‘We can’t do a Community Christmas without the Community.’ So says Sabrina from Cwmbran in Wales. For the last ten years, she has orchestrated a Community Christmas dinner and celebration in her local town. Now she’s hard at work to bring festive cheer directly to people’s homes, as she and the rest of the Cwmbran community prepare for this Christmas-with-a-difference.
Single mum and Countryside Officer Sabrina knows what it is like to feel lonely at Christmas, and is eager to ensure that no one in her home town need be alone at this time of year. Whilst there is no doubt Sabrina is the key to this event, she is quick to say that this is a community project; it’s about everyone supporting each other, ‘bringing people together during the festive period within this time of uncertainty.’
Sharing Food in the Community
Year-round, Sabrina volunteers her time assisting Food Shares by gathering donations from supermarkets to assist those locally with food insecurities. Some of the stories she shared were simply heart-wrenching:
* People almost in tears when they received a loaf of bread – the combination of knowing others were thinking of them, and relief that they could eat that day.
* Food Shares delighted by an influx of celery delivered from local supermarkets, simply because it was a fresh food to offer their recipients.
* A family where both parents had just lost their jobs due to Covid and didn’t yet have financial support in place so couldn’t put dinner on the table – the small beef joint Sabrina brought from her own freezer meant the family could eat a proper meal that night.
Modest to the extreme, Sabrina comments, ‘[I just] feel so grateful that I’m able to help out.’
Earlier this year, she set up Tasty Not Wasty – a Facebook page looking to minimise food wastage in the Cwmbran area through the co-ordinated sharing of food excess. Is there a need? Without doubt, says Sabrina. During the Spring Lockdown alone, the number of parcels distributed by the local Food Share jumped six-fold in the space of four weeks!
But, it’s at Christmas that the town of Cwmbran really has the chance to shine! Through Sabrina’s campaign ‘Together @ Christmas’, the whole community join forces to provide a celebration for those seeking companionship and support.
Typically the event is attended by upwards of thirty local residents, including those who live alone without family nearby and those that can’t (for whatever reason) arrange their own Christmas meal. ‘We held it at my house for about ten years but, it grew too big so I asked my Nan’s church, Llanyrafon Methodist Church, if they could help out.’
And it really is a community affair: The turkey is donated by a local company. The Rainbow group make the paper chain decorations. And the scout and toddler groups make contributions towards gifts for those attending. Community Spirit at its very best.
Typically festivities start with a natter and catch-up before everyone settles down to enjoy Christmas Dinner with all the trimmings. After the Queen’s Speech, there’s a sing-song and games. Sabrina said she’s been in trouble in the past for bringing the day to a close before the jigsaws had been completed, so she’s learnt to choose puzzle sizes carefully!
Making things work for 2020
Working out how to replicate this sense of community and celebration in the current climate has required some creative thought. However work is now well underway on three festive projects:
- Delivery of a hot Christmas Dinner for those in need. Sabrina still plans to be hard at work in the Church Hall on Christmas day with her daughter by her side, ‘We just move our home celebrations into the church for the day’. And, a wonderful group of community elves have volunteered to collect and deliver the meals in a covid-secure fashion.
- Creation of gift bags to be delivered to residents. Once again the community has come together to fill these bags with donations from local organisations – chocolates, treats and even wooden Christmas ornaments from Cwmbran business Wooden It be Crafty. With around 150 bags to deliver, the Cwmbran Sewing Group have switched from making scrubs and bags for nurses, to creating gorgeous handmade gift bags for these lovely goodies.
- Preparation of a Community DVD. Trying to emulate that sense of togetherness is so tricky this year. However, Sabrina is currently busy working with local groups and residents to gather messages, songs, jokes and quiz questions, to create a fun-filled festive DVD that each gift bag recipient can enjoy in their own home. It is evident how important this video message is to Sabrina as she strives to find ways to remind people that they are a valued member of a strong community.
We wish Sabrina and the whole Cwmbran community much success in their wonderful endeavours, and also hope that they will be able to return to the Church Hall celebrations once again next year.
If you would like to support the Together @ Christmas project, please click here to donate. If you live in and around the Cwmbran area, do get in contact via the Tasty Not Wasty page, to either offer or request support.
Is there a similar project underway in your local area? We’ve love to hear about it and spread the word. Please get in touch to tell us.