One in ten people – that’s more than six million people in the UK – will spend this Christmas Day alone, according to a new survey.
The study, carried out on behalf of Sue Ryder, the charity which runs Peterborough’s Thorpe Hall Hospice, reveals that while eight in 10 people are planning to spend the festive holiday surrounded by family, 10 per cent of the population don’t expect to have company on Christmas Day.
Despite the high numbers of people having no one special they choose to socialise with at Christmas, less than one per cent opt to dedicate their time to helping a good cause instead.
Tracey Mealing is the head of volunteering at Sue Ryder.
She said: “Of course, volunteering supports the local community but those who give their time to help others can reap huge benefits themselves from gaining in confidence and making new friends to beating social isolation which is a key factor to depression, especially at Christmas.
“The support we receive from people at Christmas is invaluable – whether it’s answering telephones, serving food and drink or helping a patient unwrap presents with their family. That kind of support enables us to bring Christmas to the hospice so it’s more like a home from home for the families.
“So many people find volunteering at a Sue Ryder hospice like Thorpe Hall fun. They are not the depressing places people assume – there is a lot of fun and laughter as people support each other and celebrate Christmas together.”
Around 11,000 volunteers work at Sue Ryder nationally, in care centres, at events and in the 400 plus retail outlets. They don’t only support Sue Ryder but gain work experience and develop skills that can then be utilised in a work environment.
Tracey said: “Without the support of our incredible volunteers we just couldn’t provide the level of care that we do – especially at this time of year.”
Penny is a popular figure on the wards at Thorpe Hall where she volunteers for several hours a week. And she selflessly opts to work on Christmas Day.
She said: “I am often asked why I choose to spend Christmas Day surrounded by so much sadness and illness. I always suggest people come and try it to see for themselves. There is sadness but there is also a great deal of love and happiness shown to so many people on that day.
“It is a privilege to spend the day with people who may not see another Christmas. To be part of a team who try to make Christmas Day as special as possible is a joy. I am grateful to those who make it possible for me to be here.
“I love making numerous drinks for patients and visitors. I may help open presents or entertain the children. We are all on hand to sit and talk to patients and visitors, to offer a shoulder to cry on, a laugh to be shared, or a hand to hold. I love hearing the wonderful stories that patients tell us and sharing with them memories of Christmas Days in happier times.”
For more information about volunteering at Thorpe Hall hospice visit the website http://www.sueryder.org/Get-involved/Volunteering