09 Jan 2017
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Edwina Hughes, Corporate Responsibility Manager for Sodexo UK & Ireland

Reflecting on Crisis volunteering at Christmas

This blog was created by Edwin Hughes,  Corporate Responsibility Manager, Sodexo UK & Ireland

Over the Christmas break I decided to volunteer with Crisis at Christmas. Going into this I really didn’t know what to expect, people were telling me it was a great thing to do and I felt I was getting credit for something I hadn’t even started!

I did four shifts of about seven hours per shift, I was a maître d, I served meals, I booked hair appointments, I sat in gaps, I even wore a large cardboard box at one stage.  I watched a bit of 12 years a slave, I started a jigsaw and I chatted.  In fact I talked and talked, about nothing, about the weather, about the services on offer that day, about whether the parsnip mash was a good move.   It possibly wasn’t.

On reflection, now that it’s over, I would say if this was about anything it was about those chats – about reconnecting with people who I pass every other day and look at with sympathy some days, other days with impatience.  In the main, people I don’t normally talk to. Crisis at Christmas brings people like me, people like you, together with homeless people – and it’s really not that daunting after all. In the end, they are people, just like me and you, having been dealt a bad hand in life.

You can argue that it’s a crying shame we need Crisis at Christmas at all – that there are people lonely, hungry and isolated in this wealthy country. You could say it’s a wonderful service and support to people who don’t have a lot of joy or simply don’t normally enjoy the kindness of strangers.  Whatever your view, it’s hard to argue with the fact that the people I saw and met were happy to visit. They were happy to have a safe and warm place to spend time over Christmas. Happy to know that things wouldn’t kick off and if they did they’d be dealt with calmly and safely. Happy to know that they’d have three hot meals a day and could get some new clothes, a haircut and maybe even a massage. And equally I was happy to be part of that, to make that happen.

Some of the things I heard over Christmas made me incredibly sad and people asked me, particularly other volunteers, would I do it again and I said maybe.  A bit like the guest who’s asked will he be back – maybe; hopefully we will have figured out another way to cut this by this time next year.

So how you can you help? Sodexo offers all of its employees up to three days paid leave to volunteer with charities tackling hunger and poor nutrition. I volunteered with Crisis at Christmas as an individual, but also as an employee of Sodexo, I’ve learned a lot through this experience and I hope I can bring some of that to bear in the way I interact at work.  If you’d like to volunteer please discuss it with your line manager and check out Sodexo’s volunteering policy and guidance.  I’ll be in touch again soon to tell you more about the projects in which we’ll need your support during the year. ‘Til then happy New Year and all the best for 2017.

If you’d like to know about Crisis and the work it does year-round please visit Crisis volunteering for more info about their year-round opportunities and Crisis at Christmas 2017.

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