Christmas can be a magical time for kids. There’s the anticipation of presents and a visit from Santa, but there are also lots of fun rituals, like decorating the tree and tucking into Christmas dinner while wearing paper hats, that for kids, put the merry into Christmas. When kids enter refuge with their families at Christmastime, though, such fun is put in doubt.
Kids suddenly find themselves in temporary accommodation, without a tree or decorations, without gifts or Christmas food, and that gnawing fear that Santa may not know where to find them.
Staff at the Melbourne office of global property and construction consulting firm Rider Levett Bucknall (RLB) knew this because they have been committed and generous supporters of Refuge Victoria for some time, and they weren’t about to let Christmas come and go without doing something about it.
As early as November, RLB banded together and started collecting gifts, toys, food and cash donations, which could be used to purchase, among other necessities, things like Christmas trees and decorations.
Refuge Victoria staff distributed the Christmas goods and the crafting and decorating began! The kids in refuge had a wonderful time decorating their units and the staff could see the Christmas spirit once again come alive in their eyes.
They say that the real joy comes from giving rather than receiving presents, and we can report that the children in refuge have absolutely shown that to be true. In the lead-up to Christmas, refuge staff set up a ‘shop’, which contained gifts for mums, all generously donated by RLB staff, and children were invited to pick out a present to give their mums on Christmas morning. The delight they showed in being able to do something for their mums was so touching.
Just like so many homes across Melbourne, Christmas morning started early in refuge, with kids waking their mums, eager to see what Santa had brought them. One child reckons he heard Santa’s sleigh pull on his family’s unit, he could hear the gentle pawing of hooves, but true or not, Santa did indeed come to refuge and the kids were thrilled when they saw all the toys he had left.
While the kids were playing with their gifts, work was underway preparing the Christmas feast. The food donated by RLB provided everything families needed for a traditional Christmas dinner – complete with crackers! – as well as dishes for families celebrating their own cultural traditions.
With full bellies, families spent the afternoon resting, reading, and chatting, while their kids ran about enjoying the kind of Christmas that everyone should have in their childhood memories. One family got started on a Lego set; another got stuck into a game of backyard cricket. One little boy painted his mother’s nails with the nail polish he gave her for Christmas. Let’s just say he did his best…!
Christmas might only last one day, but our friends at RLB made sure that for these 24 hours at least, families in refuge could put aside the chaos and challenges of their lives and just enjoy being together and sharing in the magic of Christmas.
The staff at RLB will never get to see the looks of happiness from the kids or the joy in the faces of their mothers, so happy to see their kids laugh and play on Christmas Day, but we hope that everyone who donated feels some of what refuge staff felt: an abundance of Christmas spirit.
We want to give a heartfelt thanks to our friends at RLB, your kindness and generosity is an inspiration to us all.