Christmas is a time for giving and, while it may be the most hectic time of the year, take a moment this silly season to do something for those less fortunate.
Even if you’re strapped for cash, you’ve still got one thing you can give this Christmas and that’s time. Many Australian charities struggle to find volunteers during the busy holiday season, so if you’ve ever thought of stepping up, now is your chance.
If you’re new to the volunteer game, there are a number of places you can look. Many of the popular charities fill up their volunteer placements fast, but don’t lose hope — here are a few likely candidates you can try if you want to spread some true Christmas cheer.
Your local nursing home
Those old folks get lonely and never more so than around the Christmas period. Many families pick up their loved ones for family celebrations, but there are lots who have interstate loved ones or simply no loved ones at all.
While the staff at your local nursing home will likely be doing their best to make the day special, they still have their regular duties to attend to. So pick up the phone and see whether they’d be happy for you to pop up and listen to the odd tale or two from the residents. Take a friend, your partner or your kids and sing some carols over lunch and make the old folks’ day.
Your local hospital
Like nursing homes, hospitals can be slightly sad places to be come Christmas Day. Again, the staff does their best to bring some Christmas spirit in with them, but patients who are stuck away from their families on Christmas Day can do with all the cheering up on offer.
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Grab a friend or three and see if your local hospital would be interested in letting you come around to sing carols or help give out gifts on the kids’ ward. Pick up the phone, ask them what they need and get your family involved in an experience that will be remembered long after the latest gadget.
Your local department store
While a department store may not be the first location that springs to mind when you’re looking to do something altruistic over Christmas, many larger stores or centres offer charity gift-wrapping stations that operate right up until Christmas Eve.
This is a great opportunity for you to donate your time while fundraising for a specific charity in need. If you need a place to start, the Myer Christmas gift wrap fundraiser commences on Thursday Dec. 12 and will be raising funds for Vision Australia that will support Australian children who are blind or have low vision.
Your local Salvation Army
There’s no doubt about it, the Salvos do great work. From the Kmart Giving Tree to running soup kitchens, if you’re homeless or in need come Christmas Day, the Salvos will have your back.
Get in touch with your local Salvation Army to see what they’re running this Christmas. A great place to start is the Salvos Streetlevel Mission in Sydney — they run a Christmas event for more than 1,000 people each year where they get to laugh, sing and eat together just as a family would.
Laurie Ayres, who used to volunteer at her parents’ local soup kitchen each year, says it was a time full of warmth and hope.
“It wasn’t the food but the conversation that thrilled the people who attended,” says Ayres. “By getting out of the kitchen and sitting with them they felt like they were having a family meal during a special time. The food wasn’t as important as the conversation about the world around them, even when they were very hungry. All they wanted was respect and to enjoy a night where they weren’t feeling alone or isolated from society,” she says.
So when you’re feeling rushed and harried this Christmas, take a moment to think about the true meaning of the season. See if there’s something you can do, enlist the help and support of your family and make it a Christmas you’ll all truly remember.