It’s been a challenging year but at the same time, it’s been truly amazing to see such kindness across all our communities. From strangers offering to pick up shopping for others in the neighbourhood WhatsApp groups, to teachers going above and beyond for their students even when schools are closed, to thousands of people signing up to be NHS volunteers – we can all be incredibly kind and supportive.
For many people, the Christmas period is a time of eating, drinking and being merry with our loved ones. Other people aren’t so fortunate, with some people are living with homelessness or struggling to make ends meet. With that in mind, we know lots of our community are looking for new ways to ensure the new normal is one that’s kind and supportive. If you’re looking for ways you can help vulnerable people this Christmas and beyond, read on.
Provide essentials to those in need
Very sadly, food bank use is at a record high in the UK, with more families than ever going hungry. There’s no escaping the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and people are increasingly relying on charity as jobs dry up.
If you’re in a position to assist, lots of schools, places of worship, community centres and supermarkets collect essential items for people who can’t afford them. If you’re not sure where your nearest donation point is, The Trussel Trust has a map on its website to help you find the nearest food bank to you.
Don’t forget, while it may have ‘food’ in the name, it’s not just things to eat and drink you can donate to a food bank. They also collect other essential items like toiletries, tampons, nappies, and baby food.
Giving gifts to those who may not otherwise receive them
As the big day gets closer, we’re usually so busy picking presents for our friends and families (and secretly hoping for a few little things in return!) that in truth, we might not stop think of others less fortunate than ourselves.
Not everyone will receive gifts this Christmas, whether that’s because they’re living in poverty, don’t have friends and family of their own, are struggling with homelessness or have been forced to flee their homes. A quick Ecosia search will help you find a cause that’s close to your heart, whether that’s by giving a child in care a book with BookTrust or buying a gift for someone escaping abuse with Refuge.
Provide warm blankets and clothes
As Christmas approaches and the weather gets colder, difficult times become even harder for many vulnerable people living on the streets or fleeing homes across the UK and beyond. This year, it’s only been amplified further by the effects of Covid-19.
Blankets, duvets and warm clothes like coats and scarves can be donated to shelters and charities that have a clothing donation program. Just make sure they’re freshly washed and placed in suitable containers such as bin liners to keep them from becoming dirty.
Psst! If your blankets are somewhat threadbare, they can still be donated to animal shelters. The blankets can be used for cleaning, bedding and keeping animals warm.
While a large majority of us hope to be celebrating the festivities with our nearest and dearest, not everyone will be so lucky. People may be spending Christmas alone for different reasons such as the death of a loved one, living far from relatives, self-isolating and shielding, or living with social anxiety disorders – which for many, can be very lonely.
If you have the time, you could seek out local volunteering opportunities. To find out more, visit do-it.org or your contact your local council, who may know of organisations needing help.
Don’t forget, you might also have friends and family who could be spending Christmas alone this year. Why not pick up the phone to somebody you haven’t spoken to recently to check in?
Help someone get home for Christmas
Seeing friends and family is the one thing that really makes Christmas special for a lot of people. Even this year, while some of our usual traditions may change to accommodate social distancing and lockdown rules, most of us will still be able to celebrate with someone special in their lives.
However, some people don’t have the option because they or their loved one is a missing person. You can support the charity Missing People by helping to keep its support lines open over the festivities. That way, both families and runaways can access expert help if they need to, including the 140,000 children and teenagers who go missing every year.
Thanks for taking the time to read our top tips on how best to help those in need at Christmas. We know there are lots of ways we can support others – got any recommendations of your own? We’d love to hear them, share them with our community in the comments section below.