Volunteering at Christmas: How you can help those in need over the festive season

The season of giving is upon us, and what better way to mark it than by volunteering for a good cause.

According to recent research conducted by the Royal Voluntary Service – one of Britain’s largest volunteering charities – more than million people will spend Christmas Day volunteering.

Whatever your skills or capabilities, there’s a charity out there that is bound to welcome a helping hand and will fully appreciate any time you’ll be able to spare over Christmas.

And if you already have commitments for December 25th, don’t worry. There’s a need for volunteers both before and after Christmas Day itself, as well as year-round.

With more than 168,000 charities in England and Wales according to the Charity Commission’s register, there’s should be plenty of opportunity for volunteering at Christmas, and beyond.

Volunteering at Christmas 

Here are just some of the ways you can volunteer at Christmas….

Support someone with dementia

The Alzheimers Society – the UK’s largest dementia charity – runs a year-round initiative called Side by Side which links volunteers to people living with dementia. Volunteers offer one-to-one support to alleviate loneliness for a person living with dementia and help them to carry out the activities they love. This could be anything from a walk in the park to a shopping trip. At Christmas, when being alone can feel all the more evident, this could be the life-line they need.

This Christmas you can also gift a Side by Side. £50 could bring a person living with dementia together with a trained volunteer, for an agreed number of hours over a two month period – time that’s sure to be appreciated for the festive season and beyond.

Helping out at a Christmas lunch

Charity Community Christmas believes that “no older person in the UK should be alone on Christmas Day”, and offers a free listing service for any events or activities that support community outreach in this area.

Use their search function to find Christmas volunteer opportunities in your local area helping to prepare a Christmas Day lunch for all ages – or those specifically for vulnerable groups such as the elderly or homeless – at community centre or church. Another helpful search tool for this type of volunteering –  you can put in queries such as ‘is there a soup kitchen near me’ – and more, is the UK’s national volunteering database, Do-it.org.

Christmas shoe box appeal 

Operation Christmas Child – run by international relief and development organisation Samaritan’s purse – runs an annual Christmas shoe box appeal. Each shoe box is packed with gifts that goes to a child in need. If you want to make one, follow the instructions here.

The website also includes suggestions of what to pack in your shoe box for specific age groups, from hygenie items to dolls, cars, and toy supplies. Volunteers are also needed year-round to “enthuse and equip churches and groups in their communities” to take part in the project.

During October and November there are also opportunities to get hands-on with the project, taking part in activities such as collection of boxes from drop-off points or checking contents are ready for dispatch at one of the organisations many processing centres.

Spend some time with stray cats at Christmas

Bring some Christmas joy to our furry four-legged friends living in shelters this Christmas, by volunteering with the UK’s number one feline welfare charity – Cats Protection.

Cat care volunteers are particularly needed in the run up to Christmas, as well as Christmas Day itself, to help feed, clean and spend quality time with the cats.

No prior experience is needed, as training is provided. Volunteers who want to get involved should get in touch with the charity as soon as possible.

Volunteer with the National Trust at Christmas

Charity the National Trust is in charge of looking after ‘special places throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland’. They have a number of volunteer opportunities across Christmas that help bring their winter festivities to life. As an example volunteers are needed at a Coleton Fishacre – a 24-acre garden and a house in Devon – for their annual 1920s Christmas party. Volunteers are needed for a number of duties ranging from welcoming visitors to acting as room guides. Contact your local National Trust site to see if they’re in need of helpers.

Take part in a #MincePieMoment

The #MincePieMoment is an initiative run by The Great Get Together – bringing communities together to honour the memory of the late MP Jo Cox. Visit the site to get sent a pack full of resources including downloadable posters and invitations to help spread the word.

Volunteering at Christmas activities with them include baking and sharing mince pies with neighbours or organising a Christmas lunch, carol singing or a winter walk in your local community.

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