It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? Well, for a rather large number of people, it’s actually far from it, which is why reaching out to others at Christmas is so vitally important.
Whether it’s helping to serve up hot meals at a homeless shelter, wrapping up a present for a child in need, or offering comfort and company to a lonely neighbour, there’s plenty that you can do to help spread a little more joy.
But if you’re stuck for leads, or just don’t know where to start, here are six ways to lend a hand over the festive period.
Problems faced by those who are homeless become heightened through winter as temperatures plunge and the weather deteriorates. By volunteering at a Crisis centre over the festive period, you could help make a difference. Some 4,000 homeless guests will pass through Crisis centres between Christmas and New Year, with the charity in need of 10,000 volunteers to help with everything from food preparation to IT assistance.
Registration is open now for volunteering in Birmingham, Coventry, Edinburgh, London and Newcastle, visit crisis.org.uk. Outside of these cities you can sponsor a volunteer, visit the online shop, find details of Crisis cafes or donate.
Crack + Cider
After launching last year, the Crack + Cider team are gearing up for another winter spent ensuring homeless people in London have access to warm clothes, waterproof winter coats and a host of survival essentials. You can help by purchasing a care package online at crackandcider.com, which will then be delivered to a person in need on your behalf.
Want to do more or not based in London? Crack + Cider founders Scarlett Montanaro and Charlotte Cramer tell us how best to help those sleeping rough on the street.
Chronic loneliness is a huge problem for older people who have no family or friends nearby, or are unable to leave the house. You can help by registering with Age UK, and befriending an elderly person in your community who just needs a little company and conversation, either in person or on the phone. See ageuk.org.uk for more details on how you can get involved or to donate directly.
Christmas Toy Appeal
Christmas toy appeals are happening all over the UK, where you can buy and donate a gift so that a child in need has a special treat to open on Christmas morning.
The appeal is urgent in East London, where child poverty levels are some of the worst in the UK. East London Business Alliance (ELBA) is currently working to help children living below the poverty line in Newham, Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Broadgate, by recruiting businesses in London to join the 2016 ELBA Toy Appeal.
Community Links Christmas Toy Appeal, also London-based, appeals for gifts, while Family Action is a UK-wide gifting scheme aimed at companies and business owners, or you can donate presents directly through independent charity initiatives, such as the Metropolitan Police Christmas Tree Project, Salvation Army Christmas Toy Appeal and Evelina London Children’s Hospital.
Keep an eye out for appeals in your local area throughout the season, as they’ll continue to pop up in the run up the Christmas Day.
Charity bucket collecting
Lots of charities, such as the NSPCC, will up their efforts to raise funds on the streets in the run up to Christmas, but to do so, they need more volunteers who are willing to get out and shake a bucket. It’s an easy day’s work and you’ll be prepped for the event beforehand, you’ll just need to wrap up warm. See volunteering website do-it.org for opportunities in your area.
Many international students currently studying at UK universities either aren’t able or choose not to fly home for Christmas. You can help by signing up with Host, and welcoming a student to spend Christmas with your family. You don’t need to take them on a grand tour of the area, or set up any special arrangements (unless you want to), just make them feel welcome and offer an escape from the loneliness of an empty campus. See hostuk.org for more information.