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Santa’s little helpers have been making an early start in preparation for the Christmas lights switch on at Zoe’s Place Baby Hospice.

Who better to lend a hand than the young volunteers currently taking part in the Prince’s Trust Middlesbrough Team programme?

“The community project is such an important part of the personal development course, as it shows our young people the real difference they can make in their own community,” said team leader, Faye Hewitt.

When the baby hospice got in touch, the young people were eager to lend a hand.

Every year, as part of the charity’s festive activities, Zoe’s Place invites children and families to see the Christmas lights switched on and meet Santa in the hospice garden.

Alison Taylor, community and events fundraiser, said: “As you can imagine at this time of year it takes a massive effort to clear the grounds, ready for all the decorations and lights.”

But undeterred by the size of the task, for the young people aged 16 to 25, who are not currently in education or employment, it was a chance to help bring some real festive magic into children’s lives.

Assistant team leader Martin Copley said: “Sweeping up the leaves was no easy task, after all, every day we would come back to find more.”

Charlotte, 19, of Redcar, said: “It was hard work, as the grounds were completely covered, but we just cracked on as we knew it was for the children and families that come here.”

Zoe’s Place Baby Hospice provides a short break service, palliative and end-of-life care to babies and infants aged from birth to five years, living with life limiting or life-threatening conditions.

Impressed by the young people’s efforts, the charity’s community and events fundraiser Alison said: “The team has worked so hard clearing up the gardens and making planters.  Everyone has commented on how amazing they have been.

“When the local community – along with their families and children who use our hospice services – attend our annual Christmas lights event, we’re certain that they’ll admire the beautiful landscape too.”

The Prince’s Trust Team programme is delivered in Middlesbrough by the Education Training Collective (Etc.). The 12-week course offers its young recruits the opportunity to develop new skills by taking part in a series of tasks and challenges, of which the two-week community project is just one, to help them move forward into work, further education or training.

Nathan, 21, from Middlesbrough, said: “You gain confidence, new skills and get to meet new people, you also get a qualification.”

The Zoe’s Place Christmas Lights Switch On is due to take place on Friday November 18, from 4pm to 7pm.  Families are invited to come along for a suggested small donation.  With festive stalls and refreshments in the hospice garden at Cross beck House, High Street, Normanby, there’s even the chance to meet Santa!

You can click here to find out more about The Prince's Trust Team programmes delivered by the Etc. The next Middlesbrough Team, which meets at the Breckon Hill Community Centre, will be starting on Monday 16th January 2023. 

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