For the past month 20-year-old Palace for Life trainee Jamil Smith has been organising a Christmas party for refugees from Brigstock House, writes Andre Darby.

Jamil who is enrolled on the Palace for Life Opportunities for Success programme has been at the forefront of the party plans which take place on December 14 from 2pm-4pm.

The pre-traineeship level course enables young people aged 16-19 to explore ideas and help them identify their strengths to plan for their next move in education or training. Pathways include sports coaching, railway engineering, construction, hospitality and creative media.

As part of the course the young people helped fix and restore the previously out of use garden at the  Salvation Army on Thornton Heath High Street where the upcoming festivities are being held. Their great work caught the attention of the London Youth organisation which offers to fund any charitable cause nominated and resulted in Jamil’s idea being chosen.

Working alongside Palace for Life staff is local artist and designer Vân Dang, a member of the Thornton Heath Community Action Team who has enlisted the help of many local volunteers from THCAT to help with the Christmas celebrations. 

Father Christmas is also due to make an appearance along with his little helpers for the day – Croydon’s firefighters. 

This is the third year Vân has organised a party for refugees and each year volunteers dress in festive outfits, prepare food and give presents to the refugees to make them feel welcome and included at this festive time.

When asked what influenced his decision to help the Brigstock Refugee Centre, Jamil explained: “Christmas time can be very difficult for new immigrants and refugees. In most cases they tend to be far away from their families and friends which can be really tough for them at this time of year. We strive to make them feel more included and respected in our local community and share the same Christmas we experience”. 

He also praised the considerable amount of support he received from the Palace for Life organisation, specifically staff member Pat Gordon who has aided him throughout the party’s planning stages.

Van alongside Jamil, Pat, Palace for Life and the Salvation Army are committed to making an important long-lasting difference for refugees in the Croydon.

Croydon North MP Steve Reed has also kindly sponsored the chocolate for the chocolate fountain.

Giving donations such as food, supplies and other necessary services would be greatly appreciated, so if you can donate soft drinks, fresh fruit (strawberries and apples for the chocolate fountain), hot foods and or presents for adults (men and women) particularly toiletries such as deodorants.

To help email: