How to give back this Christmas
The season of goodwill, Christmas is one of the most important times to be proactive when it comes to giving back to our communities and helping those that need our support the most.
A season that marks the end of our calendar year, Christmas is a time of great reflection. An opportunity to pause and take a moment to be thankful for everything and everyone we have in our lives, the spirit of this ancient Christian festival remains to be the combined act of both gratitude and giving. In the traditional translation of the angel’s song over Bethlehem, they sang “on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” That traditional language shows up in many of our carols, folklore and traditions around this season. A spirit perfectly captured by Kent’s Charles Dickens in his transformed character Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, ‘goodwill to all men’ (and animals) should always be our priority at this time that can easily get overshadowed by consumerism and consumption. This, therefore, makes Christmas the perfect time to give back.
Although for many of us Christmas is a time of joy and celebration spent with our loved ones, it can also be one of the most difficult periods of the year. According to the charity, Samaritans, each Christmas, hundreds of selfless volunteers get ready to listen for over 100,000 hours at the other end of the phone to a stranger in need. Being on the frontline of the cost-of-living crisis, Samaritans are now answering over 400 calls a day from people consumed by money worries and this number is expected to rise dramatically over the festive period. Nuala Dalton, a volunteer for the charity said: “Christmas can bring up a lot of issues for people. We have the perception everything should be perfect on Christmas Day, but it may not be perfect inside your head. We get callers grateful that you’re there, callers whose normal support services are closed, some who are recently bereaved, callers who are very lonely, and other callers who are alone but delighted to be on their own because of family dynamics.”
Samaritans is encouraging us all to give the gift of listening by telling friends and family it’s OK to open up if something is troubling you. To make it easy, the charity has produced a set of vouchers that are available for download from their website (www.samaritans.org) to give as presents, offering yourself as a listening ear. You can invite someone to confide in you over a coffee, while out on a walk, or in whatever way you feel they will be most comfortable with. “Socks won’t save a life, but listening can.” An important reminder for everyone to check in on vulnerable friends and neighbours this season.
Elderly people are perfect examples of who we should check in on, with many more likely to feel lonely over the Christmas period; according to charity Age UK, around 1.5 million. You can help make this Christmas a little brighter for a lonely older person by donating or volunteering with Age UK at www.ageuk.org.uk. The charity say they have seen increased reliance on their telephone support services in 2023, expecting the 31,471 calls made to their Advice Line last Christmas to grow.
As the cost-of-living crisis continues to worsen the housing emergency, Shelter predicts that over 120,710 children in England will be homeless and living in temporary accommodation, with this equating to one in every 100 children in the country being homeless. The charity expects this figure to grow as the cost-of-living crisis gets worse. There are plenty of ways that you can help with homelessness across Kent, with many local charities such as Emmaus and Porchlight helping to tackle the issue. “Right now, homelessness is destroying lives and affecting thousands of men, women and children across Kent,” says Porchlight. “Christmas is a great time to start – and continue – fundraising, donating or volunteering for Porchlight. By doing this you’ll help make sure that everyone in Kent has a safe place to call home, not just at Christmas.”
Another charity helping to tackle the above is The Salvation Army. This year they will be providing Christmas lunches and companionship to older people living alone, giving Christmas food parcels to families who are struggling to afford a proper Christmas lunch, and distributing toys to children whose parents are unable to afford presents this Christmas. Throughout the year, they battle to protect thousands of rough sleepers with nowhere to turn by developing a new initiative of nap pads providing hot food, blankets and hygiene kits, running drop-in day centres with access to specialist help and working with local authorities to seek alternatives to night shelter provision. This Christmas, take part in their Be a STAR! initiative and fundraise to help isolated, desperate or hungry people this Christmas. From ‘Star Trees’, festive coffee mornings and Christmassy office outfits to running, crafting, festive ecards and carolling with The Salvation Army, there’s plenty of ideas, activities and resources you need to help spread joy this Christmas. Visit www.salvationarmy.org.uk to get involved.
