Three years ago I worked in a children's hospital at Christmas time, and there were so many presents donated, mostly from corporate donors. The entire large meeting room was taken over with gifts to sort. There were hundreds too many presents, so some were leftover for patient's birthdays and other occasions. We still had boxes full of Lego packs in June.
A year later I was Christmas I'm working in child and adolescent mental health, still in a hospital ward. We had no presents donated. Our patients had one present each, chosen by the therapy team, paid for out of the ward's budget - scrimped and saved from the NHS budget that is meant to cover food, therapeutic activities, and other expenses.
Why this disparity? Is it that people just don't realise there are children in mental health units, or forget when donating gifts? Or does it relate to the stigma that mental health conditions have in this country? We don't know the answers, but we want to do something about it.
To address this, last year a group of us came together, contacted all the child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) units in the UK, and fund-raised to send gifts to all the units we heard back from. The feedback from the units included:
"Young people really appreciated the gesture and the gifts they received"
"What a lovely idea, embracing the true spirit of Christmas!"
"Appreciate the support you are giving to young people with mental health issues"
We're hoping to do the same this year, albeit somewhat short notice (we're all busy people! More so than last year unfortunately) so we would really appreciate your financial support so we can brighten up Christmas for more young people in mental health units.
In order to reach as many children and young people as possible, we try to keep the cost of gifts to a minimum, finding good deals and multi-buys. £5 buys a gift for one child or young person - if you can, please donate the cost of a gift, or a few gifts. £50-60 buys gifts for a whole unit of young people, why not get a group of friends or colleagues to fund a unit's worth of gifts?
We're using GoGetFunding so we can receive the funding more quickly than some fundraising websites which only give the funding at the end of the fundraising, and we can spend it on gifts as it arrives. It also takes a lower % of the fundraising (4%) than some fundraising sites. We're hoping by next year to be recognised as a small charity by HMRC to receive GiftAid as well. The money doesn't go anywhere other than buying gifts, any leftover money after Christmas will go towards next year.
If you have gifts you'd like to donate directly to your local CAMHS unit rather than money to our fundraising, you're very welcome to - please contact us so we can help put you in contact with your local unit from our database.