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On Christmas Day 2017; Go-Forward Youth welcomed 32 Islington care leavers’ and their children to a day full of activities and present giving. They event was at the Arsenal in the Community Hub. The festivities began a little before mid-day and each of the volunteers were waiting excitedly to welcome guests. Upon arrival each guest was greeted by the vibrant Gunnersaurus (the Arsenal mascot) and the dedicated volunteers, who handed out personalised Christmas stocking and snacks and drinks on arrival.

The tone was set for the day and the atmosphere was buzzing with enthusiasm. The activities shortly began with indoor team football, Christmas movies and traditional board games; which of course bought out everybody’s competitive nature. After a few hours of activities, we settled down and began seating guests for dinner, with food prepared by volunteers and cooked by the incredible and passionate 2014 Master Chef runner up Sara Danesin, who incorporated an Italian spin on the traditional English Christmas dinner.

Shortly after dinner we were joined by Jermain Jackman winner of the Voice UK 2014, who performed a special surprise, balled ‘Fall on Your Knees’. The musical atmosphere continued and guests and volunteers had a dance off where they showed off their dance skills. To complete the festivities a message from Arsenal players were played to guests, where players wished guest and volunteers a merry Christmas.

This followed with present giving, where each guest received several presents which included tablets and perfume sets, these gifts were donated in abundance by people in the community via the Go-Forward Youth Amazon wish list; theatre tickets were also donated from Sophie Willian’s for her award show ‘Branded’ The day closed on a joyful note, it was amazing day and exactly what care leavers deserve.

The feedback from young people was all amazing.  One theme that did emerge was a need for regular events where care leavers’ can have an additional family and a safe haven to go to.  With an established Hub Go-Forward could host more days like this and be an option for care leavers in crisis or feeling lonely, isolated or not supported throughout the year. The support we’ve received shows that if each corner of the community gives modest but regular support to young people leaving care, they can have a positive impact on the lives and outcomes of care leavers locally and nationally.