!!

I know that Christmas is a busy and stressful time of year for everyone so, this year more than most given the economic climate so, if you are too busy or too skint please don’t worry about it- just please don’t be offended that I have asked.

Eagle radio have offered to donate some gifts to us from their toy appeal but they very rarely get gifts for teenagers or young adults and with 260 on our books we could do with some help!

There are several different ways that you can donate a gift or some money:

1) let me know that you’d like to be involved and I will come and collect your donation at a convenient time and place.
2) drop a gift in to any of Surreys librarys- it is best to bag it and mark the age group- THE YOUNG PEOPLE WE SUPPORT ARE 18-24 OR MARK IT CORBYSAYS
3) Post a store card- (light, easy find and cheap to post) to Eagle Radio: 96.4 Eagle Radio, Dolphin House, North Street, Guildford GU1 4AA
4) Click here to see where else gifts can be dropped off.
5) Tell others about this if you feel it is appropriate.

Following my last post I have had several replies- sometimes from the most unlikely sources. I have been so touched that people have taken the time to consider what gifts a young person would like, go out and get them and then deliver them- THANK YOU.

I am so looking forward to delivering these pressies to the kids on the 21st- it will make their day and I will be sure to tell you all about that too.

Have a great day 😉




The not so big idea:

October 10, 2009

After my blog post the other day I had so much really helpful feedback and encouragement (thanks for that all you tweeters) that I was really fired up and inspired.

I had a brain storm with some friends and we came up with the following:

Charity Secret Santa.

The idea is simple; myself and the other PA’s from the service will write a brief description of each of the young people on our case load- for example:

JOE BLOGGS is a 20 year old male who has been in care for several years. He enjoys playing football and is a huge fan of his local club. He has just started a 16 week short course in ICT and his long term ambition is to be a chef (he is already very good!)
He lives in his own flat and likes to wear fashionable clothes and trainers. Joe is a cheeky lad who has previously had issues with drugs and alcohol but is now accessing our drug service and is doing well at reducing his use. Joe has low self esteem which he covers up when nervous by acting like he doesn’t care but, having known him for over a year now I can see at least some of his insecurities and work on those with him.

Then, charitable, kind people, like your goodselves, will buy a gift for one of these care leavers based on what you know about them, I will collect them- or something (this is still under consideration based on the postal strike and so on) and they will be delivered by the PA’s to the young people who will, I am sure, have a happier Christmas as a result. I also believe that this secret santa will help the young people who receive the presents to feel more connected to society which can only be a good thing can’t it?

Just to give you a couple of Christmas stats;
Research from The Children’s Mutual found that 41 per cent of toys and presents given to children at Christmas are broken by March, with children on average receiving 10 presents in addition to those provided by their parents.
Research by LloydsTSB Insurance found that the average child owns £1,720 of toys in their bedroom and 90 per cent of parents who were questioned in December 2007 said they were planning to spend up to £500 on their children at Christmas.

Surely we can all spare some time and money to buy for one more?

If I was geeky enough, I would be able to create a virtual Christmas tree where the details of each of our young people would be visable when you clicked on a lovely sparkly Christmas decoration and then, once you had bought their gift, their details would be removed from the tree so there wasn’t the issue of duplicate gifts for some young people and others potentially left without presents.
Sadly, I am not that clever so, I can only think of two ways around this at the moment (any suggestions or offers of help from geeks would be very much appreciated)

1) create a real Christmas tree, or Christmas trees, at various locations, most likely company offices or government haunts, or Adams Street (though I haven’t asked them yet) for example, with all the necessary details on real sparkly decorations on the tree, then arrange an evening for me to come back and collect all the gifts to distribute. (I like this idea as it allows me to meet and thank the people who have helped to make this happen- plus possibly share a glass of sessional vino with them!!)

2) Create a real list on a blog and then ask people to comment when they have selected a young person- this is a rubbish idea as the blog would have to be of biblical length in the first place and then reading everyones comments to see which young people had been bought for would be very dull, time consuming and off putting!!

So, the bones of the idea are here and I am really so grateful that so many people have been on board with this already- YEY- THANK YOU!

