Asylum seekers in Northallerton have been given surprise Christmas gifts thanks to the generosity of a kind-hearted teacher and grateful former refugees.
Ivana Gardner, an adult learning service teacher with North Yorkshire Council, collected dozens of gifts from generous neighbours and friends, including books, chocolates, biscuits, toys and other goodies, and wrapped them with the help of her learners, who are all former refugees. The pile of presents was then handed over to a group of asylum seekers staying in Northallerton.
North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for corporate services, Cllr David Chance, said: “Not only is this a wonderful surprise for the families who are receiving the presents, but it’s spreading festive cheer.
“No child should go without a present on Christmas morning and this donation will make sure that children and adults who have experienced the worst challenges in life will have a magical Christmas regardless of their circumstances. Thank you to Ivana and her students for their kindness.”
Mrs Gardner said she was overwhelmed by the generosity of people donating when collecting presents.
“All the goods donated are new and of excellent quality,” she said. “The spirit of Christmas is definitely alive and well in North Yorkshire as people have dug deep to buy the best. As part of the Rural Resettlement Project, it has been an important experience for our former refugee students to give something back as they have lived through the trauma of fleeing war-torn countries.
“A lot of our learners have stayed in hotels, some for up to 18 months, so getting involved in projects like this is a great way to get them involved in British culture and hopefully enjoy the festivities, too.”
She added: “I would like to thank each and every person who donated, including the council’s Multiply initiative that funded gloves, toothbrushes and other hygiene essentials. Multiply – a programme to help adults improve their numeracy skills – also funded the Christmas wrapping paper to encourage learners to use maths skills to measure the appropriate size of paper for the gift.”
Mrs Gardner is no stranger to fundraising for the underprivileged. She has supported lots of charities and worthwhile causes, including working with a North Yorkshire primary school and neighbours raising hundreds of pounds to support the people of Ukraine, which borders with her home country of Slovakia.