Christmas is fast approaching, and while many people are planning to enjoy time with their families, shopping at the last minute, and looking forward to a few days off work, others are planning to spend their day volunteering with the homeless.
By providing a meal for Christmas lunch, being available at a homeless shelter, or encouraging the homeless to take up offers for overnight accommodation, these people are trying to do something good for their communities and beyond.
Why do people volunteer?
Giving at Christmas is not a new concept. Going back in history to the 13th century Europe there has been a tradition for churches to leave boxes on the grounds for parishioners to donate to the poor on 26th December. Giving gifts in some form or another has been around for as long as humanity itself.
Today there appears to be three main reasons for volunteering. Third Sector Protect found that 46% of volunteers did so because they wanted to help and improve things for others. 31% identified with the cause in some way, and it was, therefore important for them. 25% of respondents volunteered because they had spare time and felt it was worthwhile.
The range of volunteering opportunities has grown each year, and for the homeless, there are lots more opportunities to use skills. Hairdressers are providing haircuts for the homeless and in recent years dentists have been volunteering their time at Crisis at Christmas, providing routine and emergency dental treatments.
Sarah Murray MBE, a dental surgeon told nature.com that “Coming home on the evening of Christmas Day and cooking my evening meal is all the tastier knowing I have given service to others during the day. Christmas Day is one of my favourite days to work at Crisis. Volunteering does put the true spirit into Christmas; it is easy to lose sight of its importance when there is such a huge commercial element these days.”
Mr. Haq of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, who is providing meals for the homeless in Huddersfield on Christmas day, told Yorkshire Live that "Although we do not celebrate Christmas, we fully understand that this is a very emotional time for many people."
A study by Thoits and Hewitt identified that the benefits of volunteering to help the homeless are not only felt by the homeless themselves, but also by the volunteers. They noted that happiness, life satisfaction, self-esteem, sense of control over life, physical health, and depression all improved via volunteering in the community.
These benefits could explain why more than 3,500 volunteers support Crisis at Christmas to provide companionship, vital services, and a safe, warm and friendly place for the homeless to reside over the Christmas period.
Why volunteer for charity at Christmas?
Another study revealed that the time of year that volunteering was most important within both the United Kingdom and the United States is the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season. It noticed that the sympathy, goodwill gestures, and interest in volunteering are cultural, temporary, and related to the Christmas period.
Coverage within the media of homeless people also becomes more apparent during this time. With peaks in October and December. This cultural pattern of volunteering is a form of “goodwill to all” can be witnessed by the rapid decline in media coverage during January and February.
Plenty of Christmas films reaffirm the charitable motivations of people at Christmas as well, reinforcing that to be a good person, you should give to those less fortunate. A Christmas Carol is a prime example of the dangers of forgetting about the poor and the homeless while showing that Christmas can be a time of great loneliness.
One service user told Crisis that “It was very nice of Crisis to provide me with shelter and food whilst I was lonely.” For two people from two different backgrounds to be feeling lonely and isolated during a time for warmth and family makes volunteering and charitable work during this period an everyone wins situation.
How you can help the homeless at Christmas
There are other ways to help the homeless this Christmas, and by donating to the Clothing Collective, you would be doing just that. The Clothing Collective can help the homeless and people in poverty to have clothes during the festive season. For their children to receive clothes that many of us take for granted, like warm pyjamas, coats, and shoes.
Through the use of vouchers, The Clothing Collective attempts to support the reestablishment of pride, dignity, and respect. You too could help the homeless and those facing poverty.
To help those in need, you can make donations to the Clothing Collective here
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