GIFTS and messages of support can give children and women who have fled violence a huge boost at Christmas.
Wearside Women in Need has placed the Giving Tree in Washington Galleries where kind-hearted shoppers can leave a gift for those living in refuges across Sunderland.
Claire Phillipson, director of the charity, said the tree – officially launched by Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson – has been going for more than 10 years and is always very well supported.
She said: “People are incredibly generous, and we just never cease to be moved and touched by not only the presents but the lovely messages of support and the cards that come with the gifts.
“The messages and gifts make a massive difference. Knowing they have support from someone else makes them feel part of Christmas and gives the women and children a massive lift.
“A lot of women who have fled domestic violence feel they have failed or they are ashamed, so the messages are really nice because it helps them to realise people do understand and are not judging them.”
Claire said often the women in the refuges have had to leave everything behind and are facing a big struggle, both emotionally and financially, to move on with their lives.
She said: “Knowing the children will have a present to open on Christmas morning is one less thing they have to worry about.”
Claire said that for many of the children, who have spent their lives in fear, spending Christmas in the refuge is actually the first time they can enjoy the festive season without being frightened, and the gifts from the Giving Tree are a big part of this.
She said they often have women who previously needed the refuge, but who have now turned their lives around, leaving gifts at the Giving Tree.
Older people who experienced growing up in domestic violence at a time when there was no help available often leave gifts and messages of support for the children.
The Giving Tree is filled with tags giving a brief description of the person the gift is for, and the shopper just needs to chose a tag and bring it back with their present.
Claire said: “It is amazing the care people put into choosing a present for a complete stranger. It is so appreciated.”
The Giving Tree will be at the Galleries shopping centre until a few days before Christmas.