Volunteering at Christmas
Christmas isn't all about the presents -- it's also about volunteering and helping others. From radio DJing in a kids' hospital to dog handling in a homelessness shelter, find out what you could do to really make a difference this year...
Many of us would admit that we've always thought about volunteering at Christmas, but few have actually done it. Yet research has shown that volunteering your time reduces your blood pressure, improves your social relations, makes you understand people better, and is even associated with decreased depression. It sort of makes sense. Most people get a bit of a buzz out of being thoughtful to others, so it's a fair payoff.
If you are curious about volunteering this Christmas, now is the time to get planning. While some charities shut up shop for the Christmas period, others, particularly those supporting the homeless, the elderly or the sick, have to plan ahead. Such charities are looking for people with a range of skills and backgrounds to do a whole host of different things. As Mike Locke, Director of Public Affairs at Volunteering England advises: 'all you have to do is be prepared to give some of your time, ask what kind of help they will need and work out what you can commit to'.
So, what could you be doing to volunteer this Christmas? Here are some ideas:
Musicians, magicians and entertainers and hairdressers!
What? Crisis is one of the biggest national charities dedicated to improving the lives of the homeless by delivering life-changing services and campaigning for change. Over Christmas they are especially busy in their centres, needing up to 8,000 volunteers to help out nationwide.
Who? There are a range of opportunities to suit a variety of different people with differing skills, interests and time availability. But for real 'people persons', activities and entertainment volunteers include magicians, artists, sports trainers, in fact, anyone with a fun creative skill that would like to help raise some Christmas spirit.
Help over 300 charities in one or two hours
Charity: Card Aid
What? Card Aid is a charity that produces Christmas cards for about 300 different charities to sell to their supporters. Throughout the UK there are around 30 Card Aid shops that need extra help over the festive period.
Who? This opportunity would suit those who cannot spare time on Christmas Day or Boxing Day, but who could spare a couple of hours in the weeks leading up to the big day.
What? For those that don’t mind getting their hands dirty (and we mean literally), London’s Wetlands and Wildlife Centre is always looking for people to help conserve and rejuvenate various wildlife spots around the country. Interested but can’t find the time to do it around work? The Trust also caters for corporate volunteering, so get your whole company to muck in (geddit?) and make a visible difference to the community.
Who? There are so many things you can do for this charity. Many volunteers can spend a day branch cutting and sawing in preparation for spring, or clearing out ponds/reed cutting with waders, or even planting bulbs. Check the website out for what is on offer nearest you.
What? Volunteering has gone all techie! Bluefrog, a company that helps charities communicate with their supporters, have put together a site as a platform for people who dedicate time to charities. CharityBloggers hosts unedited and uncensored blogs by a community that voice their thoughts. They receive no remuneration for this and can post anonymously too. Here you’ll find out who is really helping out, who needs more help, and the effects of the efforts volunteering really does for those in need.
Who? If you are passionate about voicing your achievements or experiences through volunteering, sign yourself up and discover a community of like-minded people.
How: Visit www.charitybloggers.com for more information on becoming a blogger.
Charity: Crisis at Christmas
What? Again, Crisis at Christmas, the national homelessness charity, not only provides support to homeless people, but homeless people's dogs too. Homeless dogs suffer equally from a life on the streets, and at Christmas they need extra help too!
Who? Not everyone wants to work with people over Christmas, and so for dog and animal lovers this might be the ideal opportunity. Dog handlers are required to help ensure homeless dogs get a free veterinary check up, and will need some experience of handling dogs.