’Tis the season for giving and I don’t just mean the kind you go rummaging under the Christmas tree for. Sure, giving to charity in the monetary sense can go towards much needed resources, but what’s even more valuable is time … your time.
We spoke to some Christmas angels who selflessly donate their time and effort each December for those less fortunate than themselves.
Lisa Cox was 24 when she was hospitalised for over a year, remaining ward-bound over the Christmas period. What Lisa appreciated more than anything was the effort her family and friends went to to ensure that she never felt alone, especially over the festive season – but it didn’t go unnoticed by Lisa that others weren’t as lucky. As a result, every Christmas morning Lisa now revisits the hospital ward she called home for so long to bring some holiday cheer to those who can’t be at home with their families.
‘I think I have a moral responsibility to “pay it forward”, so to speak. Making a stranger smile holds more value to me than materialistic gifts. It sounds clichéd but I wouldn’t have been doing this so many years in a row if I didn’t believe in it.’
The volunteering opportunities around the festive season reach beyond the walls of a ward, with organisations running programs from local community to national level. People like volunteer Narelle Lee make the most of these philanthropic opportunities by offering their time through a range of such programs, such as delivering hampers to families in need.
‘I can’t recommend doing something for someone else highly enough and would encourage everyone to look around their communities to see just how they can help make a difference. This year, with the impact of the fires there will be even more opportunities to make a difference, but really it is not just Christmas – there is something that can be done all year round’, says Lee.
People are not the only ones who deserve our generosity at Christmas time. Each year, the RSPCA has an annual appeal asking people to reconsider buying Christmas puppies and kittens, which often result in a high proportion of unwanted animals being dumped at their door when the festivities are over. In fact, they estimate that over 13,500 animals will enter their care from November through to January this year.
Debra Borland from Animal Aid, a not-for-profit animal welfare shelter in Victoria, is all too familiar with this cycle. Their animal shelters need to be manned every day to ensure the health and wellbeing of the animals they take in is maintained – animals still need to be fed, cleaned and cared for as the rest of us eat, drink and make merry. Debra is thankful for the volunteers who generously give up a few hours over Christmas and Boxing Day to keep the animals company and make sure they don’t go without.
‘Volunteers are the lifeblood of Animal Aid … we are so indebted to the special individuals who give up part of their Christmas day to make sure that animals who aren’t lucky enough to have a family to share it with get all the love and attention they deserve’, says Borland.
So regardless of how you want to get involved this Christmas, there is a volunteering opportunity to suit your interests and availability. Why not give your time these holidays … it won’t cost you a cent, and it will mean everything to those you help.
Have you ever volunteered? We’d love to hear about your volunteering experiences, over Christmas or at any other time of year.