Christmas is the season of cheer, unity and giving, and everyone deserves to experience a merry one. For some people, however, Christmas means a cold, lonely, hungry time of the year, and it is these people that the Christmas spirit needs to reach the most. Many charities, organisations and helplines need a little extra help over the festive season, even more so this year in light of the pandemic, and you could be the helping hand that saves someone’s Christmas. From Christmas volunteering to sending overseas soldiers presents, there are ways that you can help those less fortunate and spread some seasonal cheer this year, no matter your schedule, skills or needs.
Why Is Giving Back To The Community Important?
Besides benefitting those their work aims to assist, people who give back to their community tend to report lower levels of stress, anger and anxiety. In fact, 77% of volunteers involved in a YouGov study said that volunteering has significantly improved their mental health, and 53% said it positively impacted their physical health, too[i].
On top of this, engaging with the community provides people with a range of essential skills for everyday life. Helping within the community builds valuable life skills such as communication, resilience, kindness and patience. In addition, volunteering and giving back to the community gives someone a sense of purpose, allows them to help others selflessly, and encourages them to grow into better people.
How You Can Make A Difference This Christmas
There are many ways that you can help make a difference this Christmas. Whether you can only spare half an hour now and then, or a whole day each week, or even just a few days a month, there is something you can do this year to help support your community.
Christmas is a special time of the year that everyone should get to experience. Christmas volunteering is an excellent way of helping others throughout the season, when they feel the most alone and need a friendly face. There are so many ways to volunteer over the festive season that anyone is bound to be able to make the time for, so check your local area to see who may need help. Good places to start include hospitals, charities, second-hand shops, helplines and online forums, such as Youth Net.
Alternatively, if you don’t mind volunteering some of your time on Christmas day, pet shelters need Christmas volunteering to help keep going while their regular staff are off work. There’s an exceptionally high rate of abandoned animals at Christmas time because many pets become unwanted presents, so if you have a bit of spare time and love of animals, a local pet shelter may be just the place for you.
Providing Care Packages
Care packages are a lovely present that you can send to soldiers overseas, victims of abuse, or strangers who are struggling over Christmas. You can send a box brimming with small gifts, treats and necessities to help boost the morale of soldiers who can’t be home for Christmas or those going through a particularly rough time. Sites such as The Perfect Stranger Project, Support our Soldiers, and Refuge will make sure that your parcel gets to someone who needs it, and you can make someone’s Christmas a little brighter. Care packages aren’t just a Christmas operation, either. These can be sent all year round to people who need them most.
Working At A Soup Kitchen or Food Bank
Some people aren’t able to feed themselves throughout the year, let alone afford a Christmas dinner. Soup kitchens and food banks are an essential lifeline for people without food, especially at this time of the year, and they rely on volunteers and donations to keep doing their excellent work. Volunteering at a soup kitchen or food bank will help these organisations stay open and provide food to people who need it. The Trussel Trust has a range of food banks all around the country that are always looking for assistance, or you can see if your area has a local organisation that you can help. If not, this is the perfect opportunity for you to set one up!
With all the news headlines and office gossip, it’s easy to forget that refugees are people too. Charities nationwide aim to improve the lives of refugees both in and outside of the U.K. They are always in need of extra help, especially during the festive season. For example, The Bike Project takes donations of old bikes, repairs them, redecorates them, and then passes them onto refugees and asylum seekers – the perfect Christmas present! Also, if you have a spare room, charities such as Room for Refugees and Refugees at Home allow you to temporarily house a refugee in your home until they find their feet.
There are plenty of other ways that you can help refugees too. For example, by offering English lessons, showing new faces around the area or receiving local volunteer alerts, you can make a more significant difference than you may realise.
Joining A Call Service
Many local and nationwide organisations are calling for volunteers to help operate their phone lines at the loneliest time of the year for many. For example, charities including Age U.K. and MHA offer telephone services for the elderly to enjoy a regular chat with a volunteer to help combat loneliness and build a lasting friendship. By giving your time, patience and empathy to people who need it, you can help them through the season (and beyond it) by spreading some of your festive cheer.
Inviting Someone Over For Christmas
If someone you know or perhaps an acquaintance who lives on your street will be lonely this Christmas, why not invite them to spend the day with you and your family? This is a great way to get to know the neighbours or any new faces in the local area and gives you a chance to get better acquainted with your community. The elderly, in particular, tend to be lonely at Christmas, yet they have the most interesting stories and can impart the wisdom that only comes with experience. Inviting new people over for Christmas can enrich your day and make someone else feel included, wanted and happy, which is what Christmas is all about. So make an effort to involve your guests in the festivities, conversations and games, and you could have a brand new friend come New Year!
Helping The Homeless
Being alone on the streets is hard at any time of the year, but at Christmas, when it’s cold outside, and everyone else is making merry, it’s easy to feel isolated. However, organisations such as Emmaus and The Big Issue Foundation aim to stop homelessness, and Christmas volunteering and donations can make a huge difference in reaching this goal.
On the other hand, there are several ways to help the homeless at Christmas of your own accord. Remember, homeless people are still people, and people long for kindness and social interaction. By simply approaching a homeless person, talking with them, sharing stories, offering money if you can, providing care packages and simply being kind, you could make all the difference to someone. However, if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable at any point, you are well within your rights to remove yourself from that situation.
Taking Part In A Fundraiser
Several nationwide fundraisers occur at Christmas time, including Elf Day (3rd December 2021) and Christmas Jumper Day (10th December 2021), where you get to dress up in the name of charity! Fundraising kits are easily accessible, so get involved! These fundraisers are perfect for the office as well as the classroom, so don’t be shy in asking others to join you – it’s for a good cause, after all. Alternatively, you could always set up your own Christmas fundraiser. Set up a fun activity and bring the rest of the community together to help raise money for a local cause. Here are some festive fundraising ideas to help get you started:
- Christmas bake-off
- Offering to wrap gifts
- Candy cane grams
- A Santa fun run
Donating What You Can
Christmas is a hectic time of the year, and if you don’t have the space in your schedule to give your time, there are still things you can do to help support your local community. You could still be making a huge difference by donating items such as Christmas decorations, clothes, shoes, bags, books, kitchenware, toy, games, toiletry sets, and furniture. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure – your unwanted item could become somebody’s favourite Christmas present, and all the money will go to charity. Finally, if you are able, charities are always in need of endowment. The money you donate goes straight to the charity, and they can put it to good use straight away.
Here are some organisations that will require your help this Christmas. No matter your schedule or skills, there is something you could do to help over the festive season, so do have a look through and see how you can make a difference.
- The Salvation ArmyThe Samaritans
- Red Cross
- Dogs Trust
- The BookTrust
- The Trussell Trust
- Age UK
- Christian Aid
- Youth Net
- The Perfect Stranger Project
- Support our Soldiers
- The Bike Project
- Room for Refugees
- Refugees at Home
- The Big Issue Foundation
‘Tis The Season
Charities need support now more than ever, and Christmas is the best time of year to start taking part and giving back to your community. So, whether you take part in some Christmas volunteering or organise a festive fundraiser, go out and make a difference this year.
How are you planning to help charities this Christmas? Let us know in the comments below!