Thursday, 30 December 2010

My Volunteering experience

Hi Everyone ! I hope you all survived Christmas and are looking forward to a lovely New Year.

I thought I would fill you all in on my brilliant experience with Crisis at Christmas (Finsbury Park, London centre) It was far and above my expectations, I can't put into words the enjoyment and satisfaction I and all the volunteers got out of it. Myself, my son, his girlfriend and their Australian friend (living here without family) loved it so much that we are up for it next year too.
If I hadn't had family commitments on Boxing day I would have gone back again before my next shift on the 27th, and again after that ( the centre closes today 30th) but I had to head back to Hampshire on 28th sadly.

The lovely veteran actress Sian Phillips, who was once married to Peter O'Toole was there at the centre as a volunteer, she was so lovely and mucked in doing anything asked of her, apparently she has been doing it for a few years now. All the shift leaders running the centre were friendly and amazing to work with. I met lot's of lovely like minded people from all walks of life and all nationalities. I never heard anyone moan about the tasks given and everyone I spoke to intends to go back.

My favourite tasks were washing hair ready for haircuts and serving food in the 'guest' dining room. Our 'guests' were so polite and thankful and believe me they were so well fed.  The amount of fresh veg and meat donated by businesses and shops was awesome and kept arriving throughout the days the centre was open.
There was also all sorts of luxurious donated as well, such as biscuits, cakes, chocolates, shampoos, shower gels.  The generosity was wonderful.

Although we four arrived together we split up to do our days work which was great because we all had our own individual experiences to tell each other. One task was normally done for around 40 mins to an hour and then we were relieved to go and have a cuppa and a snack in the volunteers area. ( I met some great people)
 We then waited for calls to volunteer for the next tasks. One task which we all thought would be boring was sitting in pairs minding 'gaps' this was because there were certain areas of the college that were out of bounds and if they weren't covered by anyone 'guests' would have been wandering all over the building and we wouldn't have known were they were or indeed if they were doing any damage (never happened yet !) but because the college has generously loaned the building for the third year running we have to make sure it's handed back in the condition it was taken over in. fair do's !! Anyway this task turned out to be great, as we got to be with another  volunteer to chat and get to know, and the passing 'guests' liked to stop and chat to us, so we had plenty of interaction with them as well.

CRISIS are doing a wonderful job and this was just at one centre. It is well run, catered for everything the 'guests' could have wanted. Showers, hair wash (if not showering at time of haircut) massage, healing, yoga, dance, (the Salsa class went down well ) optician, doctor, dentist, Internet and P.C classes, Bingo which was called out by a Cross Dressing 'guest' in a bright pink lurex dress who also played a mean game of football in the sports hall, I know this as she/he was on my son's team when he volunteered to do the sports. I have to say this particular guest was a gem and so grateful to be there.
I could go on and on but wont ! I would like to ask that you sponsor me though ( I won't be offended if you don't) please help Crisis to carry on their work all year by donating any amount no matter how small.
Here is my sponsorship link :



P.S next time I see a person sitting in a cold doorway I will always offer to buy them a coffee or a sandwich ( I never give money) that's one of my N.Y resolutions. My daughter saw a couple on Christmas Eve in Winchester go into a shop and buy a chap in a doorway a duvet. There are Angels among us even the Human kind !!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Happy toasty warm feet

I was a bit naughty today because I opened a Christmas present from the hubby, but it was because my feet were freezing and indoors I never wear slippers, well that's until today ! you see I fell in love with a funky pair that I saw whilst out doing our Christmas shopping a couple of weeks ago. I just had to had some, so they were on my Christmas list.   I was complaining about how cold my feet were today and that I could do with those slipper now instead of waiting until Christmas, and he indulged me ! ( he also said it saved him having to wrap them up, typical  !!!!)  So here they are and they are so toasty and warm, but best of all they make me smile everytime I look at them.  I love them they are so eccentric, shame they aren't leather as I think I would wear them out !!!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

If You have a few minutes Please watch this

I found this little video on the main 'CRISIS' website and felt i'd like to share it with you. It's the second video down featuring Jeff Hubbard. The first video with Prince William is also worth watching. The photography is good too.

Oh no not more snow !!!

