Birthday Angels was founded by Oundle resident Lesley Palmer in 2015. The initiative aims to give birthday presents to homeless teens who live in the supported housing programme, the Peterborough Foyer, which provides accommodation for up to 49 vulnerable young people and young parents aged 16 to 25.
The young people who are referred to the Foyer must have a local connection to Peterborough. By combining a safe place to live with personal support, training and employment advice, the programme offers young people the chance to escape the ‘no home, no job’ cycle, and enables them to develop new skills and confidence.
Most often, though, they are estranged from their families and never receive birthday gifts or cards. The idea behind Birthday Angels, says Lesley, is to ‘make them feel as though they aren’t alone, and there are people who really care’.
The simplicity of the idea is its greatest strength, and being able to give in the form of gifts is what makes the charity so special. The gifts can be anything as small as toiletries, socks, blankets, or books, as long as no gift exceeds ten pounds.
Lesley said that the response from the young people has been tremendous. ‘To be forgotten on your birthday, feels wretched.’ This small gesture makes a big difference to them.
‘Their faces lighting up, and their expressions of happiness are hard to describe.’
The impact that one act of kindness can have on a person is undeniable, and often might kick-start and motivate change.
Lesley has already recruited fifteen volunteers in the Oundle community to help co-ordinate gifts. It really is as easy as giving five to ten pounds, or an actual gift.
‘Homelessness is a nationwide problem, and we should do the bit that we can in our corner of the world,’ she said.
Lesley is right; the evidence is right under our noses. Peterborough has recently been named as the tenth biggest homeless hotspot in the East of England. Oundle is only 15 miles from Peterborough, and is our corner of the world. We ought to do all that we can to help.
By Sabrina Hirst