With the evenings getting darker and shop shelves looking festive, it seems Christmas is just around the corner again. Christmas in 2020 will look a bit different, but there's still a lot to look forward to. For those wanting to help out in their community this Christmas, there are many ways you can get involved from a safe distance.
How can I give back to the community for Christmas?
1. Show people you’re thinking about them
Giving back to the community doesn’t just mean helping strangers. Between lockdown, self-isolation, and shielding, it’s all too easy to feel on our own. Sending little gifts to friends and loved ones can be an excellent way of giving back. You could also show them that you’re thinking of them by sending a little postcard or letter. With the rise of virtual conversations, it’s lovely to receive something physical in the post. You might just make their day!
2. Go shopping for a neighbour
Each community is different; some of us know our neighbours as old friends, but others have never met people from the same street. As the roads get icy and people continue to shield inside, shopping for a less able neighbour is a wonderful way of helping out. If you’re not sure who in your community needs help, you could contact your local council. Shopping for someone else can be a daunting task, so Age UK has information and advice on where to begin.
3. Attend an online concert
It’s been a tough year for those in the arts. If you have a favourite musician or comedian, you might find that they put on regular online concerts for their fans. These are live-streamed events where the organisers ask for an upfront fee or small donations. You should be able to find out about these events on the artist’s Facebook page or website. Remember, always be careful when making online payments and make sure what you’re paying for is legitimate.
4. Buy local for Christmas
Independent businesses rely on a steady income. Although many have received grants, small businesses across the country are struggling to stay open. Taking a trip to your local independent shops or ordering from their online stores is an excellent way of showing support. You might be surprised by what you can find! From beautiful handmade candles to intricate jewellery to luxury chocolates, independent sellers really know their craft.
How can I volunteer at Christmas?
You can still volunteer with a charity this Christmas, even though it might look a little different from previous years. Those with a favourite charity can contact the charity directly to see what they’re asking for. If you need inspiration, why not have a look at the list below? You can do all these things from a distance.
Make a Christmas present gift box
Associations like the Salvation Army accept donations of gift boxes each Christmas. Usually, volunteers pick a certain age bracket and fill a shoebox with age-appropriate gifts from an approved suggestion list. Although these will be distributed at Christmas time, volunteers usually have to send in donations early so that they can be sorted in time.
Dress up for fundraising fun
Rather than donating directly to a charity, why not help with sponsored fundraising? For example, Alzheimer’s UK hosts an Elf Day fundraising dress up scheme. This year, they’ve taken their fundraising online, asking participants to host virtual meet-ups for quizzes and games.
Send a Christmas card to a prisoner abroad
The charity Prisoners Abroad ask for volunteers to write Christmas cards. The charity sends the cards to people from the UK who are incarcerated abroad. Being a prisoner in a foreign country can be incredibly isolating. But, the charity’s website says that receiving a Christmas card can really make a difference. The deadline for this year has just passed, but if you’re interested, it’s worth getting in touch with the charity to find out if you can still help.
Buy a charity Christmas card
Christmas cards are a lovely way of showing people that you care. But, rather than buying a multipack from a high street store, you could choose to spend your money with a charity. Charities like Cancer Research UK and the Motor Neuron Disease Association create cards with beautiful designs each year.
Charities like Age UK offer befriending services. Because it’s not always possible to meet up in person, many charities are taking their befriending services online. You can volunteer to call someone once a week, providing companionship. Training will be offered, and you should have a chance to address any questions before you start. You never know, you might make a close friend!
Set up a secret Santa system
Sometimes, Christmas seems to get out of hand. We found ourselves buying presents for the sake of it rather than focusing on spending time together. One way to avoid this is by doing a secret Santa.
In secret Santa, one person puts all the participants’ name in a hat. Participants then each pull out one name in secret. Participants buy a gift for the person they’ve picked, spending up to a specified limit. Finally, everyone puts their presents into a big pile and watches as each person opens their gift and guesses who it’s from.
Choosing to do secret Santa often means saving money, so you could donate what you save to charity!
We spoke to Kate Brown, CEO, Reset, who gave Age Times this suggestion: "Many refugees will be far from home this Christmas and in need of a bit of support. At Reset, we encourage what we call a ‘community-led welcome,’ and there are many ways to take part. From hosting someone under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme to being part of a group that helps a refugee family to integrate into the community, there is a myriad of ways to get involved, and they all make a real difference to the lives of displaced people.
"You can simply spread the word about our schemes or actively participate. Either way, we welcome your support. Together we can make those whose lives have been turned upside down feel welcome. For more information, look at our site resetuk.org."
The links in this article are intended for inspiration. Please always check your chosen charity is legitimate and read the terms and conditions for fundraising and donations.