Sadly, the pressure of this season doesn’t only affect humans. In 2023, the cost for Blue Cross to rescue and rehome a dog is up to 37% higher than in 2021; the cost for them to provide vaccinations for dogs has more than doubled since 2021; and in the first half of this year, the charity has seen 55% more pets given up due to financial reasons than during the same period in 2022. The RSPCA are expected to take more than 5,000 animals into their care in December, and expect over 61,000 calls to come through to their cruelty line, with over 900 of these being on Christmas Day. During this time, it is likely that inspectors will look into more than 2,000 complaints of abandonment and more than 5,000 complaints of neglect. Their dedicated team will be hard at work on Christmas Day working 24 hours a day rescuing animals – from pets to wildlife – and bringing them to safety.
Supporting Kent’s charities at Christmas
As well as all the classic ways we can fundraise with sponsored runs, swims, cake sales and skydives, there’s plenty of other ways we can support charities – especially at Christmas. insideKENT recommends getting involved with the local Kent branches of larger charities and smaller local charities that target Kent causes and help local people. Here are just some of the ways you can get involved this Christmas.
Join Pilgrims Hospices this December to remember lost loved ones for Trees of Love 2023
Pilgrims Hospices are inviting people across east Kent to dedicate a dove to the memory of loved ones, joining them for a remembrance service with carols. “We know this time of year can be the hardest for those of us who have lost loved ones, so we offer the chance to pause and reflect together with others who understand,” they said.
To take part, visit: www.pilgrimshospices.org or contact their Supporter Relations Team on 01227 782062 to dedicate a dove. You will then be invited to join the charity for the remembrance service at your choice of venue in Kent, at which they switch on the tree lights, and serve mulled wine, hot chocolate and warm mince pies. The beautiful doves will then remain on the illuminated ‘Trees of Love’, letting your memories shine throughout the festive season.
Another way to support Pilgrims Hospices at this time is by picking up your tree from our favourite food hall, Macknade. 5% of the proceeds will go straight to Pilgrims Hospice, providing care and support to those living with an incurable illness. Each of the trees has been grown at Kent’s Hole Park Estate in Rolvenden. Ranging from potted trees to other varieties in a range of styles and sizes.
Become a ‘Pet Pal’ with your district’s RSPCA branch
When you set up a regular donation to your local RSPCA branch, you will become part of their ‘Pet Pal’ community and receive:
- A welcome pack.
- A quarterly update on everything happening at the rehoming centre.
- VIP invitations to open days and special events.
- Peace of mind that you’re helping to change the lives of vulnerable animals for the better.
Give someone a Kent Wildlife Trust gift
The Kent Wildlife Trust is the county’s leading conservation charity, protecting and improving habitats in the county’s countryside, coast and towns. They have lots of ways you can support them this Christmas, including:
- Adopt a species. From owls to seals! (As seen in our Kent Gift Guide on pages 69-71).
- Sponsor a herd of bison or have a bison ranger experience.
- Play the Kent Wildlife Trust lottery for just £2 a month and have the opportunity to win a cash prize. An annual ticket would make a great gift for a wildlife lover.
Dine at the Fifth Trust at Elham Valley Vineyard
The Fifth Trust, a Kent charity that supports adults with learning difficulties, will be serving Christmas lunch in the Vineyard Café between 21 November and 21 December. Choose two courses for £22.50 or three courses for £27.50. As well as delicious food, there will be wine and festive drinks to keep you in a merry mood! Booking is essential: email email@example.com or call 01227 831266.
Donate Food to Kent’s FareShare
Accepting all kinds of fresh, frozen, ambient and chilled food and drink, including retailer branded foods in all forms, from bulk ingredients and unfinished products to labelling errors and damages, FareShare redistributes surplus food to charities that turn it into meals. FareShare collects it from you then diverts it to their UK-wide network of 8,500 frontline charities and community groups. Visit: www.fareshare.org.uk.
Santa’s Lodge at Ashford Designer Outlet, 2 – 24 December
Santa will be returning to Ashford Designer Outlet this Christmas offering children and their families the chance to meet Santa and his elves, learning the many magical secrets they have from how reindeer fly to how they fly around the world in just one night. What’s more, as all proceeds from the tickets will be going to the British Heart Foundation, this is a great way for little ones to learn about giving back.
