Lauren has been a Children & Families Worker at Hestia for three years.  

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As it gets closer to Christmas, I’m starting to plan activities for the children staying with us with whatever budget we have left for the year. We always get all the families involved with decorating the refuge together just like you would at home, putting up the tree and making decorations. We bake Christmas cookies and make Christmas cards for the children to give to their friends and family.

If budget allows, we’ll take them ice skating or to a local grotto to see Father Christmas. I’ve even been known to dress up as the big man myself! I won’t be taking any annual leave over Christmas time. I need to make sure that the children in our refuge get to have fun.  

In the weeks before, I’ll spend hours on the floor wrapping all the presents. We’ll have around 18 children in the refuge this Christmas, and I’ll make sure each one gets a bag or box of presents to unwrap. They don’t expect any of it, so it’s heart-warming to see the smiles on their faces. I’ll also give any spares to the mums so they are able to give their child a gift as well. 

Families often arrive at the refuge with nothing but the clothes on their back. We had a mum of two children recently whose husband wouldn’t let her leave the house with both children in case she tried to flee. The only way she was able to escape was by booking GP appointments for both of them at the same time, so her husband had to let her take them both.

She came to the GP surgery with no bags packed, no clothes, no toys, only the contents of her handbag and said, ‘I need help, I’m being abused’. That’s why making sure everyone has a few presents to unwrap is so important to us.   

I absolutely love my job. It’s amazing to see the change in the children, from when they first come into the refuge so shy and traumatised by what they’ve been through, to leaving much more confident with new, happy memories. Like two-year-old Maria* who changed from a shy and clingy child to a confident, sociable little girl who couldn’t wait to join in with all our activities.  

But it can also be really hard. When it’s time for a family to leave it’s heart-breaking to see them in tears. I do worry about them, especially with the cost-of-living crisis we’re all facing. One of our mums with two young children was temporarily placed in a hotel with no cooking or washing facilities. She’s been there for six weeks, and I worry about how she can feed her family when she’s relying on universal credit. I’ve been trying to get her some food vouchers.  

I wish I could keep them all here with us forever. But I tell them that although it’s sad to see them go, it’s a fresh start for them and they can be free like butterflies. They often write me lovely letters and cards and I keep them all.

Any donations are especially appreciated at this time of year and can make a massive difference to the children we’re supporting – they deserve a little bit of happiness.

Double your donation now