As part of Parental Choice’s focus on charities at Christmas, we asked Helen Shepherd, fundraising manager at the Railway Children and mother herself for the reasons why she supports the Railway Children:
“Two years ago, my role at Railway Children provided me with the opportunity to visit India and see first-hand the work being done by the charity. I saw up close the problems many children are faced with on the streets, and the impact Railway Children is having on their lives and some of the poorest, most vulnerable communities.
I have been a member of the charity’s fundraising team for five years now and I have learned that it isn’t just about rescuing these children off the streets. We want to change their lives for good so they don’t feel they have to run away again. Meeting the project workers in Kolkata and some of the children we have helped made me realise just how important our work is. Whilst the problems are often more visible overseas, there are many children in the UK that also need our help.
I have a 10-year-old son Daniel and a daughter Charlotte, aged seven. And I recently went to their school to talk about why some children run away and the dangers they face when they end up on the streets. Children don’t run away from the one place where they should feel safe for no reason. I talked to them about the parallels between why children run away in India, East Africa and here in the UK. In so many cases, in spite of the many cultural differences, it is problems within the family that cause them to run away.
According to latest official figures, 69,540 children in England are being looked after by local authorities. This figure has increased steadily over the past seven years and is now higher than at any point since 1985. Family dysfunction is already the second most common reason in the UK for a child going into care and the numbers affected continue to rise.
In response, our family workers help families rebuild damaged relationships and break the cycle of violence, neglect and abuse that can travel down the generations. We help parents make their homes happier, safer and more nurturing – so their children have no reason to run away. It requires intensive support and it takes time. But it works.
While for many, Christmas is a time of celebration, relaxing and holidays, for some families it is the worst time of year, bringing huge stress, financial pressure and even relationship breakdown.
Daniel and Charlotte may roll their eyes at me whenever I tell them for the umpteenth time how fortunate they are to have a safe and happy family life. But this Christmas, I will once again be reminding my children – and myself – just how lucky we are.
If you would like to support Railway Children’s Christmas appeal and help us hold families together this Christmas visit www.railwaychildren.org.uk