CHRISTMAS, though different for everyone, is on the whole a time of celebration, as markets, ice rinks and jolly songs take cities by storm.

On a more intimate level, for those who celebrate it, Christmas is a time of connection and of celebrating what and who we have around us.

It is a chance to stop, reflect, and ultimately have fun.

In my house, presents are (not so) stealthily delivered by Santa, who leaves his big dusty footprints everywhere, we spend time with family from across the country and finish the day of with a huge dinner and a night full of games, leaving everyone happy, full and fulfilled.

This was not always the case, and my idea of Christmas has all stemmed from the adoption of my son, who has been the light making my Christmas experience grow in a new and beautiful way.

Working in homeless units across Ayrshire and Glasgow in my early twenties I learned that Christmas is not such a positive experience for many people.

Many in these units were Care Experienced, and while families across the country got together to celebrate, the day seemed like any other in the shelters.

The feeling, however, was very different. Brave faces struggled to hide that it was an emotional day for many as they felt a sense of rejection and loneliness because they lacked traditional family structures.

That is one of the reasons why Who Cares? Scotland began hosting its own Christmas dinners.

Since 2014, thanks to a tireless team of volunteers, we have held our Care Family Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day for Care Experienced people from across the country.

A day filled with dinner, some gifts and most importantly, connection and a sense of belonging.

In 2020 we were unable to provide this same kind of in-person connection that was relied on by so many.

The coronavirus pandemic further isolated Care Experienced people who often already lack the support structures that the pandemic tested.

As a new member of the organisation, I saw and felt the passion in the Who Cares? Scotland staff to provide something to let Care Experienced people know that we were still there and that we, like many others, were a family temporarily separated, not forgotten friends.

Instead of a meal, we gave Care Experienced people the opportunity to make a wish and did our best to make their wishes come true, delivering on more than 200.

On top of this we sent a parcel to more than 2000 members with some chocolate and a couple of little gifts, we also kept our helpline open throughout the festive period, and we offered a collection of digital activities for our members to get involved in.

Covid is still very much a reality, so instead of bringing members together for Christmas we are branching out and taking Christmas to our members, in the form of individual/group/family Christmas packages.

These will include food to make a Christmas dinner, crackers and gifts, and a chat on Christmas Day.

Members will be able to choose a package and what elements are included in it, ensuring each gets what matters to them over the Christmas period.

Last year, some of our members created groups among themselves and enjoyed Christmas together.

Our group packages will support them to do this again, and the family package will make sure members with children can enjoy the day as a family.

Your donations will help make each of these possible. They will help make sure a Care Experienced person can enjoy a hot Christmas meal, ensure they can give or receive a gift this year and will make sure hundreds of young people have something to look forward to after more than 20 months of isolation.

I know that many of our members do not celebrate Christmas at all for various reasons, and believe this is an opportunity to engage with them.

We can provide a meal, gifts and more without the pressures that can come with Christmas, be they social, religious or otherwise.

In doing so, we will sow the seeds of connection which will hopefully bring more Care Experienced people together.

This goes beyond Christmas too, we want to reach out and be as inclusive as we can be, so I invite our members to get in touch with us and let us know what holidays or festivals are important to them.

We’ll do our best all through the year to make sure you can be happy and celebrate what matters to you, just as we do with Christmas.

It is a point I have iterated and reiterated, but Christmas time this year, for Care Experienced people is about connection, just as it is for the majority of other families.

With your support, we can plant a seed that will blossom a fruitful care family tree, rooted in love and bearing equality and respect for Care Experienced people of all backgrounds.