This December Take Charge has really got into the Christmas spirit. A great deal of our participants love Christmas and really look forward to it so we thought it would be a good opportunity to increase their engagement with the project by hosting two brand new Christmas themed sessions!
The first of these sessions was titled ‘Green Christmas’. This session focused on the ways we can be kinder to our planet this Christmas. The session started with a discussion on Christmas traditions to encourage our participants to think about the things they do over Christmas so we could look at each of these concepts in more detail with them. It was important to break down each of these concepts as many of our participants have learning disabilities and often need support to learn complex issues such as sustainable development. Take Charge was able to provide the tailored support needed to achieve this. Our participants commented that they like to put up the Christmas tree, send Christmas cards and presents, put up Christmas lights and eat turkey for Christmas dinner which were all discussed in terms of sustainability throughout the session.
The next part of the session involved a debate on the environmental impact of different types of Christmas tree. We asked our participants to think about the type of tree they have at home and their tree’s impact on the environment. The majority of participants had a fake Christmas tree but noted that they believed a real Christmas tree was better for the planet. We then showed our participants a video on the pros and cons of both so they could understand that there are lots of variables at play when it comes to Christmas trees.
After explaining a few of the more complicated points the video made to ensure our participants understood, we asked them again which type of tree they thought was better for the environment. A few participants changed their minds or agreed that there were pros and cons to both types. It is crucial that we take responsibility for the impact we, as individuals, have on the planet. Take Charge was able to provide this accessible session for our participants to be able to do this.
We moved on to the best way to recycle our used Christmas trees. We talked about the options available in our participants’ community and explained what the council would be doing to ensure used Christmas trees are recycled appropriately. Many of our participants need support with using the computer and wouldn’t have known about the options available in their community without our support.
We also discussed the advantages of purchasing items from charity shops when buying gifts and how reusing things is better for the environment. We showed them some pictures of a few charity shops available to them in Pontypridd and Talbot Green to ensure they knew what was available in their community. It is essential that everyone is included within their community and Take Charge was able to facilitate this.
After this, we moved on to a discussion on the impact of meat on our planet with a particular focus on food miles. We showed our participants an interesting website where they could type in their postcode to find their nearest turkey farmer thus reducing food miles if they purchased a turkey from them. This was a unique way to encourage our participants to think about shopping locally. Alongside this we also showed them an entertaining photo of a turkey raised by a family in Wales as a suggestion to grow their own.
We often find that including entertaining pictures encourages engagement and what is more entertaining than a homegrown turkey dressed for Christmas?!
After discussing a few other topics, we moved on to the final activity in the session, writing and singing our own Christmas carol about sustainability at Christmas time. This exercise was an enjoyable one that helped to consolidate our participants’ learning. We encouraged each of our participants to think of a line to add to the carol with some thinking about making things rhyme too.
Our participants left the session much more knowledgeable about their impact on the environment which is one of the things Take Charge aims to achieve.
Our second Christmas session focused on equal opportunities and was titled ‘Christmas Around the World!’. We started the session off with a quiz to encourage our participants to think about the number of people who celebrate Christmas around the world as well as how long these traditions have been going on for. Again, this was a good way to encourage our participants to start thinking about Christmas traditions throughout the world and we have found that quizzes are particularly popular among our participants.
We then asked our participants to consider the traditions that are only found in Wales. First, we discussed the Mari Llwyd which is the tradition of hiding under a sheet and using a horse’s skull as a puppet to sing Christmas songs at people’s doorsteps around the local village.
Then we moved on to the tradition of making Cyflaith before the Plygain. This is when a kind of toffee is made on Christmas eve and songs are sung.
Both of these traditions were accompanied by videos to show our participants what they were all about. Using videos is an excellent way to increase engagement and to provide alternative explanations for more complex concepts. After this, we asked our participants if they thought it was important that we remember and continue to celebrate these traditions. We discussed the reasons why this was important in terms of our history and our culture.
After discussing Welsh traditions, we moved on to the rest of the world. Our participants were interested to learn about the various alternatives to Santa around the world including La Befana from Italy, Ded Moroz from Eastern Europe and Sinterklaas from the Netherlands and Belgium.
Again, we watched a video about a few of these different characters. There was also another quiz about Christmas dinners around the world. Everyone was very intrigued to find out what foods are eaten across various nations including Japan, Australia, France and Poland. We asked our participants if they thought it was good to learn about other traditions with everyone commenting that they enjoyed learning about other cultures. Take Charge was able to provide these individuals with the opportunity to learn about other cultures in a fun, accessible way.
The final part of our section focused on those who don’t celebrate Christmas and how we should treat people with respect regardless of religion or culture. We explained how the Equality Act 2010 is a law designed to protect various groups of people (protected characteristics) from discrimination.
Our participants went away from this session with a wider understanding of Christmas around the world with some commenting that they would like to try something new this year. They also had a greater awareness of equality and discrimination because of this festive session.
Harnessing the magic of Christmas is an innovative and fun way of approaching our CCTs which resonated well with our participants who particularly love this time of year. Sustainable development and equal opportunities are really important things for people to learn about and Take Charge has found a novel way of ensuring that these themes are approached in an accessible, relevant and entertaining way to maximise participant engagement.