When Ian suggested we volunteer at Christmas for the Crisis organisation, we decided that he would volunteer as a minibus driver. As none of my certification including my medical diploma, is valid in UK, I would register as a general volunteer.
Crisis is a charity that aims to end homelessness. It has 11,000 volunteers in London alone. See https://www.crisis.org.uk/
I left home at 6:50 on Christmas Day while it was still dark and cold. For most of my walk there were a couple of people and cars. A little spooky. Because this was my second shift, I knew what was waiting for me at the school building. Crisis at Christmas, which has been organized since 1972, this year for the first time had a centre in Croydon at a school building for both day and residential services.
In spite of the isolation and cold outside, there was an passionate crowd inside. As soon as we had our badges, we were going to the briefing room to have a periodical distribution of the tasks. During my three shifts of eight hours, I did more active jobs such as dishwashing in the kitchen, wiping the tables, working in the clothes department, carrying goods, as well as static jobs as observing a certain area which is called ‘gap-duty’ .
In this process, while providing services for those who are sleeping rough for various reasons at that time, there was also the opportunity to meet many different volunteers with similar values. Volunteers from all races, all ages and genders, accepting every task in the name of hosting homeless people, from offering food or clothing, giving information or advice or entertaining under the roof of Crisis, without any hesitation and with a smile. There were volunteers walking with two sticks or with impaired vision. I met volunteering mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, identical twins.
All this is a very well organized effort. Whilst trying to end homelessness on the one hand, on the other hand it was aimed to give opportunity to people who are homeless to celebrate at this festive time in the way that many other people do. By having a break from rough sleeping they also get a chance to tackle some of their ongoing problems with access to healthcare or legal support and maybe also to get a chance to make a job application.