For the second year running, over Christmas, I volunteered at Crisis, a charity which provides immediate help for homeless people over the festive period.
Over the past couple of months, I have been encouraging friends and family to volunteer with me, or at their local centre. There were a few lovely people (thank you!) who got on board straight away, but in general there seems to be a perception that volunteering over the Christmas period is the ultimate act of self-sacrifice. I (obviously) disagree – but I do completely understand why one may choose not to volunteer over the festive period, when time spent with family and loved ones is often rare but golden.
I thought it might be useful to provide a brief summary of my time at Crisis, in the hope that maybe it will convince a few people to sign up in 2019.
What happens during a typical Crisis shift?
Crisis run Christmas centres in 15 locations across the UK, housing more than 4,500 guests over an eight-day period.
As a general volunteer, you can take part in a wide range of tasks including greeting and registering new guests, serving food, helping to run activities, maintaining facilities etc.
If you’ve got a specific skill, the centres offer a variety of services such as hairdressing, dentistry, medical consultations and counselling services.
I think my most memorable shift was Christmas Eve 2017. I got chatting to a guest, who was training to become a nail technician – he gave me the most in-depth summary of my cuticles I have ever heard (I loved it). This conversation was not particularly poignant – but as it was my first ever shift, it was intensely eye-opening.
Sit and talk to guests, learn from them, deepen your understanding, don’t make assumptions and don’t be ignorant.
What are my reasons for volunteering?
This is an easy question to answer – I simply can’t think of a single reason NOT to volunteer.
Nobody should have to wake up homeless on Christmas Day (or any day!!), and if I can help in any way, no matter how miniscule, then why wouldn’t I?
I also really value meeting people from all walks of lives – this applies to both volunteers and guests – and hearing their unique stories and experiences.
How can you help?
If possible, give time, not money; volunteering is one of the most effective ways to make a valuable impact. Homelessness is on the rise, thus your support is more important than ever.
If you are unable to volunteer at a Crisis centre, there are plenty of other ways you can help!
Have you volunteered with Crisis or any of the other fantastic homeless charities within the UK? If so, I would love to hear about your experiences.