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My name is Chris Hoyle. I'm a Care Experienced graduate of the University of York and now a staff member working to promote widening participation in my role as a Management Information Analyst (I make graphs!).
As a Care Leaver, I spent some of my childhood in the care of my local authority. In my case that also means that I had THE MOST AMAZING foster parents for a number of years. But like many children who are taken into care, I was abused and neglected. I was lucky. Not many children in my position get the foster parents I had, they are absolute gems who showed me more love than I had ever had. They supported me, they lifted me, they raised me. This meant I got to come to a great University, the University of York. I got a degree, two to be precise. I got a great career path. I got loved. But I also got a taste of what it is like to be a student at University without parents to support you.
Being a care leaver at University can be alienating.
Which other student...
Those statements apply to many Care Leavers and Estranged Students. We as a University, and a bunch of people connected to that University in one way or another, can only do so much to help these brilliant students.
Thankfully, I believe York now have the most comprehensive undergraduate support package in UK Higher Education for Care Leavers, after a successful pilot last year.
Sometimes I have to pinch myself to realise that is actually true. I am so proud of us.
Some things we do quietly though, and for several years I have raised donations from staff members to provide these students with Christmas Stockings filled with small gifts (chocolate coins, Christmas socks, a chocolate orange, a Christmas pudding.... you get the idea) that absolutely make Christmas what it is - IT IS NOT CHRISTMAS WITHOUT CHRISTMAS SOCKS! We have also had cards hand signed by our Vice-Chancellor every year.
We aim to let these students know that for them, Christmas Day may not be the same as it is for many of us, but we are thinking of them. We aim to, in our own way, show a little love. All of you people who are reading this, if you can, I ask you to do exactly that - show a little love. In previous years, our students have really appreciated the gifts that they have received.
Every single penny will be spent on providing these stockings. If we receive enough donations where we go beyond our target (which seems quite unbelievable from where I'm sitting), we will increase the volume and/or quality of the gifts.
Feel free to reach out to me on twitter, I can be found at @Hoyletime
You may not have the budget at this time of year to provide us with financial support, but you might be able to help us in other ways. If you can, I would ask that you share this link via your chosen social media platform so that we can reach as many people as we can. The best way to spread Christmas cheer is to sing loud and clear for all to hear - but a retweet is the second best!