The Christmas after S was born, I was on maternity leave from work. I was on a minimal income. I was doing okay, day-to-day, but the thought of Christmas was terrifying. It was the first year I would be responsible for someone else’s Christmas, the first year I would be cooking Christmas dinner. I had never even cooked a proper roast dinner before; I didn’t know where to start… but I had a feeling it was going to decimate my bank account.
At the time, we had a Homestart volunteer who visited weekly. The Homestart co-ordinator kept in touch to make sure we were ok, with phone calls from time to time. One day I had a call from Homestart: they were liaising with the Trussell Trust to organise Christmas food parcels to their families, and wondered if I would like one.
The day before Christmas Eve, the Trussell Trust Christmas elves arrived at our door with our parcel. There was a turkey, a tray to roast it in, all the vegetables and trimmings you would normally expect with a Christmas dinner. Plus crackers, chocolates, Christmas pudding, all sorts of everything. It was amazing and really took the pressure off me at a very difficult time.
A few months later, I found myself in need of help from the Trussell Trust again. Again they swooped in with an amazing food parcel, filled not only with essential food items but nappies, wipes and even some chocolate.
… Which brings me to the #adventcalendar2014 campaign, as started by comedians Justin Moorhouse and Jason Manford. The basic premise of the campaign is simple: we all buy advent calendars and donate them to our local food banks.
At this time of year, advent calendars are always on 3 for 2 or BOGOF offers. They’re relatively cheap to buy – but if you’re struggling to put food on the table every day, an advent calendar is a luxury you cannot afford. There are far too many families out there in that position.
It is disgusting to me that, in this day and age, in one of the richest countries in the world, there are families who can’t put food on the table. It’s easy to say that people manage their money badly, or are spending it on flat screen TVs or fags and booze – but having been in that position myself, I can tell you: I don’t smoke; I don’t drink; at the time I received help from the Trussell Trust my TV had been donated from a friend’s garage. I didn’t have enough money to have the luxury of managing it badly; I paid my bills and used what was left over on food.
It is a sad fact that people in this country are starving. Children are living on basic rations, like something out of a reality TV show experiment. Believe me when I tell you that when a food parcel arrives at your house, and there is chocolate in it, you want to cry with joy.
I have already bought advent calendars for S and I this year. As I look back at my childhood, I remember the excitement on December 1st as we opened the first door on our advent calendars. All children should be able to enjoy the countdown to Christmas. Buying an extra advent calendar is something you probably won’t notice going through the checkout on your weekly shop, but when it arrives at its destination, it will make a massive difference.
This is something we can all get involved with, to help people in need this Christmas. If you can afford it, by all means buy crackers and chocolates and all sorts of wonderment for your local foodbank. If you can’t, 99p for an advent calendar is just fine.