The majority of the children registered on the Children In Care (CIC) Programme will not spend time with their biological families this year. For many, it is their first year living in care and they may not have any contact with their families. Although the children may be in much better living conditions and in a loving environment, the need and want for them to be with their own family still haunts many of them.
Some of these children have never celebrated Christmas as others know it. No presents on Christmas day, no visits to Santa’s grotto, no build up of excitement by attending festive activities and watching Christmas light being turned on. This is where HEY Children’s University comes in to spread some magic.
In November, one of our Platinum Partners ABP put on the “Humber Christmas Express” and gave our CIC children the opportunity to have a Christmas trip that they would never forget!
The following is a blog entry from one of our mentors on the CIC programme.
Christmas with the Children in Care (CIC) Programme. A mentors perspective.
Saturday 24th November 2018. A trip on the “Humber Christmas Express”
Destination London, Hyde Park and a visit to “Winter Wonderland”.
Mentors are assembled: HCU lead, myself and a welcome surprise in my work colleague as the other mentor.
The CIC kids arrive, and we are off with our select party of 10.
Works on the railway means the line from Hull is out of use, so we are off on a coach to meet the train in Doncaster.
Coach journey completed, the “Riviera Express” which has come up from Devon duly arrives and we look for our allocated seats in the “First Class” section.
8.50 am The Journey begins, and the kids want to tuck into their pack-ups, but today we stop them, why? Well today is special, it is the Xmas Express and we are to be regally looked after. We can tell from the silver service table layout that the pack-ups are not needed, yet!
We all tuck into a hearty English Breakfast served by the train volunteer staff, they are known as the “Frying Scotsmen”! Yes frying!
So, breakfast concluded we look for things to do to keep the entertainment going.
Card games, lots of drawings completed, some “window bingo” and just lots of ooh’s and aah’s as the various sites pass by.
We now head non-stop to London Kings Cross for our day in London. When we arrive we have a transfer to the underground and onwards to Hyde Park Corner Station. We are ready to see what the Winter Wonderland has to offer!
The 10 of us are let loose on the Big City event for the next 4 hours and, in hindsight, if we had 40 hours we still wouldn’t have seen everything! It was massive and the bits we did see and events we had pre-booked were all enjoyed by everyone.
We started with some rides whilst we waited for our allotted times. All the kids entered the “fun house” with a little apprehension and came out laughing with beaming smiles, -that’s what makes it worthwhile and educational as some life skills are learned and then practised.
Our allotted times were upon us and we visited the Ice Kingdom to view some spectacular carved ice sculptures.
Our next venture was the Snowman exhibition, explaining the making of the film The Snowman based on the book by Raymond Briggs.
A final look around and another ride and then the spending of their own money on some souvenirs. We waved goodbye to “Winter Wonderland” and set off on our trip back to Hull.
Good-bye to Hyde Park, hello Kings Cross, a quick stop for final souvenir shopping and we board for our return journey to Hull.
Safely seated back in our First-Class seats, the table is again set for a meal on the return journey. And what a meal it was!
The 4-course meal, again served by the same volunteers, gave the opportunity to have a full evening meal with typical Christmas Fayre, or for the more discerning children’s pallets, Chicken Nuggets and Chips.!
The kids were excited to see the rest of the menu which included salmon in a whisky sauce, and Xmas pudding in Brandy sauce. All were keen to try the boozy offerings!
Santa then paid us a visit and gave out a small gift to all.
10pm We arrive back in Hull very tired but with happy smiling faces all round, both from the great experience they had and from being back with their carers.
Well done everyone!