My first interaction with Caring at Christmas was an overnight shift on Christmas Eve in 2010. And I was immediately hooked.
I turned up with no previous volunteering experience, not sure what to expect, wondering what on earth I’d talk to people about and how I’d manage to stay up all night.
The briefing at the start of the shift put my mind at ease – I met the other volunteers and the team leader explained what we’d be doing on shift. We went down and within 10 minutes I was playing table tennis with a guest – the atmosphere was so relaxed and comfortable, it was great. A few of the guests stayed up into the night so we played scrabble and watched some films. At around 4am the tiredness kicks in so that’s when we all did the deep clean to wake us up again. By 6am the early bird guests were getting up so we had a cup of tea and a chat with them. I went home exhausted but buzzing and raring to go back again.
I was a night shift regular every year following that, until I started working on the project in 2018.
The night shifts are great because there is a real comradery between the volunteers – you’re all in it together. There’s plenty to do – the trick is to spread it out so you don’t run out of jobs too early!
Volunteers are rotated between monitoring the dorm (not the most fun job – there’s no dressing that up – but it’s done in short stints), doing the laundry, cleaning, sorting clothes and toiletries. And outside of that there are epic games of monopoly, scrabble and risk to be played!
This year, we’ll have an extra job for the night owls too. We’re working hard to improve our environmental impact and one of the changes is that we’ll be taking our ceramic plates and bowls over to the Trinity Centre to serve lunch. Last year we used compostable plates, but re-usable is even better than single-use recyclables. We’re a bit short on space over at the Trinity Centre, so we’ll be bringing them back to the night shelter to wash up overnight. So that will keep someone busy for a while!
The night shifters are the unsung heroes of the project – without them we wouldn’t be able to open every night and over safe, warm accommodation for up to 60 people every night.
The shifts are not as lively as some, but they are absolutely essential and ensure that our most vulnerable guests get the support they need this Christmas.
If you have any more questions about volunteering at Christmas then please email: email@example.com