Home work for you now is as follows:

· Start thinking about if your offices would like a real Secret Santa Christmas tree- and then let me know
· Start thinking about what sort of gift you might buy for ‘your young person’
· Start thinking about how I can improve on this idea- obviously, if you’re a geek your ideas are particularly welcome!!
· Most importantly, tell people and comment, comment, comment.

Thanks so much, this WILL make a difference 🙂

Lots of love



In which I learn that being alive ain’t the same as living.

October 6, 2009

Thought for the day…Why are we here? What does living mean to you?

Living to me means loving and feeling that I am loved. Feeling that I am able to connect with others and able to build and enjoy supportive relationships.

Is just ‘being alive’ the same thing?

Last week a lady very close to my heart had a stroke. She is very poorly, slipping in and out of consciousness and heavily medicated. Her family worried sick and are all rallying round visiting the hospital as often as they can.
She is alive and that is something, there have been some signs of improvement but there is nothing that we can do to help her and I find this very hard to deal with.

In comparison I have been really lucky this week to share a lovely evening on Friday with my gorgeous friend Emma Mulqueeny and her fantastic girlies chatting and catching up (something that we must do more often by the way Em). Today I had a scrummy improptu lunch with the dynamic and inspirational Pipa Vanderburg and it really made me appreciate my lot for once.

Both of these examples are about the quality of peoples lives and it has lead me to think even more about the quality of lives that young care leavers have in comparison to you or I and this leads to today’s rant…

This time in 80 days most of us will be chillaxing on the sofa following a lovely dinner (I am particularly looking forward to my mums smoked salmon starter and a luscious trifle pudding) we’ll probably be feeling a little bit sleepy, a little bit tipsy and a little bit spoilt.
That’s right guys and gals…only 80 days until Christmas! Usually a time for family and friends spending time together- the olds will want silence for the Queens speech, the teenagers will be wishing that they were allowed to go out and freeze somewhere with some mates and the rest of us might get a bit of cabin fever at some stage but, that’s life hey- making links with people and laughing about your annoying family foibles with your friends.

For hundreds of care leavers, elderly people and other vulnerable or lonely people in the UK this won’t be the Christmas that they experience. Feeling isolated and different from the rest of society to me doesn’t feel much like living- do you know what I mean? And, feeling like that can lead people to make silly decisions which can have an impact long after we’ve finished the last of the turkey sandwiches.

With that in mind I have been thinking about my brood- the 25 young care leavers that I work with.
Unbelievably and unfortunately we don’t have any cash in our annual budget for Christmas presents for our young people. Whilst day-to-day I am really proud of many of the things that our charity accomplishes, it makes me really sad to think that young care leavers and other vulnerable people in the UK might spend Christmas without a few thoughtful gifts to open.

Last year we were reliant on donations from local Churches- they were very generous but, to me, a gift is something that has taken time to choose, it shows that you have thought of the recipient and it is something that they can use or get pleasure from.

Don’t get me wrong-I know that life is not about stuff, but, if you don’t have much, knowing that someone has taken time and thought of you it is really big, touching gesture.
I want the young people I work with to know that they’re not just ‘my job’, I want them to know that I listen to them and take an interest in what they do and enjoy and aspire to become.
I wish I could dedicate more time supporting each of them- but that is a bigger issue to do with more staff, more funding and more lobbying the government. Giving a gift seems a much more manageable task which can have positive results in the immediate term.

I have been on two visits today and they were both really great. Both of the girls I saw are doing their best to better themselves and are making some really tough choices in order to do that.
One of them- lets call her Zoë, has spent the last two years weaning herself off drugs and completing courses in English and Maths. I am so proud of her, she is now in independent accommodation and has a job! AMAZING!! I would really like to get her some soft furnishings and so on for her flat which she is saving up to decorate but…there is no guarantee that anything like that will be donated by local Churches this year and I feel very uncomfortable requesting exact items from people who are giving these items out of the goodness of their hearts.
The other one, lets call her Marie, is FINALLY accessing counselling and dealing with some of the traumas of her past. Yes she was waiting too long (but that’s another blog) but now she is moving forward and trying to make positive decisions. Marie is big into reading and music so I want to get her a few good books and perhaps educate her away from happy hard core!!

