Writing a letter to Santa is one of the most exciting parts of Christmas for any child. But this year, rather than writing a long list of toys and sweets, one five-year-old decided to write something rather different....
Five-year-old Finlay's message to Santa was simple: "Please may I have a scooter and some surprises. Please could you give one of my presents to a little boy from Syria, who has nothing. Love, Finlay."
Finlay's mum, Kim, says she was "blown away" when she read Finlay's letter. "At first, I wasn't sure if I was reading his letter correctly, so I asked him to read it out to me. When he told me that he wanted to give one of his presents away to a refugee child, I initially couldn't comprehend that a five-year-old would consider giving up a present. I took the letter to my husband, and I was really tearful.”
Making Finlay’s Christmas wish come true
Kim knew that she had to do something to make her son's Christmas wish come true, so she contacted ActionAid. Earlier this year, we set up two mum and baby centres on the Greek island of Lesvos, where refugee women can breastfeed in private and are given essential supplies like nappies and wipes. With Kim's donation, we bought some small toys for the centre, so that babies can play while their mums get some much needed rest and support.
Finlay was delighted when he saw photos of the babies playing with toys in the centre. “Woah… that’s really cool!” he said.
Kim isn’t sure exactly sure how the idea came to Finlay. She says, “He has always been a very caring little boy. They recently had two new children in their class, and neither of them spoke good English. Finlay was the one chosen to help them in their first few days, to play with them and help them get around.”
“These families escaping war are just like us"
Finlay likes watching the news, and Kim says that recent family holidays to Tunisia and to Egypt meant that Finlay recognised these two countries when news of the terrible attacks in these countries came out earlier this year.
“He and his sister Grace are of an age where they’ll just come down and put the TV on on a Saturday morning,” says Kim. “He’s so small - we don’t want him to be scared. We explain to him that the UK is like a safe haven, that these families escaping war are just like us. Syrian refugees are travelling to Europe and to the UK because in their country they can’t live the way that they need to, because they want to have a better life and live like we do.
“The children were talking about it at school, and asking whether they might have a Syrian child join their class. Finlay’s teacher told me that every child put their hand up and said that they could take a Syrian child in their classroom.”
Kim’s husband is from South Africa, and they lived together in Botswana before their children were born. She said: “We’ve seen a lot of poverty. We’ve always brought up our children to appreciate what they have - and that not everyone can just turn on a light or a tap or the TV. We’re so lucky in this country.”
Kim says she’s very proud of her son. “He’ll never make any money but he’ll make a difference. I don’t know what Finlay will do, but I know it will be something special. He wants to help people.”
Giving hope this Christmas
Her hope is that Finlay’s letter will encourage others to give this Christmas. “I hope that if a five-year-old can have the desire to give to people in need in Syria, then an adult should stop and think. Me and my husband thought - if Finlay can give up one of his gifts then so can we, so we gave some money online to ActionAid’s Christmas appeal. It made me think differently and I hope it does for others as well.”
Finlay’s toys are a one-off donation to ActionAid’s women and baby centres to help give young children an attempt at some normality during what is such a difficult time.
Our main priority continues to focus on meeting the immediate needs of the most vulnerable refugees in Greece, so we ask that anyone wanting to help homeless children consider donating to our Christmas appeal.