Newington primary pupils Christmas gift project for Thanet Winter Shelter and Porchlight

Gifts from Newington pupils to help others

Generous children at Newington Community Primary School in Ramsgate are supporting the homeless and those in need with a reverse advent project this Christmas.

Backed by their families and staff, pupils have collected bags of presents including gifts, toys and personal items, for the Thanet Winter Shelter and the Porchlight project for homelessness.

Instead of the schoolchildren opening a window a day through December on their advent calendars, they have given gifts to be received and opened everyday through December to those less fortunate than themselves.

The school’s charity co-ordinator is teacher Sarah Groves who said: “Bringing the reverse advent idea to Newington was the idea of teaching assistant Debbie Thomas.

“The staff and children were inspired by the thought of helping others in this festive way and it snowballed from there.

“We collected items that people would really need to help improve their lives – each gift was individually wrapped so they could be opened advent-style.

“Big thanks go to everyone who supported this worthwhile cause with such generosity and kindness.”

Head Teacher Cliff Stokes said: “Our school has the word community in its title for a very good reason – we are all about our school community and the wider community. It is important for our children to support those who may be struggling for whatever reason, particularly at this time of year when loneliness and the cold weather can really make life desperate and miserable.

“Thankfully the Thanet Winter Shelter and the Porchlight charity do a first rate job supported by kind-hearted volunteers who really go more than the extra mile to help bring some warmth and cheer to the homeless and needy.

“Our school and our pupils have a very strong sense of social awareness and responsibility all year round – and during this season our community spirit shines bright.”

Thanet Winter Shelter supported by Ramsgate Salvation Army, Thanet council, RISE, isle churches and The Gap Project.

The shelter, which is running for its fourth year, opened on November 11 and runs through to March 29. It provides a bed, food and services to those sleeping rough on the isle.

The scheme is free to anyone who needs to access it and referrals are made by Thanet’s Rough Sleeper Service, RISE.

At least 20 bed spaces, plus five emergency ones, are provided nightly, as well a hot evening meal and breakfast the next morning. It is running across eight venues in Margate and Ramsgate.

Funding for the project costs around £65,000 each year. Thanet council gives £20,000 with a further £10,000 grant from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government but the rest is made up of donations.

The aim is to make a big difference to the lives of people in circumstances beyond their control and who find themselves rough-sleeping homeless.

As a ‘popup’ or floating shelter using church buildings staffed by project workers and volunteer teams, the Shelter hopes to take the uncertainty and stress out of trying to find overnight accommodation during the coldest nights of the winter.

Will, one of the Shelter users, spoke for many. He said: “I don’t know how I would have survived a winter on the streets. The help that they gave me has really helped me to get my life back on track.”

To find out more about Thanet Winter Shelter go online to