Advent Calendars help spread the love

Like children across the country this weekend, twins Isabella and Elliott Brown (7) and little sister Isla (3) are getting ready to tuck into the Christmas spirit.

Chocolate Advent calendars have become a seasonal rite of passage for many youngsters. And it’s therefore appropriate that the first donation to Home-Start Winchester from the local branch of Waitrose was a trolley full of 60 calendars for sharing with vulnerable families.

The initiative is the start of a £5 million fundraising partnership between John Lewis, Waitrose, Home-Start and FareShare which aims to create an outpouring of kindness in communities across the country.

In Winchester, Home-Start and Waitrose have already begun working together to “Give a Little Love” – the theme of this year’s iconic John Lewis advertisement.  Waitrose Community Activator Clodagh Rogers said:

We’re happy to do anything to make children happy.

That’s a philosophy that Isabella, Elliott and Isla are happy to support. They live with their parents Claire and David in Abbots Barton. Claire was first introduced to Home-Start after she gave birth to the twins soon after moving from London.

We relocated here after David was transferred with work. I didn’t know anyone and suddenly I had two little new humans to look after. My health visitor asked me if I’d be interested in meeting someone from Home-Start and I thought it would be a good starting point to make some contact with other people.

My volunteer came to help me once a week with the twins and that helped me to get out in the early days. It also gave me access to the group which meets at Lanterns: it was such a relaxed atmosphere to go into. There were always friendly faces and people happy to hold the babies. That’s really how I made the friends I’ve got now and I felt quite sad as the twins approached school age.

But then I realised I was expecting again – and for Isla the group has been even more invaluable.” Isla has epilepsy and global development delay which means that she is unable to walk.

Because Isla is floor-bound, the group has given her freedom and independence to move around with lots of space and activities to attract her interest. At the same time, she’s also very vulnerable with other children playing around her.

But Home-Start have been amazing. There was a risk assessment for Isla to ensure she’s safe but it’s just part of their philosophy of looking after all the children as individuals. Home-Start have always got their eye on the ball – for the children and their parents.

Funds raised during the Christmas campaign will enable Home-Start to support more families – especially those who have struggled the hardest through this year’s pandemic. Home-Start Winchester’s senior co-ordinator Liz Stannard said:

We have seen social distancing and isolation placing enormous strain on families. Parenting can be tough even in normal circumstances but this year has certainly added extra complexity. I hope this campaign will help capture the spirit of generosity in our community so we can make sure families get the support they need.

The chair of Home-Start Winchester, Barry Page said :

The local organisation will be working hard to maximise the benefit of the national partnership.We’re going to be working closely with local colleagues and their customers to spread the word about Home-Start.  We have seen first-hand how the pandemic is pushing families to the edge, especially those already facing significant challenges in their lives. Working together we can reach more families at this vital time. There have been so many great initiatives in our community during the pandemic. But we know there is so much more to do.

To learn more and support Home-Start Winchester visit their website: https://home-startwinchester.org.uk


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