Every year, I write a charity led blog post close to Christmas. Suggestions on spreading a little love at Christmas to those less fortunate. In one way, this year is no different. As we’re all heading towards that November payday, we may be trying not to talk about Christmas, or put up our trees yet, but we’re thinking about it. Figuring out who is going to get what, who is hosting Christmas dinner this year, and if you haven’t booked the works Christmas do yet, having a bit of a panic over that.
This year, I’ve got a reverse advent calendar in my office collecting for Barakah Food Aid, Hits Radio have just launched their Christmas charity campaign, and as usual, I’m going to list all the ways you can help others – donate a few quid, add an extra can of soup to your shopping list etc.
But before I do, I want to do something different this year. I don’t know about you, but we’re feeling the pinch a little. Both myself and Mr GFB work in the public sector and we have had very small payrises for some time, everything is getting more expensive, and I’ve been trying to clear a couple of debts. And I know we’re not alone. My family have pretty much agreed only to buy for the kids, and in my case, I’m making a lot of gifts – I have a huge yarn stash, time to use it up on the people I love.
So in this years post I’m starting with a reminder that charity does begin at home. Cut yourself some slack – you don’t have to buy all the things, and eat all the things, and be happy the whole time, or be the one who does everything. We build Christmas up into this magical time that should be full of tinsel and lights and smiling faces – and it can be, but it doesn’t always have to cost a small house to do it, and nor should it come at an emotional cost for you.
If you are struggling, there are people out there to help – and if you see someone struggling, then reach out. The biggest act of kindness you could do this year, is just asking someone if they’re OK, or if they need help. And if you’re not on a position to do that, that’s OK too.
Right, all that said, if like me you fancy giving a little something to someone, below is a list of projects who need help. Whether it’s things, money, volunteers or all three. And please, if there’s an organisation I’ve missed, please let me know and I’ll add them to this post.
In my area, Barakah Food Aid are doing their annual Xmas hamper over the festive period. Food, treats, decorations, the whole team work to make sure nobody goes without. As always, they will be collecting both before, and after Christmas, so whether you can spare a can of soup, selection box, or can offer to drive some of the deliveries for them, you can contact them via their Twitter account, or Facebook page.
Locally too there’s Stretford Food Bank. There are a number of Food Banks across the country and this is my local one. There are a few places you can donate food/supplies to this food bank (details here), and if this is outside your area, then there’s a bigger list on the Trussell Trust website, a network of foodbanks nationwide.
They regularly run short of sugar, tinned meat/fish, toiletries and nappies, but all non-perishable food is welcome. A full list can be found on their site – and they will often update on their Facebook page what is in short supply.
Coffee 4 Craig is an organisation working hard to help the homeless in Manchester, Salford, and Cardiff. Soup kitchens, facilitating access to services, or just being there, yhey work to break the cycle of homelessness and rough sleeping, to enable people get their lives back on track.
They have a list of needs on their site, and collection points, and details of how to get involved with their projects.
Mad Dogs Street Project is another Manchester initiative that helps clothe and feed the homeless in Manchester. You can find details on their Facebook page – but they regularly collect warm clothing (socks, jumpers, blankets and coats), and work with Coffee 4 Craig and other organisations to help people get help.
I’ve long been a supporter of Monthly Gift Manchester – and host a number of boxes at work for donations. It’s super easy to donate sanitary products to them, drop them a tweet on Twitter or message them on Facebook, or pop into Oklahoma in the Northern Quarter with a pack of fanny pads. If you’re not local to Manchester, then your local foodbank will accept them happily.
The Beauty Banks is another project I’ve kind of fallen in love with. Being able to wash your hair, moisturise your skin, or shave is something we totally take for granted. But hygiene poverty is growing, and The Beauty Banks are here to help. Not only does being clean feel good, and should be considered a basic human right, but it can give someone their confidence back. It’s easy to add a couple of extra basics to your basket and send it to them, and make someone’s day just that little bit better.
In Kind Direct are an organisation that hit the news this year when the realities of hygiene poverty were making themselves known. Schools hosting banks of washing machines so that they can clean and dry clothes for school kids, was a harrowing idea, and yet, it happens. Whilst they primarily work with companies to receive donations, as you’ll see in the video, they still need volunteers, and you can raise money for them too by doing a sponsored event. And, maybe if you’re reading this, your company might be able to help too.
The Booth Centre has a number of ways you can help. You can volunteer and donate your time, help with training and lifeskills, or donate food and drink.
Back on Track works with vulnerable and disadvantaged adults do just that. Again there are volunteer opportunities, and they accept donations too.
Sprucing up the house before Christmas? Mustard Tree accept food, clothes, furniture and soft furnishings. They’re a fantastic charity who also help people reset their lives, and give them a helping hand. You can find out how to get involved here.
Barnabus is another site that you can help by volunteering with or donating. Every little counts.