Way back at the start of my Greek journey in 2015, a person came into my life which, even in that first moment of introduction, I knew would be a person I would never forget and a person who had a story to tell and a story to keep listening to.
Our first meeting was similar to many ways new people have come into my life since I first arrived in Kos. We met in the dark night, upon the port of Kos, trying to make the first moments in Europe less horrific than they already were for those arriving on the shores in rubber dinghys.
After this first nightshift we went for a breakfast, surrounded by tourists who were completely unaware of the nightly horror unfolding. We sat in this incredible juxtaposition and we talked, we shared and I knew that I was sitting opposite a truly inspiring human being who I would share many more moments such as this with.
It has now been over two years and this wonderful woman is now a dear friend of mine. Now, I could go on to write a detailed blog about the many ways I am inspired by the many different world changing initiatives she is involved in and generally about how amazing a human she is but I actually felt the need to write something today about a very specific project. I would love to write a blog simply about amazing she is also, but today I will focus, one day though!
Around this time of year, we all start to feel a little more charitable and giving, and personally I always look to find something I feel is important to support. Sometimes I share publicly what I am supporting, sometimes I just show up and do something I think is useful to help and don’t say much about it, but this year I want to share this to raise some awareness and hopefully some pennies towards something I see makes a real difference in real people’s lives.
In a previous life, a long time ago, I found myself doing a stint of studying Creative Writing in Manchester when my poetry mentor introduced me to the work of a poet named Lemn Sissay. As soon as I began reading his work, I fell in love with his words. Previously I had been someone who never particularly took much interest in poetry but my view of poetry and its amazing power completely changed in that moment.
So fast forward quite a few years, and one day whilst scrolling through my social media feed I notice the name of the poet who opened my mind to the world of poetry tagged in a post with the name of the inspirational soul who shared that breakfast with me in Kos and encouraged me to open my heart again to the world through words.
This post was about a Christmas Dinner event for care leavers. As I began to look into it I started to see how this event had been making a real difference to the lives of care leavers, at a difficult time of the year, for a while and that every year the event was expanding and reaching more people, creating more happy memories.
I previously volunteered in some organisations supporting care leavers and instantly I knew how an event such as this can make an amazing difference to someones wellbeing and how it is something really special to be involved in.
I am not a care leaver, I am in no position to speak for care leavers or to try and speak on behalf of something I have not experienced. A care leavers story is theirs, it is individual and it is not for me to claim or for me to try and put myself in their shoes to create my own narrative.
But the incredible human I met on the nightshift in Kos, who shared that breakfast, who supported me to find my own voice again and who helps to organise these incredible Christmas Dinner events with Lemn Sissay – she has her own care leavers story. A story which she has recently shared on BBC Radio and in her beautiful book Glue, which is why I know something she endorses this way is something to pay attention to.
Something which inspired me to write this today is the fact that yesterday was Black Friday. I watched people queue outside of stores to buy disposable products I am sure they did not really need just because there was a discount. I guess I just felt the need to balance this consumerist frenzy with a really truly good cause.
Maybe yesterday you bought a shirt and saved 20%, maybe you could pop that saving towards a Christmas dinner? Maybe you bought a new hoover and saved 50 quid, you could send some of those savings the way of a cause which will make a real difference. Maybe Black Friday makes you feel how it makes me feel and you didn’t buy anything but you were looking for a worthwhile cause to send some of your well earned pennies… well here it is!
The Christmas Dinner events funded by the Lemn Sissay Foundation take place on Christmas Day, not sometime around Christmas but on the big day itself which is what makes this so special. By donating you are sharing Christmas cheer on a day that for many can be a difficult and in many instances an incredibly lonely time.
Perhaps, this was a bit of a long post for something I could have just shared a link to on Facebook but it is something I care about deeply about and people I love care about. This is not just something you send a fiver to and never know if it actually did anything, this is real and you can see that your pennies become the kind of experience and memories that money can’t buy.
I urge you to please follow the links and find out more about this wonderful cause and support if you can, in any way.
To find out more, here is the link to their Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/The-Christmas-Dinner-2017-Lemn-Sissay-Foundation-1023975684412350/?hc_ref=ARSOYlL43Uq0gMhtBPPZ7T3I0uoCPI5VSKC5SoqPw1PTfKRObc6zx0zLbNJ7UC5Rm5w&fref=nf
Here is a direct link to the Crowd Funder – http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-christmas-dinner-2017
And here is a link to the truly beautiful book, Glue, by the woman who continues to inspire me, Louise Wallwein – http://www.poetrybusiness.co.uk/shop/954/glue