Volunteering over Christmas, from a younger heart. 

I don’t know about you but I can’t think of a Christmas that has had so little joy in the build-up (and I consider the two Covid pandemic Christmas’s). A combination of war in Europe, the cost of living, the state of play with the climate, and even the weather with the recent cold spell seem to be inviting us to have a pessimistic outlook on the festivities. You could say there is no point fighting reality or you could, as I’m about to suggest, think of things from the heart and let that bring a glimmer of joy to the end of 2022. 

Christmas is always an interesting time for volunteering and volunteers. It is during this period that society notices the contribution of volunteers and the voluntary sector the most. The massive efforts put in to ensure rough-sleepers get some relief. The reaching out to the lonely and isolated. The collecting of items to pass on to children who have very little. The food banks bulging with generosity being distributed widely (too widely for a first world country in the 21st century, some would say) to families in need. All these things can be seen and they remind us that we still have a population that wishes to contribute and assist. 

It is also a tradition that people offer themselves up quite at this time of year, engaging in the volunteering activities listed above: a sign that the spirit and drive of volunteering lives on regardless of the harsh realities of the year that is ending. This annual influx of volunteers is made possible by the meticulous organisation and preparation of homeless shelters, toy banks, food banks and befriending schemes. All of them need to plan months in advance to ensure volunteers are trained and DBS checked.  

If there is one part of 2022 that lifts my spirits it is the age demographic change that has taken place. Understandably there has been a noticeable drop in the cohort we used to call “time rich” (retired in old money) since the pandemic. Usually, this would be a cause for concern but actually what has happened is a younger cohort, one we were struggling to connect with pre-Covid, has stood up to more than compensate for the decline in older volunteers. This is a development that raises spirits across the age demographic, even the most jaundiced of volunteer managers will be heartened by this development. 

Of course, if we can persuade those with extensive life experience back into volunteering we would have the best of both worlds. Combining the enthusiasm of the young with the knowledge of the old. Imagine the successful delivery of all the vital tasks needed over Christmas and New Year and the goals that could be achieved this time next year. Volunteering is being reinvigorated by the young who are putting their hearts into it, that for me provides more to look forward to than any lack of enthusiasm generated by the headlines. Christmas 2022 can be enjoyed and all of us at Volunteering Kingston wish you all the joy there is for the festive period.  


By Michael Green