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Giving children the gift of hope

Thursday 3 December 2020 

When seven-year-old Maisie* received a sparkly new bracelet from her mummy she was thrilled. After years of neglect and witnessing horrible domestic violence Maisie, who lived just outside of Peterborough, had got something to treasure. Then her mum told her it was a present to say “goodbye”.

Maisie’s mum had decided she wanted to be with her boyfriend more than she wanted to be with her daughter. She cut ties with her little girl and started a new life. Maisie didn’t understand why her mum had chosen a nasty man who used to hit her and hurt her instead of her. But the devastated little girl still treasured the bracelet as her only reminder of her mum.

Thanks to specialist counselling and support from Embrace Child Victims of Crime (Embrace CVOC), a city-based charity which supports children who have suffered trauma through serious crime, Maisie is now rebuilding her life with her dad and her confidence grows every day. Embrace CVOC helps thousands of children each year recover from neglect, sexual and physical abuse and other serious crimes with therapy, counselling, hardship fund donations and specialist individualised support.

Embrace CVOC is currently running its annual Christmas campaign Dear Santa 2020 to encour-age the public to buy gifts of choice for children like Maisie who have suffered terrible trauma through serious crime.

For many of these children it will be the only gift they find under the tree on Christmas Day. Over the past three decades, Embrace Child Victims of Crime has helped thousands of children like Maisie put back together the pieces of their lives like 13-year-old Luke* whose home life was ripped apart by domestic violence.

Moving house was a common occurrence for Luke. In just a few years he changed school seven times as he, his mum and sister fled from a violent man who they should have been able to trust. Luke was often terrified as he watched this man hit his mother, and smash up their home and other possessions. His only sanctuary was his family fishing trips. Luke loved fishing with his mum – it was the only time he really felt safe and calm.

So when the perpetrator tracked them down again, the teenager was devastated that his fishing equipment was left behind in the rush to escape.

That’s where Embrace CVOC came in. During Luke’s counselling sessions his therapist saw how much fishing meant to the family. The charity funded new fishing gear so they could enjoy their days out again.

Some children helped by Embrace CVOC are crippled with guilt because they have spoken out against horrific abuse which has then divided their family. Some are struggling to come to terms with the loss of their mum, dad, sister or brother who might have been unlawfully killed. Others might be terrified because the home that should be their safe place is the regular scene of domestic violence and abuse. There are also those young people who, through years of neglect and abuse, have little self confidence and self esteem.

All of these children have very different circumstances and very different stories but they all also have one thing in common. They have suffered terrible trauma because of serious crime affecting their young lives.

Children like those described and others can be helped by city-based charity Embrace Child Vic-tims of Crime. Embrace CVOC is unique because it is the only UK charity working solely with child victims of crime, providing bespoke and individualised support packages for children and their families.

Anne Campbell has been chief executive of the charity, based in Copse Court, off Thorpe Wood Road, Peterborough for the past eight years. Over this time she has led its growth from helping a few hundred children a year to several thousand a year.

She said: “What we offer is really unique. It is not a one size fits all approach, everything we do is child-centred. We assess every case thoroughly to really get to the heart of what that child and that family needs to help them rebuild their lives and succeed, rather than spiral out of control which happens when the right support isn’t there.”

From specialist counselling to providing caravan breaks or even a new bike or guitar lessons, Em-brace case workers really get to know the children and their families so they understand what therapy, practical, emotional and specialist support they can give to really make a difference to those children’s lives.

Anne continued: “One little boy had no self esteem or self confidence because of what he had been through. He didn’t have the confidence to go out and just wanted to hide in his room. Over time, as we got to know him, he told us he had always wanted to learn to play the guitar. We arranged the loan of a guitar, organised some guitar lessons and eventually we bought him a gui-tar of his own. The change in this little boy was immeasurable. We were able to rebuild his faith in human nature and give him the confidence to learn something new and succeed at it.” In 2019, Embrace helped 270 children in Peterborough alone. Some were referred by the Victim and Witness Hub, a free confidential service which provides emotional and practical support to crime victims and witnesses in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, which just happens to share the same building as Embrace’s head office.

Anne said: “Children are referred to us by police officers, teachers or domestic violence support workers – all those people working in safeguarding roles.

“Although the Covid-19 pandemic has meant we’ve had to halt our face-to-face services, it has also given us the opportunity to develop our telephone and virtual services enabling us to support children no matter where they live in the UK. The demand for our services increases each year. According to the National Crime Survey over 700,000 children between 10 and 15 are the victims of serious crime each year. But these are just the crimes that are reported and we believe it is just the tip of the iceberg.”

To find out more about Embrace CVOC visit www.embracecvoc.org.uk

Dear Santa campaign

There’s still time to support our Dear Santa 2020 campaign and help a child whose lives have been torn apart by serious crime.

Dear Santa 2020 is unique because it enables you to a buy gift for a child in need – and it’s a gift they have actually wished for – so you know your generosity will definitely make Christmas special for that child.

Many of these families cannot afford to buy presents for their children and for some it will be the only gift they get this year.

Every child who is referred to the Dear Santa campaign gets to choose a gift they would like from Santa. All these gifts are available to buy through Embrace’s website. Santa’s elves gift wrap it for you and ensure it gets to the child who wished for it.

You can purchase a gift directly from our Dear Santa Wish List at https://embracecvoc.org.uk/ dear-santa/

You can also donate cash to http://virginmoneygiving.com/fund/dearsanta2020 

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