Medway’s Santa Fun Run, Historic Dockyard Chatham, 3 December
Whether you fancy taking on the 5K or the challenge of the 10K, there’s going to be all the fun of the festive season at the Santa Fun Run at the Historic Dockyard Chatham this year. Dress up in your Santa suit and enjoy racing or jogging around the dockyard at this fantastically fun event. All proceeds will be going straight to Rotary Club charities so you can hold your head high when you receive that well-earned medal!
Little Urchins Hedgehog Rescue Christmas Fair, Temple Ewell, 3 December
From 10am to 2pm, Little Urchins Hedgehog Rescue will be hosting their lovely Christmas Fair at Temple Ewell Village Hall near Dover. Entry is £4 per adult and £2 per child. There will be tea, coffee and hot chocolate for all plus cakes and mince pies! There will also be handmade hedgehog-themed gifts, bric-a-brac and tombola prizes – please feel free to contribute baked goods, bric-a-brac and crafted items. All money raised will go towards Little Urchins Hedgehog Rescue Dover who look after sick and injured hedgehogs in need, nursing them back to health and putting them back safely in the wild. Their aim is to help stop the devastating decline in the UK’s number of hedgehogs.
Pilgrims Hospice’s Santas on the Run! 10 December
Whether you run 3K, 5k, or choose to stretch your legs with the new 10K challenge, Herne Bay’s scenic seafront will play host to hundreds of Santas as they dash along the coast in aid of Pilgrims Hospice. Listen to festive music and be jingled all the way with Kent’s biggest Santa run. Raise money for your run from friends and family (after all, you will be taking it on dressed in a full Santa suit, beard and all) and give back to the hospice.
Merry Little Christmas Party, 16 December
Fun-filled and festive, this brand new event from the Heart of Kent Hospice is perfect for the whole family. Proceeds go to the Heart of Kent Hospice with each child’s ticket including food, unlimited juice and squash, gingerbread decorating, an elf show, a visit from Father Christmas, and a festive disco. Adults will be treated to food, tea and coffee, and even a welcome mulled wine and mince pie.
Demelza’s Celebration of Christmas at Canterbury Cathedral, 19 December
Celebrating their 25th anniversary, this annual event is not one to be missed featuring festive readings and timeless carols from special guests including Cheryl Baker, Robin Cousins and Sir Martyn Lewis CBE. Begin your festive celebrations at this iconic venue on Tuesday 19 December; doors open at 7pm for a prompt 7.30pm start. Tickets can be purchased at www.demelza.org.uk.
Do the Deal Dip on Christmas Day
The Deal Rotary Ice Breakers Boxing Day Dip may not actually require you to break through any ice (we hope), but we can guarantee it will certainly give you a warm feeling inside! With all money raised going straight to local charities, it’s certainly worth taking the plunge with this one. So sign up, blow away the Christmas Day cobwebs and dive straight into giving back to the local community.
Folkestone’s Boxing Day Dip
Folkestone Lions will be hosting their annual sea dip, inviting intrepid dippers to shake off the Christmas excesses and raise funds for the Lions Club or local charities of their choice. Dippers are encouraged to gain sponsorship and use this icy blast from Sunny Sands Beach as a chance to make a difference. Don fancy dress, get some sponsors and get your feet wet!
Finally, another great and amazingly simple way to support your favourite charities this Christmas is by doing your gift shopping on one of the charity’s online Christmas shops or from their special Christmas catalogues. Unlike the traditional highstreet charity shops, these collections are brand new and include everything from ‘Gifts for Gardeners’ to pet-themed Coco Loco chocolates. These ranges will also include Christmas cards that support the charity, so you can help raise awareness to friends and family by simply sending these. All major UK based charities have these Christmas gift ranges including: Blue Cross, RSPCA, Dogs Trust, Cats Protection, Battersea, PDSA, NSPCC, Cancer Research, Marie Curie, Barnardos, Red Cross, Save the Children, RNLI Lifeboats, Mind, Alzheimers Society, Scope and many many more. Kent’s local Demelza has its own online shop, on which you can browse all their vintage items, collectables, clothes and more.