This has been the year where I've started throwing myself into some volunteering again. I've volunteered in a few different ways over the years, but nothing really felt particularly commited to.
1. I volunteered abroad a lot in my 20s, read about my America, India and Kenya trips here.
2. Over the years I've dipped in and out of Goodgym - a running club where you volunteer with local community projects.
3. Two years ago I volunteered with a local charity on Christmas day.
4. Not volunteering in the traditional sense, but I recently volunteered as a marshall for Park Run, which is a free running club for anyone and everyone of all abilities.
5. I'm currently fostering a cat for the RSPCA...which technically is volunteering, although the joy is pretty much all mine.
Recently I've been volunteering with a literacy charity, which I haven't blogged about yet, and I'm also trying to work with a charity for older people too....but more about that later. Back to Crisis at Christmas.
A little while ago I signed for some sessions as 'salon manager' with Crisis at Christmas and today I had my training workshop. Today was the snow day, when all of London came to a grinding halt, due to the magic of December snow. It felt oddly fitting, to travel in the wet and cold snow, while thinking about people who are homeless. Just a harsh focus on how cold it is out there.
Last year Crisis at Christmas provided 748 haircuts to its guests, and this year we'll hopefully at least match that number. While at the training, we heard from some volunteers who have done it with Crisis before, and the overwhelming feedback was how important connecting to people's human-ness was. There were examples of people who literally hadn't been touched by another person (apart from being beaten up) in a whole year. Having their hair washed, cut and styled is pretty intimate, and for many guests, the experience isn't even about the hair, its about some personal time with another human.
Which got me thinking. Christmas is a pretty triggering time for many people. Whether you're alone (by the way the Crisis at Christmas centres are open for everyone, so if you're alone, you're welcome to come and enjoy the activities!), whether you have suffered a tragedy, struggle with addiction or addictive behaviours, mental health struggles or are homeless, Christmas can really hightened a lot of negative feelings. You can feel extra alone, or sad, or if you're outside, of course just extra f*cking freezing. Christmas is just a hard time if you're not in a good place.
If you're in a good place, here are some ideas for things you can do to help those who may struggle this Christmas:
1. Volunteer. Today the Crisis team were saying it wasn't too late to fill some spots. And Crisis aren't the only place, check out who may need you over the Christmas period, even if you don't want to commit to Dec 25th itself.
2. Donate. Consider giving money to support services such as the Samaritans, Crisis, Age UK, Refuge, Childline, Foodbank or the hundreds of other local and national charities who help offer support during a time that can be very stressful for many people.
3. Start small. Maybe you already know people who may find Christmas hard. Small gestures like a letter, an invite, a phonecall, or a visit can make a large difference. It may be someone in your family you don't see often, or a neighbour. Or maybe someone you just know from social media.
4. Donate (again). Many charities rely heavily on their charity shop's profits, so have a good clear out before all the new presents make their way in. Donating things of value are a great way of contributing to the amazing work of charities. You can of course purchase some things when you're there too!
Do let me know if you have any more ideas, or if you're already doing something this Christmas to help lighten the load (big and small).