For over 25 years Norma Wilson has been spreading joy and kindness through her Christmas hamper initiative.
For over 25 years Norma Wilson has been spreading joy and kindness through her Christmas hamper initiative for young people who have recently left care and asylum seekers who now live alone without family support. What started as a humble effort within the Warwickshire County Council’s Rugby Children’s Team soon expanded into a Warwickshire tradition of giving that has touched the lives of many.
This year Norma has prepared around 250 hampers. She is supported in her work by Warwickshire County Council's Children and Families service and the local charity Evelyn’s Gift. The charity was set up by Helen Smith following her daughters passing at the age of 7. Moved by Norma’s kindness, Helen contacted her to get involved and continues to contribute towards each hamper as well as rallying for additional support from businesses and organisations to increase donations'
Norma used to be a foster carer for Warwickshire County Council, during this time she fostered over 140 children and young people and worked in the community supporting young people and families. Her vast experience means she understands better than most about some of the challenges faced by young people leaving care.
Asked why she does this each year, Norma said: “It’s hard for young people to learn to live alone without close family ties so I want them to feel loved and supported, particularly at this time of year. The number of boxes has grown to 250 as I want to ensure every care experienced or asylum-seeking young person who needs this little lift to receive one.
“The hampers typically contain essentials such as socks, gloves, soups, toothbrushes and anything else that might be of use, from festive goodies to household provisions. This takes away a little of the financial strain at Christmas allowing them to use what little money they have to buy presents, knowing they have food for Christmas.
"I am given names of the young people and I write them individual cards to go in the parcels signed ‘Love from Norma and people who care’. When I started this, I didn’t realise what a difference this small gesture would make, and it warms my heart to know how much it matters to the young recipients. This project is truly important to me, and it is my great pleasure to offer this help.”
Over the years, Norma's initiative has gained support from local businesses, charities, and individuals and for those looking to join the cause, Norma encourages participation. She said: "The more people I can help, the better. Donating money or organising collections within workplaces makes a real difference to this cause and many others. This time of year is a time for giving and an opportunity for people to think of others in their communities who may be in need. Donating to food banks or charity shops is an easy way to help and the county has lots of volunteering opportunities for those who want to give their time."
Warwickshire County Councillor, Sue Markham, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services said: “The council takes its role of corporate parent very seriously and this does not stop when our young people leave care. We put children at the heart of everything we do, and what Norma does is such an amazing example of this.
“Becoming a young adult can be challenging, especially if you've grown up without family and are navigating the world alone. Norma's outstanding contribution to care leavers and asylum seekers across Warwickshire over the last 25 years is simply remarkable. Her commitment to providing something special for vulnerable young people at Christmas is incredible, and we cannot thank Norma enough for everything she does. Norma's enduring commitment and compassion continue to brighten the holiday season for those who need it most.”
Norma’s act of kindness is one example of the many things people can do to support themselves and each other at this time. For more information on care leavers, visit https://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/leavingcare
For more information on young asylum seekers, visit https://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/children-families/unaccompanied-asylum-seeking-children-warwickshire/1
If you would like to find out more about fostering for Warwickshire, visit https://fostering.warwickshire.gov.uk/