At Christmas Time… Volunteering as Antidote.

TINY things… LITTLE Things… ORGANISED Things… and ADULT things.

Just before Christmas 2014 I wrote this post about volunteering at Christmas with kids.

A tumultuous couple of years has passed… A tumult that’s a bit impossible to describe in one little paragraph. A lot of the organisations are now no more, and a mass of grassroots action has appeared. I never expected a couple of years ago that most of my volunteer hours this year might be in Calais.

Some things are the same. People want to help at Christmas time, and so do their kids, and often their goodwill translates into a longer relationship with a good cause or campaign. And after a couple of requests and wonderings, I thought I’d revist these ideas.

Getting involved with a kid in tow is not always easy at Christmas. Year-round projects often wind down for a break themselves, and the bigger seasonal projects (like Crisis — see last section) plan in advance and often have full shifts by now. Add to this that if you’d like to help with your child, as an antidote to the crazy consumerism that December inevitably becomes… you need to find an activity that’s appropriate. None of this makes for a huge number of one-off, over-Christmas ways to help out.

But — if your wish is about providing that antidote and making sure Christmas isn’t all about the presents… there are many ways you can do that.

But THING ONE: Stick a reminder in your calendar now for next October: Plan Christmas volunteering!

1. The TINY Things.

If these last two years have taught me anything it’s that we should be doing all we can do break dangerous narratives. Here are two things to share to do this. Share them with your children, with your children’s friends, with your neighbours, with the people that you think won’t be sharing them themselves.

If The Nativity were today…

The BEST Christmas Advert, hands down.

Buy Fairtrade — online and in supermarkets. Talk about the symbol, and how important it is that what we buy doesn’t make other children around the world poorer or more unhappy. Look for the special sign in the supermarket it’s fun!

2. The LITTLE things.

(Mostly East and North London where I’m based— but hope it inspires searches in other areas…)

Take donations of old toys, clothes etc to the offices of RAMFEL in Ilford — working year-round to support people who often have nothing — in their home country or here — having no recourse to public funds. The journey, the interaction with the staff and the big boxes of labelled donations helped my daughter see that there’s more to life than just what she can get.

Take donations of food to one of the many collection points for the Eat or Heat Food Bank and others around our areas.

Or… buy, collect, deliver food through E17 for RCK. Regular collections and events supporting Refugee Community Kitchen and other organisations still supporting refugees in Calais and beyond.

3. The ORGANISED things…

Sunday 11th December, The Mill E17: Stay Play and Protest have the second of their Refugee shoebox packing and gift card making session. This session is all about the kids and involves lots of sticking and fun!

Thursday 22nd, Albert Hall: Fundraising at the Albert Hall for Royal London Society for the Blind

Friday 23rd, Wood Green N22: Packing and delivering hampers in North London with the Basket Brigade. Actively welcoming kids in their FAQs.

Christmas Day, Highams Park: Bake something, cook something or drive someone to this Christmas Day lunch for older people in Highams Park

Regular: Contact the Elderly. Regular meet ups for older people.

4. The ADULT Things

Crisis — still have shifts to fill this Christmas, and take volunteers 16 and over.

And you can sign up now to get involved with good projects serving good food to people that need it year-round.

Eat or Heat, Sallys Kitchen and Leytonstone Food Bank
Hornbeam’s Peoples Kitchen and other Food Projects
The Forest Night Shelter will be open after Christmas and into the New Year, and you can check in with Community Waltham Forest for more local opportunities.

Or get out to Calais for a bit. With Help Refugees, and their wonderful partners in the most collaborative volunteering environment I’ve ever witnessed. You won’t regret it. Especially needed are people who can coordinate and stay for a while, but all our welcome.

Pick a thing, and do it. And let me know?! Thanks! And if you’re someone involving others, get in touch for support and ideas.