Social inclusion week was first launched in 2009 by Dr Jonathon Welch AM, with the goal of helping to make all Australians feel included and valued in society. The initiative aims to help people who may feel isolated, excluded, and unable to help themselves, by connecting them with local communities, workmates, friends, and family.
This aim is very close to our hearts at 300 Blankets. Sadly, many people experiencing homelessness face extreme social isolation. While they may see literally hundreds of people each day, they are likely to be ignored by the vast majority of these passers-by. No smiles, no handshakes, no hugs. Many people won’t even make eye contact with them.
At 300 Blankets, we work to tackle the issue of social isolation with our Outreach Program. Our volunteers head out onto the streets twice every week, with the aim of extending a friendly hand to the people who are most disenfranchised and marginalised in our community. Providing blankets for warmth is important, particularly in winter. But really, the true purpose of our outreach program is all about offering the warmth of friendship and community to those who need it most.
Over the weekend, we held our first Christmas Afternoon Tea. At the event, I spoke about the importance of community and social inclusion, and invited guests to write Christmas cards for people experiencing homelessness as they enjoyed an afternoon of live music and freshly baked cakes and sandwiches. It was wonderful seeing strangers sitting together on one big communal table at Parker Lane to take part in the exercise. One of our guests enthusiastically wrote fourteen cards. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the guests, the acoustic duo – Ben and Shann, Parker Lane, Healthy Cass Creations, Fiona Hore-Lacy, Cause Corps, and all of the wonderful bakers and volunteers for taking part in the event.
When we started the Message in a Blanket program three years ago, we knew that it was a great way spread the warmth of friendship and directly connect donors with the recipient. But the value of these personalised messages became truly clear the first time we saw an emotional recipient read, then reread, then asks if they could keep the message. For everyone who has taken part in our Message in a Blanket program, it does make a difference.
We will be distributing the Christmas cards throughout the month of December as part of our Outreach Program. We hope that the personalised hand written Christmas cards will bring that little extra bit of warmth and happiness for many of our friends who will be alone this Christmas.
Social Inclusion Week to find out more about Social Inclusion Week.