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Swindon Warm and Welcome

I moved to Swindon over 15 years ago with my young daughter, and it's always struck me how welcome the people of Swindon have made me feel. My daughter immediately had a circle of friends, and their parents seemed to have an endless supply of fish fingers and play dates to offer us. What most don't know about me is that while I've never been in receipt of benefits, as a family, we financially struggled. I worked as much as possible, and all our cash went on bus fare or child care costs. I'd often go days without meals to keep my daughter well-fed, and every one of these play dates gave me a chance to eat something and have time to decompress from the stress of life. They gave me a mum to talk to, a warm room to drink a hot cup of tea in, and a chance for my child to forget all her troubles and be a kid without listening to another excuse about why we were sitting at the dining table. At the same time, she ate and told me about her day, and I sat with a glass of water. I can't even describe the dread I felt when she wanted to invite a friend for dinner or to play, knowing that this would be another day where I'd not eat, to provide the food we couldn't afford to another child.

We were surprised to hear that little has changed over the years. Around 7,000 children in Swindon may become socially isolated and need access to a warm and healthy meal during school holidays. I know first-hand the shame of speaking up and letting someone know you need help. Over Christmas, I was contacted by Steve at Gorse Hill Tea Rooms, who asked if I'd donate to the Swindon Warm and Welcome Space to enable them to keep the doors open, provide a hot meal, drink and a safe place for the Swindon community who need it. Most of the Culture Gem team live and work in Swindon, Wiltshire, and have all been part of this community for several years. Because of the warmth shown to me by the Swindon community, we try to give back to our friends, neighbours, and the community who smile at us when we're out and about and have chosen to support the Swindon Warm and Welcome Space, held at Gorse Hill Tea Rooms, as well as their Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme that provides healthy food and enriching activities to eligible children during school holidays.

If you or your company are in a position to support your local community and the people in need within it, please do. Just because you don't see the pain and suffering doesn't mean it's not there. Take a look at your local council's website for details of their Warm and Welcome Space's or HAF programmes and see how you can get involved. The kids you help today could be your future top talent.


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