Operation Santa - Youth helping youth doing it tough

Posted in Leadership,Culture,Family

Photo caption: The youth of Bridgewater Uniting Church at Operation Santa 2018.


Each year, youth groups from Uniting Churches all over South Australia get together to eat pizza and go shopping – all in aid of helping other teens who are doing it tough.

UnitingCare’s Operation Santa aims to make Christmas bright for families with teens. Playing Kris Kringle, the youth groups help UnitingCare organisations to purchase teen appropriate gifts to ensure that older children in families don’t go without on Christmas Day – as often is the case.

An affordability crisis within the private rental market and the historically low rate of social support means that, similar to last year, it is expected around 120,000 families with children will be seeking assistance from charities this Christmas. According to the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare these families are facing housing difficulties (40%), family violence (30%) and financial and employment difficulties (11%). Add to that statistics from Roy Morgan which found that a quarter of all people experience anxiety over Christmas, and one can start to imagine just how tough Christmas can be for those who are struggling financially.

Last year, gifts that were purchased through Operation Santa went to families like Sarah’s*. She’s a single mother of three teenagers. They had an “average” life before Sarah found out she had breast cancer and had to quit her job in order to receive treatment. When Christmas came around, she couldn’t afford gifts or any festive goodies for the family. Through Operation Santa and the help of a UnitingCare organisation, the family received a food hamper and age-appropriate gifts for the teens.

Operation Santa also came to the rescue for Lisa* and her family. She wasn’t expecting to be homeless with her teenagers at Christmas, but after bravely leaving a violent situation at home in mid-December Lisa found she didn’t have anything she could offer the kids.

The UnitingCare staff hand-picked the gifts for this family and filled up a hamper with delicious, festive food. Lisa wept tears of joy and was clearly moved by the kindness and consideration of strangers. She was confident that the family would be joyful this Christmas despite their stressful circumstances.

In country South Australia, nine social workers reported back about the people who received gifts.  One special family received gifts and Mum and Dad were touched to the point of tears when they realised that there were gifts for them as well as their two foster children. 

In metro SA, two different families in two different suburbs each received gifts for their families after needing help due to severe medical conditions.  One single Dad came into a UnitingCare organisation with his daughter who has disabilities. With her high medical costs and his one wage, he didn’t think he could give her a Christmas to smile about. When he received the food and gifts, he couldn’t believe that people were so generous. 

Another family’s child was diagnosed with cancer and hospitalised on 20 December. The family had no way to provide for the extended family coming to stay at Christmas and were doubly heartbroken. The UnitingCare organisation was able to share bags of gifts and food to help the whole family through a really tough Christmas.

Teens who are part of participating youth groups find it a fulfilling event. Some donate their own pocket money, others organise a special collection at church or initiate a fundraiser.

All Uniting Churches are invited to participate in Operation Santa 2019. Dates are yet to be announced based on interest.  Please register interest by sending an email to Julianne at unitingcare@sa.uca.org.au.

Find more information here.


* Not their real names



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