For Christmas 2014, I decided to spend three days giving back to others, alongside many other amazing people. On the 23rd December, I joined 400 other volunteers to create food hampers for those in need all across London. After not making it to Basket Brigade in 2013, I was determined to do it this time round.
It was a crazy, fun-filled day, which I spent hefting sacks of potatoes and carrots, picking up litter and mucking in wherever needed. We had some great entertainment throughout the day, as volunteers took to the stage to sing, dance and beat-box! There was a great DJ and spirits were high, even when there was a shortage of parsnips and puddings. Ketan made an awesome video of the day you can watch here. (See if you can spot me at the point where it says the arrival of the Christmas Angels!)
I joined two lovely volunteers, Faisal and John, to distribute five of the baskets. A couple we had to leave on the front door step, but when people were there to receive it, there were questions and confusion, but we had been instructed to simply point them to the note enclosed and insist we were just the delivery people. One of the recipients was a very elderly lady, and because she was unsteady on her feet, I carried the heavy basket inside for her, and then she directed me to the kitchen to put the chicken in the freezer, which was so small it needed a little rearranging to fit!
Once they were all delivered, we found a pub and had dinner, and celebrated Christmas, new friendships and playing our part in helping others.
Then on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I volunteered from 10am to 7pm at one of the Crisis for Christmas centres. I was there primarily as an Arts and Crafts Volunteer, but pitched in to help with whatever needed doing, and did my best to make the guests that I interacted with have a good Christmas. I made cards, put sparkles in hair, played scrabble and on Christmas Day was in charge of the cinema. Despite the moaning, Mamma Mia went down very well! (Not my choice, by the way, though I do love the location where it is filmed!)
I walked to and from the centre on Christmas Day, (no public transport) and though I was surprised at how many cars were on the road, I had a lot of fun greeting strangers passing by with a cheery ‘good morning!’ and ‘merry christmas!’ It seems that it’s acceptable to do so in London only on very special occasions!
I set up a sponsorship page so that my friends and family could sponsor me to volunteer, and I was blown away by the response. The total stands at £307.62, and is still open for donations at the moment. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who sponsored, it really is amazing.
Christmas 2014 is the first ever Christmas I have had away from family and friends, and in London, and I have to say, the experience was so very worth it. Seeing the guests being transformed by haircuts and conversations, and having time to relax in a safe place was amazing. I did my best to direct any homeless people I met on the street to the Crisis centres, so they could get some food and somewhere warm to be over the holiday.
So if you have ever thought about volunteering, all I can say is – do it. It’s fun, it’s rewarding, and it might just change someone’s life for the better. (And it will definitely change yours)