Why I volunteer at Christmas
Volunteering isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the holiday season. Dilemmas such as deciding who’ll sleep where, finding those last few presents and what to get as the obligatory Secret Santa gift are probably a bit higher up on the list. It is a time that many of us associate with family; the warmth of a welcoming home, a hearty meal and a comfortable bed. This is a good thing. And for those of us who are lucky enough to enjoy these simple comforts, we give thanks and enjoy one another’s company.
However, whether you celebrate or not, Christmas time can be lonely. The homeless struggle to find those basic essentials so many of us take for granted. Those with distant family can find themselves feeling isolated. Others suffering abuse, or who simply need someone to talk to, can feel utterly alone even in a room full of people. It can be a reminder of loss, of better times, and of missing loved ones. For those more fortunate amongst us, it can be easy to forget that the day-to-day problems in people’s lives continue even at this festive time of year.
Offering your time to struggling young people in difficult situations is just one way you could help others. Two years ago I started volunteering with Get Connected, a charity which does just this. After my initial training I began regular shifts supporting children and young people all over the UK. Communicating via email, web chat, and over the phone, the flexibility of the shifts means it is easy to find the time to volunteer whether you’re working or studying. In a given shift I can speak to people with questions about benefits, domestic abuse or emergency contraception. The next week I’ll be supporting others who are suicidal, questioning their gender identity, or have nowhere to go having just been thrown out of home. The situations are often tricky but – with the support of an enthusiastic and experienced team – I’ve never felt out of my depth, even in my first few weeks.
I decided to volunteer on Christmas Day because I wanted to help combat the frustrating situation young people face all too often when services they desperately need are closed. I wanted to be there for those who would otherwise feel they had nowhere to go and no one to turn to. There are, of course, many who give up their time to volunteer over the holiday season, for instance at food banks and shelters. By collating information on a large number of local and national services such as these, Get Connected is able to signpost organisations to young people in need.
After two years I am still greatly enjoying my volunteering, and I continue to learn with each shift. Every contact presents new challenges, but the charity’s excellent support network ensures the wellbeing of its volunteers and staff. Get Connected has enabled me to build upon my existing skills and I now contribute to various groups within the charity, ensuring that the service continues to stay true to its aims and values even as it expands.
It is all too easy to overlook the troubles of others when we are rushing around in the hustle and bustle of our own lives. By being there for someone at a difficult moment and sharing some of that ‘Christmas spirit’ you can truly benefit a young person in need. Perhaps volunteering will make it higher up on your to do list this Christmas, or you might consider making a donation? They do say that every little helps!
This post was originally part of the Get Connected website. YouthNet and Get Connected merged to form The Mix in 2016.
Published on 27-Nov-2015
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