I have another 23 examples of this;
A lad who is a fab artist but has no pencils
A girl who has recently lost over 4 stone and wants some new clothes!
A guy who is an excellent cook with no utensils
A young mum who never has cash for new make up.

Get the picture?
Multiply this by 10 and you get the picture for Surrey, multiply this by a further 85 and you will get the average figure for care leavers in the UK.

The Every Child Matters Agenda aims to support all children, not just care leavers, to:

Be Healthy
Stay Safe
Enjoy and Achieve
Make a positive contribution
Achieve economic well being

I believe that a gift could go some way to achieving some of the above targets;
young people would feel listened to and valued which would help to boost their self esteem and have a positive impact on their mental health- helping them to be healthy and to stay safe. Thoughtful gifts give people some enjoyment– we hope, and I believe that by us professionals taking the time and effort to do this young people will feel more positive about the system that they find themselves in and might, in time, want to do a similar thing and, in turn, make a positive contribution to the society that they live in;

SO…what do you reckon?

Worth a go hey- could help more people feel like they are really living?


Corby! x

OH…PS: Don’t ask me to raise this with work…I already have and they said that I can only approach local branches of companies…all local branches that were approached told me to contact Head Office direct! Answers on a post card please- I only have 78 days to sort this out 🙂

How many kids have you got?

July 21, 2009

As you can see I haven’t blogged for a while but, it is tough to fit everything in when you’re a parent to 20 kids.

Alright; I’m ‘only’ a corporate parent, and they are over 18, and they don’t actually live with me (actually lots of them are only those faceless scallies that you see on the street that’ll never amount to anything and people cross over the road to avoid) but- THEY ARE MY RESPONSIBILITY.

Do you have kids?
What are they like?
What would you do to stop them feeling pain, committing a crime, becoming homeless, going to prison.
I bet you’d walk over hot coals- I would.

I only met my kids when they turned 18 and I can actually only be their parent until they’re 21 (or in the unlikely event that they do continue in education, until they’re 24) and, to be totally honest I am actually only legally obliged to see them once every 12 weeks- 4 TIMES PER YEAR. Yeah, that’s right government…that’ll be enough to keep them on the straight and narrow,
get them into education or a work placement,
help them to find independent accommodation in the borough that they WANT to live in, not the only one that’ll agree to take responsibility for them,
make them genuinely believe that they are worth something
and they can achieve
and they do deserve better
and to deal with any of the other day to day issues that they might be struggling with over these three years.

The governments Every Child Matters agenda states that all young people deserve the following:
To be healthy
To be safe
To enjoy and achieve
To make a positive contribution
To achieve economic well-being

I agree whole heartedly with these objectives, but I don’t think that they can be properly and fully achieved in just 3 years.

· I think that any young person needs a stable home, preferably their own family but, if not, then a long term, stable loving, foster placement. Not like one of my kids who can list well over 20 placements that she’s had in the last 10 years (she’s now 20)
· I think that I think that any young person deserves to feel healthy and safe, to have the knowledge and understanding of what will keep them safe, mentally, emotionally, sexually, physically. Not like one of my kids who has a rare form of asbergers but is currently sofa surfing because he hasn’t yet got to the top of the council housing list. He can’t cope with going into a hostel as he doesn’t feel confident with people that he doesn’t know.
· I think that it is incredibly important that all young people have the opportunity to make a positive contribution to society, several of my young people were really interested in going on a weeks volunteering trip to Bulgaria with Vinvolved and attended interviews but…it was cancelled at the last minute due to a lack of interest.
· I believe that achieving economic well being is currently a distant dream for my young people; currently only 5 out of my 20 have a job.

The Banardos advert couldn’t be more true and it has to stop.
All to often meeting kids aged 18 is 10 years too late. They don’t trust people, they’ve been let down and have left school with few qualifications and low self esteem. Then, just when you build a relationship with them, they open up and you really get to know them, you close their file and that’s it, they’re on their own again (another point to note; the average age children leave home now is 27- unless they’re care leavers…)

As I say every time; it wouldn’t be good enough for your kids, it wouldn’t be good enough for my kids so WHY is it good enough for these kids?

ANSWER…It’s not.

Please direct others to the blog- every little helps!