Actor Lennie James has written and recorded his memory of the first Christmas he spent in care aged 10.
The Walking Dead star reflected on the “dread” he and his brother felt at facing the day without their mother, who had died a few months earlier.
In his story, “That First Without Her Christmas Day”, he described himself as being “all but silenced by grief”.
Justin Webb, a presenter on BBC Radio 4 Today, admitted to being moved to tears after hearing James’ story.
His memories are included in “Home For Christmas” – a book produced for the homeless charity The Passage.
The book also includes stories by authors Michael Morpurgo and A.S. Byatt with a foreword by broadcaster Sue Lawley.
‘Trying to be brave enough’
In his story, James, now 53, remembered being in bed on Christmas morning “trying to be brave enough” to start the day without his mother’s “life and soul”.
He added that, if it hadn’t have been for his 12-year-old brother’s help, he would have stayed in bed.
He was told the council only gave £5 per child for presents – but, to his surprise, he unwrapped books, a cassette, and a new blue and red skateboard.
He said the care home staff topped up the presents fund with their own money.
James said he will never forget that day “not for how it started… but for the kindness, care, consideration and generosity shown to us by people unknown and unrelated to us”.
Speaking on the Today programme, James said it was a “tragedy” that so many children in care went on to become homeless.
He said the problem of homelessness was seen “in a sharper context over the Christmas period, because that is traditionally when we all go home”.
James praised his care home for providing “an environment we could come back to” after he and his brother had left care.
According to the charity Become there are over 95,000 looked-after children in the UK.