Volunteer work is one of the most rewarding things you can do and with Christmas just around the corner it’s a perfect time to help those less fortunate than us.
Many people are in need of a little help now more than ever. An estimated five million people are predicted to fall into destitution, defined as being unable to provide two out of five essentials such as food, shelter, clothing and heating, according to the latest figures from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The Trussell Trust says 2,600 food parcels were provided to kids every day in the first six months of the pandemic. And homelessness charity Crisis estimates 200,000 households will be homeless this Christmas.
Volunteering opportunities all over the country are just a few clicks away, depending on what you would like to do and where.
Local authorities usually have a volunteering hub on their website to highlight openings in your local area, and there are many national campaigns and schemes set up specifically for Christmas.
More Brits than ever have taken up volunteering since lockdown began.
Want to get involved but not sure how it'll work under Covid-19 restrictions? Here are some tips: https://t.co/f0ezZxoTXj
— The Big Issue (@BigIssue) June 7, 2020
We’ve pulled together a guide of what you can do to support your local community this festive period regardless of where you are. Whether it is helping to conserve local wildlife or fighting to alleviate poverty and homelessness, here’s how you can do some good.
What kind of volunteer work can I do?
As the UK’s largest network of food banks, the Trussell Trust is always on the lookout for volunteers, whether as frontline support within centres or online. On their website, you can enter your postcode and see what options are available in your area.
We don't have to live with hunger & destitution in the UK. We can end the need for #foodbanks. And we can all get involved in fighting for a #HungerFreeFuture. If you want to see things change, click here to join the growing movement > https://t.co/Gvt783vgk9 pic.twitter.com/BNcSIiuGau
— The Trussell Trust (@TrussellTrust) November 6, 2020
FareShare is another nationwide organisation helping the hungry get the food they need. They have seen a 33 per cent rise in regular volunteers from 1,500 last year to just over 2,000 in 2020 and distribute enough food for two million meals a week. But they are looking for centre volunteers, drivers, warehouse assistants or community fundraisers.
You can complete their online quiz to find out what role would suit you best.
Christmas is a magical time for most kids but for those children who are less fortunate it can be a sad, confusing and even frustrating period.
Children’s charities across the country are taking donations of money and gifts to distribute at Christmas to make sure no young person has to go without.
One such project is Grandmentors, where older volunteers can use their wisdom and life experience to guide younger people who need some advice.
The Volunteering Matters website has all the details for Grandmentors openings across the country, as well as other friendship, support and guidance volunteering with young people.
Being homeless at Christmas is more than just not having a roof over your head, it can also mean no dinner, no presents and even no company.
Thankfully there are charities working to change that. Searching for “Christmas” or “homeless” on volunteering website Do-It.org presents thousands of opportunities to help people less fortunate this festive season, including centre support work or delivery drivers for cooked Christmas dinners, activity packs, gifts and food hampers.
With many areas in the country currently in Tier 3 restrictions, Christmas could be especially painful for older people who can’t see their family.
Befriending.co.uk is a network of different charities across the UK connecting willing volunteers with people who struggle with loneliness. You can set yourself up as a ‘befriender’ with organisations like Age UK and many others.
How do I find volunteer work in my local area?
If you aren’t entirely set on what you would like to do, there are organisations all over the country pulling together volunteering opportunities and offering inspiration.
NCVO, which supports voluntary organisations, has a centre finder to help you find the ideal role. There are also several other organisations assisting people in finding positions, including the Do-it database, CharityJob, Volunteering Matters and Reach Volunteering.
And, of course, there are possibilities to do some good in every corner of the country. Here are your options for finding volunteer work in your local area:
Volunteering in East Anglia
There are plenty of opportunities to find community work near the beautiful East Anglia plains. There are positions in conservation, helping protect the countryside and wildlife across the region through the Countryside Jobs Service. Roles are also available with the National Trust. Volunteer Suffolk (Babergh, Ipswich) and Voluntary Norfolk (Norwich, Fakenham), which have positions including admin support, development managers, walk leaders and befrienders, which means you could make a real difference to an older person who suffers from loneliness.
Volunteering in London
Mayor Sadiq Khan’s Team London programme provides roles from approved organisations all over the city. The scheme seeks to encourage Londoners to “become active citizens and to give their time to make the capital a better place”.
There are hundreds of opportunities available through the programme. Some are one-off and others are ongoing, meaning there is something for everybody. Organisations can advertise positions for free.
