Published on 20 December 2019

The trickiest time of the year

For some families, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. For far too many though, it is the trickiest time. Ormiston Families aims to make a positive difference to families across the east of England who are struggling and have nowhere else to turn to for support. Here’s a round-up of some of the activities we and the local community have been involved in that are helping children, young people and families across the region to look forward to a brighter future.

Our thanks go out to Harpur Trust, Ely Mothers’ Union, Jubilee Court Care Home – part of Sanctuary Retirement Living, Co-op in March, local Argos and Sainsbury’s stores, Hudson Group and everyone who has supported us with both time and money over the last year …

Imagine spending Christmas without your children …

Our Mpower service supports young women who have had at least one child placed into care and who need support to understand why. We know that, whilst many of us are getting ready to spend special time with our families, the majority of our MPower clients are meeting the holidays with a huge sense of loss and dread. So, last week we got our Mpower clients in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft together to share in creating some festive crafts.  The group gave these young women a safe space to be around others who understand their situation and who can provide mutual support.

“Expression through craft can be incredibly therapeutic, and even those amongst the group who did not consider themselves creative managed to create something they were proud of.  Some of the women who attended have commented about how nice it was to have a safe space to be with others who understand their situation,” advised Michelle Leach, senior practitioner at Ormiston Families’ Mpower service.

A regular craft group is something we are hoping to develop within the service and your donations could help!

Imagine your first Christmas with a parent in prison …

Visiting a parent in prison can be extremely traumatic and confusing. Visiting around Christmas time can amplify these feelings. Given that there is strong evidence that positive family relationships are associated with reduced risk of reoffending, taking action to help families affected by imprisonment maintain ties at this time of year is important. In fact, it can help to set the scene for the year to come.

Ormiston Families runs Prisoners’ Family Centres across the east of England, where, as well as a warm welcome, we offer a range of services for families affected by imprisonment. This week, we organised family parties at two of our prison visitor centres, HMP Bedford and HMP Littlehey. Thanks to a kind donation from Harpur Trust, we were able to provide presents for residents at HMP Bedford to give to their children. At HMP LIttlehey money raised from raffles held throughout the year was used to purchase presents for residents to give to their children. Ely Mothers’ Union also donated selection boxes to share with residents’ children. We are also supporting the Chaplaincy team at HMP Whitemoor to run a Christian Day party at our visitors’ centre, by running our tea bar and providing activities for children and presents for residents to purchase and give to their children.

“Our prison Christmas Parties are always very popular. Our aim is to provide fun and seasonal activities for children and families to enjoy and spend some quality time together to make Christmas a little more meaningful for everyone. We rely on donations and fundraising for these events and are very grateful to everyone who supports us,” advised Wendy Davies, who manages our family visitors centres in Bedford and Littlehey.

Jubilee Court brighten up Christmas for families at March Child and Family Centre …

Harpur Trust and Ely Mothers’ Union were not the only community group to support some of the families we work with. Thanks to the kindness of residents in a local care home in March – Jubilee Court – part of Sanctuary Retirement Living – families who attend our Child and Family Centre in March were the lucky recipients of gifts collected via a Giving Tree, the brilliant idea of a resident at the care home.

“This meant so much to the families who received the gifts, many of whom would struggle to provide gifts for their families during the festive period, hopefully taking the pressure off at such a costly time of year,” commented Emma Watts, child and youth playworker at our family and child centre in March.

Local outlets of national retailers partner with Ormiston Families in #ShopForOthers gifting scheme…

Customers at Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Norwich, Peterborough, Haverhill, March, St Neots, Huntingdon, Felixstowe and Ipswich Argos and Sainsbury’s have been placing gifts to be shared with those children in the East of England who are most in need in our collection boxes. These gifts have been shared between visitors to our family visitors centres in prisons across the region, families who attend our child and family centres and mums and mums-to-be who use our Small Steps Together service. They have been gratefully received and will considerably ease the financial pressure for these families.

Co-operative Travel store in March fills Christmas suitcase for Ormiston Families

Thank you to the staff and customers at Co-op Travel in March who donated toys and gifts to their ‘Santa’s Suitcase’.

These toys have now been distributed by our Child & Family Centre Family Worker Team and Small Steps project to families who may not have the means to buy presents for their children, just in time for the big day!

Hudson Group shines the light for Ormiston Families

Let’s not forget the support we received from Hudson Group, the Ipswich-based sign and branding experts, choosing us as their charity of the year and getting our name out there at this year’s Christmas light switch on in Ipswich. This event gave us a fantastic opportunity to showcase our new branding and to spread the word about the work we do, supporting families across the East of England to be safe, happy and resilient and to see a brighter future.

Ormiston Families staff lighting the way too!

And, in spite of this being one of the busiest times of the year for all our staff, those at our head office in Ipswich took time out this week to make Christmas tea light holders for our own families, as part of our ‘Lunch & Learn’ initiative. Big thanks to Emily Hill for leading this. We all love our tea light holders and so do our families!