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Activism

How to find volunteer work in your local area this Christmas

Whether it is helping to conserve local wildlife or fighting to alleviate poverty and homelessness, find out how to volunteer in your local community

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. With the end of the summer came the end of the furlough scheme, the £20-per-week cut to universal credit, and the increased energy price cap. That’s before factoring in the employment crisis, caused largely by a drop in immigration, which has created a supply chain crisis driving up the cost of fuel and food even further. And did we mention the rising petrol prices and national insurance hike? And food banks say the system is close to collapse. Times are tough.

If you’re lucky enough to have the freedom to volunteer, it can bring some huge benefits personally. Not only does it give you some physical exercise (if that’s something you’re keen on) it can bring positives to your mental health as well, developing new skills and meeting new people.

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. 

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. 

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What kind of volunteer work can I do? 

Food

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.  

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.

Young people 

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. If anything, the pandemic has compounded the problem.

Around half a million people could be pushed into poverty by the universal credit cut, according to JRF, including 200,000 children. It disproportionately affects single parents, BAME families and households including a person who is disabled.

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.

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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. 

Homelessness

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.

Older people

It’s been a long year for many people who have had to shield themselves from the virus. Even though the vaccine programme has been a success, many older people have had less contact than they otherwise would and have been missing someone to talk to.

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. 

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Socially-distanced volunteering

Not everyone is ready to go back to “normal” and there’s nothing wrong with that. The novel coronavirus is certainly still doing its best to interrupt our plans. But that doesn’t mean we can’t help others from the safety of our own. home.

If you’re fluent in more than one language, you might decide to get involved with Translators Without Borders to help non-profit organisations make vital information as accessible for as many people as possible.

Another option is The Mix, which is an online support service for people under 25 that have no one else to turn to. Log on from home and help guide young people into better decisions and mental health support.

Volunteering opportunities with and for people with disabilities

Thousands of people with disabilities turned out at the end of September to protest the fact that so-called legacy benefits for people with disabilities have stagnated through the pandemic.

Where the government provided extra support for businesses, employees, and people on universal credit, those who receive legacy benefits received nothing. This is despite ​​paying out nearly £600 pounds extra per month in unavoidable costs linked to their impairments, according to research by Scope.

The Disability Trust provides opportunities for volunteering to support people with disabilities, and if you have a disability yourself then places like Volunteering Matters and Citizens Advice list ways to get involved.

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:


East Anglia
London
Midlands
North East
Northern Ireland
North West
Scotland
South East
South West
Wales
Yorkshire and the Humber

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. 

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. 

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. 

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

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

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