— Team London (@TeamLDN) December 1, 2020
Volunteering in the Midlands
If you are interested in joining the fight against food poverty and becoming a food bank volunteer, there are roles available with FareShare Midlands, the region’s largest food redistribution charity. They take surplus food and get it to more than 35,000 vulnerable people every week. You can put your skills to use by becoming a warehouse assistant, delivery driver or by assisting with office admin.
— FareShare (@FareShareUK) December 1, 2020
In Birmingham, BVSC assists people who want to support their local community. The organisation is currently championing many end-of-year appeals which they say are more important than ever due to the pandemic. Current active campaigns include Toys For Birmingham, the Brum Wish Campaign and Brum Xmas Dinner. Plenty for you to support over the festive period.
Volunteering in North East England
VONNE is a voluntary organisations’ network. It’s the regional support body for the North East’s community and social enterprise sector, representing over 1,200 charities, voluntary organisations, community groups, and social enterprises. They have a list of local support organisations and volunteer centres where you can find somewhere to do some good.
Volunteering in North West England
Reach Volunteering has various roles available for people based in the North West, from trustee and governorships to short term projects to the ongoing. Their website lets you find opportunities as close as 2 miles. There are positions available across the region including Crewe, Warrington and Cheshire. And like on many of the other sites there is also the potential for remote working.
People in Manchester can find ways to help through Manchester Community Central, which offers volunteering opportunities, information on DBS checks, training and resources. Among the most recent positions listed are marketing assistants, van drivers, Christmas hot meal couriers and virtual fundraisers.
LCVS Volunteer Hub is on hand to help signpost Liverpudlians to local opportunities. They work with charities, community groups and non-profit organisations to “support and increase good practice” and “widen the scope of volunteering”. Those in the city can also use their skills to get emergency food to people in crisis through the North and South Liverpool food banks run by The Trussell Trust.
Volunteering in Northern Ireland
Volunteer Now wants to “connect, build and change” and is a voice for volunteering in Northern Ireland, promoting and supporting opportunities.
There is an ‘Inspire Me‘ page for those who might not be entirely sure what they want to get involved in. Locals can look at the latest roles and view stories and videos to see what others are doing in their communities.
This Christmas Appeal from @BBCnireland , working with ourselves and other local charities is encouraging everyone to find different ways of saying hello and staying in touch with neighbours, friends or their wider family circle as a way of overcoming loneliness #stayingconnected pic.twitter.com/QAxn7tEaAU
— Volunteer Now (@VolunteerNow1) December 2, 2020
Volunteering in Scotland
Volunteer Scotland has opportunities right across the country and they aim to make helping out as easy as possible for Scots who want to give back to their community.
They say volunteering is one of the most rewarding things you can do and offer advice on how to help out during the pandemic. You can also use their site to search for an opportunity in your local area with plenty of potential for home working too.
Volunteering in South East England
Reach Volunteering has roles for people in the south east and many major charities have local offices as well. While there is no over-arching regional hub for people looking to help out others in their community, most county councils have volunteering notices on their websites, including Kent, Surrey, and Hampshire.
Volunteering in South West England
Those based in the South West can use Do IT to search hundreds of opportunities from volunteer group leaders to shop team members. One organisation in Bristol is even looking from Instagrammers to help them engage with more young people.
The service has been helping working with the government to help people get involved in supporting the most vulnerable people in their homes. For those who might need to stay at home during the pandemic, some roles allow you to serve your community from home.
This Christmas will be challenging for us all, but let’s make sure that no-one spends it alone. Help everyone share Christmas Together by reaching out to someone who’d love to hear from you. Find out more at https://t.co/q6LykjhD8N @togethercoalit @RoyalVolService
— Do-it.org (@DoitUK) November 30, 2020
Independent what’s on guide Best of Bristol has a useful round-up of “feel good” activities and volunteering opportunities in the city, ranging from positions at Bristol Harbour, Zoo and City Farm.
Volunteering in Wales
How do you say “get involved, it feels good to volunteer!” in Welsh? Head over to Volunteering Wales to find out. It is a national platform where do-gooders can register to help out and those in the third sector can list roles.
Categories range from advice and advocacy to health and social care to sport and recreation, so you should be able to find something to suit your needs.
Oh, and if anybody is interested, it’s “Cymerwch ran, mae’n teimlo’n dda i wirfoddoli!”
Volunteering in Yorkshire and the Humber
Yorkshire has many opportunities right across the county. Community First Yorkshire works with local voluntary organisations, social enterprises and rural communities across the North, South and the West. They provide the Volunteering North Yorkshire service which is funded by North Yorkshire County Council and NHS North Yorkshire. If you are interested in helping out, you can sign up to their online directory.
To find positions exactly where you are, we recommend visiting the national databases.