Think of the Christmas cracker at this time of year and what comes to mind? Parties, paper hats, jokes, fun and games might be some of the answers. And this is exactly what is on offer at the special ‘Christmas Cracker’ events run by PCI.
The events are a one-day respite scheme for adults with a learning disability, to provide carers some free time prior to Christmas to go shopping, or to socialise with friends, safe in the knowledge that their dependents are being cared for and having fun.
Now in its eighth year, more congregations than ever are hosting a ‘Christmas Cracker’ afternoon, Belfast, Bangor, Coleraine, Armagh and Hillsborough. Experienced Social Witness staff and volunteers offer a fun programme for those who come along, including various arts and crafts, sporting activities, cookery sessions and even flower arranging, as well as festive refreshments, carol singing and a short epilogue. For those who do not like noisy activities there is the opportunity to spend time in a quiet area.
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland provides residential respite care, day care and supported living for adults with a learning disability at a number of locations across Northern Ireland. Recognising the need for extra support for carers of those with a learning disability at certain times of year, such as Christmas, the idea for the ‘Christmas Cracker’ afternoons came into being.
Linda Wray, PCI’s Residential and Supported Services Manager, explained why ‘Christmas Cracker’ is important for those who come to the afternoons, as well as for their carers: “Christmas Cracker gives churches the opportunity to connect with families in their local area who may never attend church services and to show that we are a caring and practical church prepared to reach all. It also enables family carers the opportunity to have a few hours respite from the pressures of caring.
“Over the last eight years it has been exciting to see that additional churches have caught the vision that started in east Belfast, as this year, New Row in Coleraine and Lislooney, Armagh are hosting the event along with McQuiston Memorial, West Church Bangor and Hillsborough.”
Rev. Dr. Allen Sleith, minister of Hillsborough Presbyterian, which has hosted ‘Christmas Cracker’, said: “More than 20 people came to our afternoon last year and we had a great time together – it was so enjoyable. Clearly, there is a need for this kind of support and we were very happy to help meet that need.”
To find out more about the ‘Christmas Cracker’ afternoons visit our events page, but hurry as limited spaces are available.
If you feel this is an area of service and witness that your congregation could get involved in why not contact the Council for Social Witness office on +44 (0)28 9041 7234 to make arrangements to visit one of the events this year and start planning for 2018.