Ballymena barbers have called on the local community to donate a Christmas gift to young people leaving care.
The Barbers Collective, in partnership with VOYPIC-Voice of Young People in Care- are calling on customers, shoppers, and local residents to pick up an extra gift, to donate to a young care leaver this Christmas. Presents can be left under the tree in their Church Street shop until 18 December. Alternatively, vouchers for a haircut in the store can be donated.
According to latest figures, around 300 young people, aged 16-18, leave care each year in Northern Ireland. With more children in care now than ever before, the number is set to grow over the coming years.
VOYPIC works across the region, supporting children in care and young people leaving care. The organisation runs various groups and forums from its office on Garfield Place, as well as supporting individual young people through coaching and an independent advocacy service.
Iain Black, Northern Area Manager at VOYPIC, said, “Christmas is a happy time for most, but for some young people it can be tough. Young care leavers often feel isolated, and Christmas can be a particularly difficult time.
“We know that young men leaving care can face a whole range of additional challenges, so we hope that by partnering with The Barber Collective we can start a conversation on how we can help them feel more connected and valued across our community.”
Chris Power, from The Barber Collective, explained why the business has decided to support young care leavers.
He said, “We realise that we are fortunate enough to be in the position to give and receive gifts. Not everyone is as fortunate, but everybody should have a present on Christmas morning.”
Gifts should be suitable for young people, aged 16-25 years old. Presents for young men are particularly need this Christmas.
Popular gifts include hats, scarves and gloves, home essentials, toiletries, and sweet treats. Gift vouchers, including phone top-ups, utilities vouchers, and supermarket gift cards, are particularly welcomed by young people.
Alternatively, customers of the Barber Collective can ‘pay it forward’ by gifting a voucher for a free haircut to a young man with experience of care.
Stuart Forsythe, a care experienced Young Leader in VOYPIC, welcomed the initiative.
He said, “Sometimes, getting your hair cut can drop down the list of priorities, especially when money is tight. But, sitting in the chair, it gives you time to stop and take a breath, to have a chat with the barber, and to take some time for yourself.”
“And, getting your hair cut- it just makes you feel better,” he added.
Gifts can be left under the tree at the The Barber Collective, Church Street, during working hours until Saturday 18 December.