Women host Christmas dinners for strangers to combat loneliness this season

'Some families coming this year were quite stuck – that’s just the way life is'

Olivia Petter
Wednesday 26 December 2018 13:23
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Christmas Day can be one of the most joyous times of year for some people, but for those who have no one to spend it with, it’s often the most isolating.

In a bid to combat this and help those feeling lonely over the holidays, two women hosted special Christmas Day dinners for people in their local towns, serving up three-course meals and organising games with the help of volunteers.

One of them was Mo Fayose, 44, who invited more than 100 people to a dinner she and 20 volunteers had arranged at Fenton Court in Nottingham.

The full-time charity worker from Basford whipped up an extensive menu for the occasion, consisting of butternut squash and swede soup, roast turkey and an array of canapés.

“This is for people who are isolated – who can’t get out of the house, elderly people, people with children,” she says, adding that people of all ages come along each year.

Fayose has a daughter aged 19 and a son aged 15

“The oldest person who has attended has been 88.”

The mother-of-two has been hosting the event for several years. What began as a simple dinner in her own home has now turned into a large-scale event that costs more than £2,000 to put on, most of which comes from Fayose’s own pocket.

Most of the event is funded by Fayose herself, with additional support coming from donations 

“I got the idea for it when I was doing my mental health nursing degree at the University of Nottingham,” she explains.

“I was so excited because it was Christmas – but one patient said to me ‘stop it, woman – not everybody likes Christmas’. She said she wasn’t looking forward to Christmas because it’s a lonely time.”

Statistics from the charity Age UK reveal that half a million older people in the UK were expected to feel lonely this Christmas.

“I am divorced, and I was lonely as well,” Fayose adds.

“When people start seeing Christmas stuff on the shelves and the lights go up, it sends people into depression. But if they know there is a group of them in the community, it makes them happy.”

Taylor Barnes, 21, hosted a similar event at her local community centre in Inverclyde, Scotland.

Barnes with her two-year-old daughter, Harper

The mother-of-one, who is pregnant with her second child, organised a sit-down dinner for 70 people in the area who had nowhere else to go on Christmas Day.

In addition to serving up a three-course-meal, Barnes bought presents for everyone from Boots using her own money and recruited Scottish comedian Hardeep SIngh Kohli to entertain the guests.

“Some families coming this year were quite stuck – that’s just the way life is,” she says.

A nearby cafe donated some homemade ice cream for the meal 

“In 2017 there was a woman who said it was her first Christmas in 25 years. It was pure emotional seeing her joy on the day.”

Diners of all ages attended this year's event, with the eldest one being 82 years old.

“I think every place needs something like this,” she adds, “I can see the difference it makes.”

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