Christmas is a magical time of year, where you kick back and relax with your family. At least it should be. Not everyone can enjoy that luxury. But you can help. Here are some of the places you can volunteer at Christmas in London.
Crisis at Christmas volunteering
The biggest volunteering operation across the nation every Christmas takes place in Crisis's day centres and rough sleeper centres, and 2021 is its 50th year. Crisis at Christmas has an abundance of ways you can help make someone else's yuletide that extra bit special across hotels, day centres and call centres. There are volunteer roles for doctors, musicians, cooks, good listeners, and more. Applications now open.
Team London Christmas volunteering
Team London is the ultimate search tool for volunteering opportunities. These aren't necessarily Christmas related — the service runs all year-round — but type the keyword 'Christmas' into the search engine if you want your volunteering to be festive flavoured. You can also search by other interests, for example, if you want to volunteer with the elderly, or help the homeless.
Festive volunteering roles in previous years have included Christmas bucket collections, and volunteering at charity Christmas concerts and fundraising fairs — keep checking back for Christmas 2021 roles.
Volunteer with The London Basket Brigade
This charity idea came about to put food on the tables of families in need on Christmas Day. 1,250 baskets are delivered on 23 December, and volunteers are needed to put the baskets together, and to drive and deliver them. For obvious reasons, the scheme didn't run in 2020 — keep an eye on the website for how you can get involved at Christmas 2021.
Shelter From The Storm
This homeless shelter in Islington is open all year round, and is completely free for those who need it. As with all shelters, demand is higher in the winter, and people are needed for shifts. Tasks include cleaning, cooking, serving food and talking to guests, on evening, overnight and breakfast shifts. Find out more here.
Hackney Winter Night Shelter volunteers
Open from November to March each year, Hackney Winter Night Shelter provides a bed for the night and a hot meal for people who would otherwise be sleeping on the streets, and it needs volunteers throughout the season. Tasks include cooking and serving meals, doing laundry, getting to know the people staying there, and staying overnight to make sure everything runs smoothly. Find out more and volunteer.
Volunteer at London winter night shelters
Aside from the shelters mentioned above, plenty of others operate in London and are equally worthy of help. Sleeping rough on the streets of London in winter is a horrible experience, and shelters try to alleviate these issues, and give people a warm place to sleep for the night.
There are plenty of winter night shelters across London — why not contact your nearest one and see if it needs volunteers this year.
Help out at FoodCycle Peckham
Ensuring residents of Peckham and the surrounding boroughs can sit down to a free festive dinner this Christmas Day FoodCycle Peckham will be open from 5.30pm on 25 December to all. Created with surplus food that would otherwise be wasted, each FoodCycle meal is vegetarian and created by a team of volunteers who turn surprise ingredients into a tasty three-course meal. Aiming to connect communities by bringing people together to share food and conversation, the Christmas Day dinner will not only provide free meals for those that need them, but the chance for people from all walks of life to sit down together. Volunteer roles at FoodCycle are completely flexible without a minimum time commitment. Roles range from collecting surplus food to cooking to welcoming guests when they arrive with a smile and a cup of tea.
Rotary Club Christmas Day volunteering
Rotary Club holds a massive Christmas Day lunch and tea party for over-65s living in Wandsworth. The shindig takes place in Battersea Park. Around 450 elderly people who would otherwise be alone take part each year.
Volunteers are usually needed for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. You can do just one, two, or all three days. Jobs include preparing the venue, helping with transport for the guests, serving food and clearing up afterwards. We're waiting to see whether the event will go ahead in 2021, so applications for this year aren't yet open, but do keep an eye on the website.
Volunteer at The Whitechapel Mission
Homeless shelter The Whitechapel Mission receives as many as 300 visitors a day during December, and it needs a willing group of volunteers to provide for all these guests. You'll be providing not only warm food, but a touch of warmth in the lives of those less fortunate — truly in the spirit of the Christmas holiday. They need extra help at Christmas to sort the donations received. Currently, due to the Covid situation, the organisation is only accepting groups of volunteers rather than individuals, so rally your family, friends or colleagues, and sign up to do something good together.
Salvation Army Christmas volunteering
Salvation Army churches are busy at Christmas, running the annual Christmas Present Appeal as well as hosting night shelters. You may be needed to sort through donated toys and gifts, serve festive meals or help out in other ways at night shelters. Contact your nearest Salvation Army church to find out what they need help with for Christmas 2021.
Plenty of charities hold collections in the run-up to Christmas, when the general public is high on goodwill. Keep an eye on your favourite charity for ways to get involved.