Every year, we see the very best efforts of Merton Council and its residents to light up the borough and spread some good seasonal cheer, from shooting stars leaping out from lampposts lining the streets, to the houses themselves twinkling with strings of lights. One house in particular, on Belvedere Avenue, stands out impressively, decked out from doorstep to chimney-top with brightly coloured lights, a Santa Claus beaming down from a roof-top, a fiery red glow from every other window and a cheery ‘Merry Christmas’ glowing above the doorframe. To the side, a floodlit panel with large QR code invites the admiring crowds to take a closer look at what lies behind this extravagant illumination. 


The panel sends viewers (who it is hoped will be donors!) to Home-start Merton, a non-profit, voluntary organisation aiming to support families with young children when they need it most, “because childhood can’t wait”. It is their firm belief that family is special and, with their volunteers, they strive to empower families facing temporary challenges and setbacks for whatever reason, to enable them to function independently and enjoy the pleasures of family life, including day trips, Christmas presents.  Volunteers provide some hours of help a week to help families access established support services and simply help them to help themselves through difficult times, through training, tips and advice.  They’ve helped over 750 families and 650 children, helping them tackle many family crises, prevent breakdowns and build confidence for struggling parents. Asked why he chose to support this particular charity, the owner of the magnificently lit house told me "I started to support it when it lost its funding".  With a squeeze on cuts, it is left to charities such as these to raise their own funds.


I believe we need charities like Home-Start more than ever during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, to help families where one or more parent might have a job teetering on the edge, or who might be suffering from ill-health or family breakdown, struggling to raise children as young as in infancy. Families might be in need of moral support and emotional reinforcement in order to function properly.  This is where we all can help, by adding our support to existing supporters such as Wimbledon Foundation, John Lewis, Waitrose and Dons Local Action Group, and donating funds. You can do this here at: https://www.home-start.org.uk/fundraise

Let's help light up our borough and light up lives through Home-Start Merton.