by Christina Malliet
The period surrounding the winter holidays – Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice – is one of the most popular times of year to volunteer. It can also be the time of year when the impact of volunteering is felt most significantly for those in need. Following is a sampling of some of the ways young people (and adults) from around the world volunteer during the holidays. Many of these programs are implemented through the European Voluntary Service (EVS), while others are done by individuals or independent organizations.
In Szczecin, Poland, children at Public Preschool #5 “Magnolia” perform a Christmas Eve play for homeless people in the community. Not only do children provide Christmas cheer for play attendees, but they also gain sensitivity to people in need.
In Cadca, Slovakia, young people aged 4-30 are placed by EVS as volunteers at the KERIC European Youth Center. Volunteers present Christmas celebrations as they occur in their home countries for members of the Cadca community. This show promotes a broadened, international reach of the Christmas meaning.
Through International Cultural Youth Exchange (ICYE), young volunteers in Chisinau, Moldova, run a stand at a Charity Christmas Bazaar, where they promote their efforts and those of the EVS, as well as raise money. The youth also learn about other volunteer opportunities in Moldova.
In the United Kingdom, TimeBank coordinates several volunteer opportunities. Volunteers help at crisis centers for homeless people, providing necessary companionship, hot meals, warmth and other services. Otherwise, people volunteer to provide confidential emotional support over helplines, spend time with or deliver meals to the elderly, or participate in a caroling service for hospice care patients. Finally, families host international students at Christmas, promoting peace and worldwide understanding by sharing holiday traditions.
Photo courtesy of TimeBank.
Volunteers at Pensioner Day Care Center in Rezekne, Latvia, decorate and organize activities for Christmas. These volunteers are live-ins, placed in the community through EVS.
Parishioners from the US and Mexico travel to Nogales, Mexico, over Christmas through the Navidad in Nogales program. While there, volunteers play with, feed, give presents to, and present the Christmas gospel to local, impoverished children.
Voluntary Service International (VSI), of Ireland, hosts the “Stop Occupying Christmas Project” in Bethlehem, Palestine, over the Christmas period. Through such services as agricultural aid and rehabilitation, Irish volunteers prepare Palestinian youth to make positive contributions to their future and to society.
Also through VSI, in conjunction with the Irish Wheelchair Association, volunteers in Donamon, Co. Roscommon, Ireland, work at the Cuisle Holiday Center. Disabled people stay at the center over Christmas, where they celebrate the holiday in comfort. Volunteers provide festivities for visitors.
If you have any more information about holiday volunteerism around the world, or if you would like to share your own story, we welcome your feedback in a comment below!