Welcome Fund grant brings Christmas joy

One of our Welcome Fund grants has helped the Swindon Toy Appeal deliver dozens of Christmas gifts to children of refugees and asylum seekers.

The £1,500 grant will mean 65 children and young people from Afghanistan living in Swindon will have something special to open on Christmas morning. Their presents are among almost 5,000 presents that will go to more than 900 children of low income families in Swindon this Christmas thanks to the appeal organised by Swindon churches.

Our Welcome Fund was set up last year to support groups and charities helping all refugees and asylum seekers who want to make Wiltshire and Swindon their home.

Dawn Prosser, one of the organisers marshalling the 118 volunteers who have collected donated presents, said the grant is hugely helpful. “It is wonderful that we can look after these children who otherwise would not have much. Having the Wiltshire Community Foundation grant takes the pressure off us having to fund the extra presents and means there are even more to go round.

“The parents are really excited about their children getting a new toy, it’s something really special for them.”

The children will receive a range of gifts including perennial favourites footballs, ludo and dominoes. “Ludo is the national game in Afghanistan. I’ve been told that everyone goes to each other’s houses to play it,” said Mrs Prosser.

The appeal, which is in its sixth year takes referrals of families needing help from schools, churches, charities and Swindon Borough Council. The toys are donated by Tesco, Lidl and Asda as well as churches and 14 schools who collect them from parents.

The appeal has also had more than £4,000 in donations from individuals and businesses, as well as the community foundation grant.

The toys have been stored at the Bible Society in Swindon and sorted into age categories, they will then be delivered to four ‘toy shops’ at the Pattern Church, St Paul’s Covingham, St Peter’s Penhill and Freshbrook Church, where parents are being invited to go and choose three main presents, two stocking fillers and two books.

“The venues have festive music, some of them have nibbles and there are wrapping stations so they can come and choose the presents,” said Mrs Prosser.

“It gives the parents real dignity in being able to choose their children’s presents rather than just get a handout. It also stops them resorting to loans or choosing between buying toys and heating and eating.

Wiltshire Community Foundation joint chief executive Fiona Oliver said: “We are delighted to be able to fund the appeal for a second year and support the amazing volunteers who work so hard. It’s great to be able to share some of our Christmas traditions and to bring just a little joy to these children and their families who have experienced such hardship and challenges.”

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