The Best Thing I Ever Did – My Christmas At Crisis

Tuesday 28th January 2014

A New Year is always a new chance – a chance to think about what you’ve done last year. I always ask myself the question: What will I keep in mind when I think about 2013 in 20 years time? I made two great decisions last year: Taking a GAP year at Queen Anne’s and spending my Christmas holidays at Crisis. 

The desire to volunteer during Christmas came to me two years ago when I had a special encounter: I was sitting at the bus station at Christmas Eve, it was cold and rainy and I was far away from feeling the Christmas spirit when suddenly an old homeless man sat down next to me. I knew him because he always slept on the bench while I was waiting for the bus after school. But I have never spoken to him. On this particular day, he just sat down, looked at me, wished me a Merry Christmas and said to me: “My little present for you” handing me a self-made stuffed angel.

I was so touched and surprised that I didn’t know what to say so I just gave him a smile for giving me the most Christmassy feeling on that day. After he left, I never saw him again to say thank you. So I swore to myself that I wanted to give some of this feeling back that I received on that day.

Now two years later during my GAP year, I have found in Crisis At Christmas the perfect opportunity to keep my vow! I volunteered in one of the Day Centres from the 23rd until the 29th of December. From the first day on I was overwhelmed by the atmosphere. Around 100 volunteers attended per shift in my centre, everyone open-minded, friendly and sincere. So my first fear that I might feel a bit alone disappeared immediately.

And about 300 guests came every day. The guests not only received a proper breakfast, lunch and supper, they also got medical service, entertainment like a cinema, little concerts, Karaoke or Bingo, sports, physiotherapy, natural healing, orthodontists, optometrists, massage, manicure, hairdresser, advice and clothes.

But most simply appreciated the attention that they received. A man, he is about 60 (which is really old due to a life expectancy of 47 for rough sleepers) told me the best thing about Crisis at Christmas is that once in a year he doesn’t get ignored, once in a year someone looks him in the eye during a conversation, once in a year he doesn’t get the feeling of inferiority. As I hugged him at the end of our long chat he said with tears in his eyes: “That was the first gentle touch I have got for eight years”.

I met the most inspirational people who told me about their past. Sad stories about loss, loss of people they love, of employment, of self-confidence, of safety. But some of them told me also about their plans for the future, their dreams and how they hope that Crisis can help them to realise them. Because Crisis is not only operating during Christmas, they also run a Centre which is open the whole year supporting homeless people with housing, work and financial stability, health and wellbeing and positive relationships.

To support the wonderful work the team is doing and to make Crisis at Christmas 2014 even better than 2013 we need your help! A little donation at my fundraising page will help the 6347 rough sleepers in London enormously.

Finally I want to thank Miss Harrington and Miss Doughty Davis for their help.

 Written by Ilka Hameister, Language Assistant and GAP StudentDSCN1032