A Warm Welcome for Children and Families

April 2023
Samantha Craven

Let’s face it, the last few years have been hard on everyone. But, just now, I would like to spend a few moments thinking about families. The last few years have definitely been hard on families! 

Lockdown and school closures affected everyone differently, but we know that many families who were already vulnerable were hit especially hard: Families with cramped living conditions or limited access to outdoor space, with nowhere for children to run off steam. Families living with disabilities or special educational needs, with no opportunity to get a break. Families on low incomes, struggling to feed and entertain their children. Single parent families and families struggling with Mental Health challenges, with no one to share the burden

Without the support of extended family, schools, and community networks many families struggled during the years of the pandemic. And now, just as soon as lockdowns ended, we find ourselves embroiled in both a Cost-of-Living Crisis and a Mental health crisis and it's no secret that it is often the same families that are, once again, facing the biggest battles. 

Are these exceptional circumstances? Will everything be alright once we get through this latest crisis? Hopefully for some families, yes, sometimes trouble is just for a season. The reality is, however, that no matter what is happening globally there will always be some families who are experiencing a season of personal crisis or hardship. 

It has been inspiring to see so many churches and community groups step up this winter and join with the warm welcome campaign to offer warm, safe spaces for members of the local community to come together and support one another in this time of national crisis. Isn’t that the kind of world we want to live in? One where communities pull together, share their resources and care for one another whenever the need arises?

I live in the tourist village of Haworth in West Yorkshire. Every year Haworth hosts a “1940’s weekend” and the village is flooded with nostalgic people in costume celebrating all that was wonderful and memorable about life in the forties. Sometimes that can jar a little when we remember that, alongside the outfits and the community spirit, the forties was a decade filled with unspeakable horror. People often talk nostalgically about how people really pulled together in the War. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if looking after your neighbour and supporting each other through personal circumstances was a priority in every community, all the time, with or without a global crisis to contend with?

At TLG Make Lunch we equip churches to support local families with nutritious meals that create community and connection. Our network of partner churches has been running Make Lunch clubs; serving hot food, providing fun activities, and nourishing rich friendships during school holidays for over ten years. As Winter 2022 approached it was clear that the national crisis would mean that even more families across the UK would be struggling to keep warm and fed as energy and food prices soared. We were encouraged by the call to action of the Warm Welcome campaign and many of our Make Lunch clubs joined in, registering their Lunch club sessions as Warm Spaces so that more families could find us.

I, for one, am very relieved that winter is almost over, however, what has always been clear at Make Lunch is that providing a “warm” welcome is not limited to the physical temperature of our space. As we head into Spring, it is important to notice that the challenges that so many families are experiencing are not simply going to evaporate in the sunshine. Families will continue to need support from the community around them. 

Let us hope that the increase in community spirit and desire to help that has birthed in this most recent time of crisis will continue to grow, as relationships are formed and communities begin to journey with one another through all the variety of challenges that life brings.

Joe’s Story | Subtitled on Vimeo

TLG Make Lunch Cleveleys are just one of our lunch clubs who registered with Warm Welcome this winter.

TLG Make Lunch offers training, equipping and support to churches wanting to make a difference to families in their local community. To find out more about how your church can get involved in hosting free lunch clubs that build connection for families in the holidays visit https://www.tlg.org.uk/your-church/make-lunch.

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