If you could make one wish this Christmas, what would it be?
At this time of year, we all make a few wishes. That wish might be for a very special present, or that your all-time favourite festive film will be on TV again this year. Or that you wake up to a dusting of snow on Christmas Day.
The wishes made by the women and children Refuge supports are quite different. Women might wish they could wake up safe in their own home. Children might wish they didn't have to leave their school, their friends or their beloved pet to go into a refuge; or that their mum would stop blaming herself for the abuse she has experienced.
Emily*, who is eight-years-old and fled to Refuge with her mum, is just one of the 750,000 children who witness domestic violence in Britain each year. Emily told her child support worker that one time, when her dad was hitting her mum in the street, she closed her eyes and wished that it would not happen anymore. Thanks to Refuge, her wish came true.
Refuge is the largest specialist provider of domestic violence services in the country. Every day, Refuge gives vital support to over 4,600 clients. This Christmas will be no different, and my colleagues on the front-line will be working hard to grant more wishes like Emily's this year.
Even with Refuge's support, the thought of being away from home over the festive season can be distressing for a family escaping domestic violence. These families are in crisis. They may be traumatised from years of emotional and physical abuse. Women and children like Emily and her mum often arrive at Refuge's services with little more than the clothes on their backs. Often, they have no money at all because their abuser has forbidden them from working, or stolen their benefits. Luxury items like presents are not an option.
This is why we need your support this Christmas. For many years, Refuge has run a gift list appeal which raises money to ensure every women and child in our refuges receives seasonal gifts at Christmas time - each is a personalised present, chosen by the staff that support them, that can be treasured forever. With the number of women and children we support at an all-time high, this is no mean feat - but I am positive that with your help, we can achieve our target.
Imagine the delight on a child like Emily's face, when she receives a soft, huggable teddy bear to comfort her as she gets used to her new surroundings in a refuge. Or the happiness felt by her mum, who has lived her whole married life being systematically isolated and told that nobody cares about her, when she opens a box of her favourite chocolates on Christmas Day. Just knowing that someone they have never met is thinking about them means a huge amount. It can help bolster them as they take the next steps towards rebuilding their lives.
By supporting the Refuge gift list, you can show that you care. You can make a woman smile on what can be an incredibly difficult day. You can make a real difference.
So, what about my Christmas wish? It is quite simple. That more kind people like you will help Refuge make this festive season special for women and children in need. Gifts start at just £3, and every little item will be so appreciated, so please do consider adding an extra present to your shopping list this year and donate to the Refuge Christmas gift list. As of today we have reached 60% of our goal - can you help support the gift list and ensure that everyone in our services receives a gift? Thank you. Merry Christmas.
Find out more about how you can support Refuge's Christmas gift list here
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of those affected.Suggest a correction