We woke up this morning to lot's of snow. So far we have avoided being snowed in, but today it's probably the worst we have had which is a nuisance as we were meant to be in Surrey to babysit the grandchildren today.  The roads are quite bad and my son rang to say that they were having a blizzard there, so our plans have been scrapped and we are staying home instead. 
I only hope that it isn't snowing over Christmas because I have to get a train from Esher to Waterloo on Christmas eve to meet up and travel with my son  who is volunteering with me, I will be staying with him and his girlfriend in their apartment as it's close to the centre we are all working at on Christmas day. I will be so disappointed if the plans go all wrong because of the snow. I am so looking forward to my shift on 25Th.

The Garden this morning

Our Christmas fireplace looks cosy with all the candles lit, and because we decided on not having a tree this year it makes a lovely seasonal statement.

I probably wont be posting again before Christmas, so I would like to say to everyone have a Wonderful and Peaceful Christmas and I wish you all a Happy New Year.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Volunteering at Christmas

I haven't posted for a while now as like everyone else with an allotment/gardening blog  there hasn't been a lot going in either. We have had some rain in the last few days so that's cleared the snow away, well almost.

I had to attend a prep meeting in London on Saturday for 'Crisis' who are the wonderful charity that look after the homeless, not just at Christmas but all year round.  The weather as you know has been terrible and I wasn't sure I would make the meeting. However I did manage to get there and was so glad I did.  It was held in a lovely Baptist church in Shaftsbury Avenue and at a guess I would say there were a couple of hundred people there.'Crisis' need and usually get 6,000 volunteers across the country, we were all first timers.

The speakers were all long term volunteers with loads of experience, some with 14 years or more working with the homeless. It was informative, fun and lovely to learn how 'Crisis' came about which was due to the 1960's film  'Cathy come Home' which is a classic now. but it really got started big time in the early 1970's.
I have volunteered to do a shift from  8.30 - 4pm in a day centre in London on Christmas day and again on 27th Dec from 4pm-10pm. 
The meeting highlighted the possible tasks we may be assigned to do, some of which I would never have imagined, and possibly may not like. But we (being myself, my son, his girlfriend and an Australian friend of theirs) all discussed it afterwards and all agreed it didn't put us off and we were looking forward to being useful in making the 'guests' (as they are called ) have a wonderful Christmas, something that we always take for granted.

All sorts of professional people like Doctor's, Nurses, Pharmacists, podiatrists, Opticians,all give their services for free, and more importantly their time over a 2 weeks period leading up to and after Christmas. Not full time of course but the odd few hour shifts here and there.  The 'guest' using the centres might not have  had a medical check-up for years, or had their eyes tested or their teeth checked, so it's a wonderful time for them. They even get to have a haircut or a manicure or perhaps a massage as well.  This is where we come in (possibly) so we are prepared !!! to maybe wash  their hair, or feet (gloves provided) ready for the haircut or podiatrist. as well as the usual serving the food to tables (not cooking as have to hold a qualification) there is also tasks like generally chatting and more importantly LISTENING to guests and maybe crafts and board games, they even have football matches (our day centre is held in a college, so lots of room).

We were warned that sometimes but rarely there are angry clashes between 'guest' and the language may sometimes be a bit 'blue'  but I was prepared for that so that didn't really concern me too much, as these are people that have to be rough and tough to just survive. They are not always treated kindly in their daily lives, so the pampering they get (for those who want it) is sometimes the only kindly touch they may have in a long time. It was heart warming to also to hear that for those with dogs there a special pampering centre for their furry companion to be seen by a vet and be spoilt and well fed whilst the 'guests' were in the day centres.

If anyone is interested in helping support this very worth while charity and it is worthwhile, we shouldn't have homelessness ! and like the speakers said it's not just drug addicts and alcoholics that are homeless.( which is the general assumption) but also  men and women who's marriage or relationships break down, people fleeing abuse, young people leaving foster care at 18,  redundancies leading to a loss of their homes is a re-occuring issue as well.

I hope I haven't sounded like i'm on my soap-box !!!! but I don't apologise for writing this post, as it's a great way to get poeple to think about the issue and maybe help in some way even if it's by  donating unwanted clothes or items or giving money, or even better volunteering.  I will let you know how my shifts go.

Have a lovely week