University appeal to support students struggling at Christmas tops £5,000

Sunderland University graduate Judith Cossey with her partner Ryan and children Mason, Eliza-Rose and Alexander.
Picture: David Wood


STAFF at University of Sunderland (UoS) are running an appeal to help support care-experienced and estranged students who may be struggling at Christmas without family and friends – or trying to support their own children.

Many students who have spent childhood time in care or are estranged from their families will spend Christmas alone, and for many of them this time may be a time without cards, gifts, festive meals or companionship.

For those with children, it is a particularly difficult time, trying to provide for their children and make Christmas special.

Now, UoS’s ‘We Care’ team – which supports care-experienced and estranged students – has launched the We Care at Christmas  appeal to raise funds to support students at the university’s two UK campuses, in Sunderland and London. 

“Every time I felt like the ground was swallowing me up,
I knew I had people there I could turn to”

So far UoS staff, with the support of Sunderland Rotary Club, have raised £5,050. Student and staff volunteers are now working to distribute gifts and vital support to 160 students, and more than 30 children.

Today, a young mother who achieved two degrees after childhood experience of the care system, and is now thriving with her own family and a successful career, described how the We Care team supported her during some of her darkest times.

Judith Cossey, 27, from Washington, is mother to Mason, eight, Eliza-Rose, two, and one-year-old Alexander-Thomas, and has launched a new career with Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) after graduating last year.

Judith overcame childhood neglect, growing up in care and issues with drugs and drink and is now making a new life for herself and her young family.

She graduated with her Masters degree in Practice Development in 2019, with her studies based around individuals leaving the care system and the implications they face.

“If it wasn’t for the We Care team, I honestly do not think that I would have been able to pass not only the one degree, but two,” says Judith, who studied for her first degree in Health and Social Care at Sunderland.

“Every time I felt like the ground was swallowing me up, I knew I had people there I could turn to. Even if it was personal issues and not issues around studying, the We Care team was still there.

“Even now, when I have been left the University for a year, I know I am able to pick up the phone for a chat, and there are people still willing to support you, even when you have ‘flown the nest’.

UoS vice-chancellor Sir David Bell has backed the We Care At Christmas campaign and is asking staff to donate funds and their time.

He said: “Our care-experienced and estranged students are a valued and important part of our University community and now is our opportunity to remind them, in a very practical way, of how much they mean to us.”

If you would like to find out more about the appeal go to the We Care at Christmas Go Fund Me page.

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