Each November, Lahn sorts through a list of 150 kids names from across Victoria’s Western suburbs.
This list is made for Christmas presents- containing the details each young person’s name, age and gender.
But the kids on this list aren’t like most.
They’re the children from The Salvation Army’s Westcare. They’re the kids who will be spending this Christmas in foster care.
Westcare is an organisation established to connect displaced young people who cannot live with their families with foster carers or alternate living arrangements such as residential care.
Each year, Lahn receives a list from senior manager, Chris Jones, of all the children who won’t be spending Christmas with their family.
While doing onsite massages at Westcare, Lahn was exposed to youth disadvantage and felt an urgency to contribute to helping young people in need.
“Whilst I was there I saw all the hard work that they were doing.” She also became conscious of “how disadvantaged some of the kids can be.”
Lahn wasn’t stopped by the fact that she wasn’t in a position to foster a child. So she called upon other ways to help these young people in need.
“I asked them what I could do.”
It was that one simple question that sprung this project to life.
How the Drive Works
Lahn sorts through her list and creates a wall, displaying cards with the kids’ names, ages and gender at her workplace Aware Health in Newport. She then encourages people to choose a card from the wall and select a gift for the child in need.
Kids can put in a request for what they would like for Christmas, from home decorations, books and games to educational toys.
Requests are also put in by carers, especially for children with autism and special needs.
‘I try and fill every gift card… I don’t like the idea of kids missing out.’
She notes that often adolescents in need are often left last, where “all of the younger kids go first,” when tags are taken from the wall.
Lahn asks that people should also think of the teenagers who are doing it tough and are grateful for the presents donated at Christmas time.
Sharing the Christmas Spirit
Lahn concedes that in part, the drive inspires to keep her going because of the satisfaction it brings. “It makes me feel good.”
She calls on others do to the same and participate in the drive.
“It’s no skin off our back to do something for someone else” she explained. “It’s a nice way to help out.”
For those interested in getting involved at Westcare, she offers: “if you can’t foster a kid you can do this little thing.”
“It’s not expensive, it lets kids know there’s someone out there who cares for them… a stranger.”
In turn she hopes this will motivate kids to gain “confidence” and know that one day they’ll have the courage to “pass it forward and help the out.”
The drive is not only made to help the young people in foster care, but to bolster a greater consciousness for her clients and members of society to ‘look after kids in the community.’
For Lahn personally, Christmas is about giving to others and “trying to help other people without expectation.”
Whilst for her it is also a time for her family and friends, it’s a cause for both reflection and action in building upon a sense of community.
And most importantly:
“The kids shouldn’t miss out.”
For more information about Westcare and its services, click here