For most of us, Christmas is marked by a chance to indulge in every way possible. Families reunite. We eat, we drink; we’re merry. And that’s a good thing! But there’s also a different kind of Christmas. For thousands of people up and down the country, things aren’t so rosy, and Christmas poses a uniquely difficult time for them. Thankfully, Crisis at Christmas is a unique volunteer effort that is providing immediate help for homeless people over the festive season. Volunteering at Christmas is nothing new, but it makes a tremendous difference to people experiencing homelessness. As today is #InternationalVolunteerDay, we thought it would be nice to ask WBC’s Retail Development manager, Gerry Moss about experiencing a different kind of Christmas as a Crisis volunteer.
Christmas as a Crisis Volunteer
Crisis at Christmas has been around for the past fifty years. What was started purely as a marketing campaign to shed light on London’s rough sleepers, has grown to become a nationwide charity with many faces and life stories.
Last year, I was a volunteer for Crisis at Bermondsey’s Harris Academy which was nestled directly behind London’s Maltby Street district.
The Academy, with its various vacated buildings left by students gone for winter’s break, was converted into a small community. School corridors became high streets lined with hair dressers, dentists and even an internet café.
The main assembly hall was converted into a cafeteria-cum-dancehall-cum-social centre. Food was served three times a day. There was always ping pong and nightly entertainment too. You’ve never heard a more beautiful rendition of Cormichael and Gorrell’s Georgia on My Mind, sung by an older gent in a wheelchair without a home. This karaoke memory left me entranced amongst the clanking of plates and bellowing laughter of the dinner hall.
Volunteers at Crisis are given a badge which denotes their name. In some cases, your name may be accompanied by a nationality should you be gifted in several tongues. Dressed in layers and paired in couples or in groups, the mission at hand is always to create an ‘everything is possible experience’ for society’s invisible and most vulnerable. When handed a toilet brush or a blanket, the only thing to do is complete the required task and then ask for more.
There are faces you will always remember and expressions that communicate volumes. There are those who may be lost or for some a wrong turn made. Different languages and dreams whirling in a kind of controlled chaos. During volunteer shifts, you see and learn about life from a very meaningful perspective.
I’ve kept my Crisis at Christmas badge from last year – my name still faint in blue marking pen. I will use it once again this year.
WBC Retail Developer, Gerry Moss.
If you’d like to get involved or support Crisis at Christmas this year, a great place to start is by downloading their charity single below. If you can offer more, visit their website for a list of ways you can get involved.
Ralph McTell featuring the Crisis Choir and guest vocalist, Annie Lennox.
50 years after Ralph McTell first penned ‘Streets of London’, the legendary singer-songwriter has re-recorded his timeless single again. It features a choir made up of Crisis clients from across Britain, and guest vocalist Annie Lennox.
The song shares its birthday with Crisis’ 50th anniversary this December. It is being released to raise money to support thousands of people facing homelessness this Christmas.
Available now from iTunes for just 99p
All proceeds go to Crisis and the work they do to help thousands of homeless people every year.