[THROWBACK] Why I volunteered for the homeless at Christmas

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The guest and I drew each others’ portraits

I volunteered for the Crisis Charity serving the homeless for the festive season, back in 2015. I thought it’s important more than ever to share my experiences volunteering.

This year who would have thought these unfortunate events (Brexit, Trump, deaths, etc) would have happened.

Sometimes, the best present is giving our time for someone. I know it’s corny and naive but it’s true. One thing I learned was compassion is the best gift to give to anyone.

I’m not going to delve into the housing or refugee crisis. What’s important is that we help each other, and ease the pain, make them feel at home. Even if it’s for a short amount of time.

I wrote this back in December 2015, this is my first-hand and honest experience volunteering for Christmas. There are sensitive topics written here, just to forewarn.

  • December 2015

To be honest with you, I haven’t felt festive this year. I missed the ‘Office Christmas Party.’ I was at a different time of my life last year, deciding to go freelance full time after working many years at the gallery.

Beginning of this month, my husband Rob was due to work on Christmas day. **(Christmas miracle that he didn’t have to work on Christmas day in the end!) ** Yes, I felt sad about it. I even mentioned I should work from home as well because it wouldn’t be festive cheer without him.

I enjoyed organising workshops, after much researching, I decided to volunteer. There was a need for arts and crafts activity leader at the shelter. I thought why not. Applied and got accepted!

I was nervous leading up to my first shift but now, I’m pretty excited.‘Guests’ is what we called the homeless persons residing in the centre. We were trained in how to interactive with the guests, what NOT to say, and how to keep ourselves and everyone safe. Also, most importantly – how to engage with the guests.

They have been shunned for rest of the year – I never noticed that, and I felt a pang of guilt.You know what, the guests were thankful we were attentive and being so kind to them.

A fellow volunteer mentioned you cannot take on the world’s problems. The guests are thankful I and the volunteers are giving up our Christmas to help others.

There are lots of volunteers who help and support for the guests to talk about their housing problems, and dentists, doctors on location to look over any health related issues.

The hairdressers and salon ladies who volunteered were the busiest bunch, and the guests loved them. They were transformed, after having a beard trim and a clean hair cut. Also, the men LOVE their nails done, they won’t admit but there was a queue to get a manicure.

For fun crafty activities, we made a Christmas tree, Christmasy cards, T-Shirt painting and sculpting, many just wanted to paint their imagery alone. The team admired their works of art.

I volunteered on Christmas Eve, and it was WONDERFUL. Not to be stressing over Christmas food, not to be doing last-minute shopping, and amongst the bustling frustrated shoppers.

We played board games, we had a boogie with choreography, we had Christmas lunch, there was a mini cinema with a selection of movies. I bonded with my team mates and volunteers. We made posters, designed menus, I drew guests’ portraits and they drew mine. The guests were hesitant on the first days, but they got into the party mood eventually.

Many guests were sleeping on the streets for 20 – 30 years, even though we had beds provided – they insisted sleeping on the floor or on a chair. ‘Let them be,’ I thought to myself. ‘They are indoors at least.’I had the opportunity to listen to a guest and his story. He fallen out with his family, lost touch with his son.

The guest had major scarring and he told us when he was lit on fire whilst asleep under a bridge. A group of drunken lads poured lighter fluid and kicked him in the stomach. He somehow made it to local A&E, with 3rd-degree burns on his face and left side of his body.

I didn’t wish to push him or make him feel obligated to tell the rest of his story. But something he said touched me. He mentioned that volunteers like us, who are giving up their time to make him feel comfortable, makes him believe in mankind.

Of course, I drew his portrait! He says I made him look beautiful, I told him he was already. He said he wanted to earn enough money to frame his portrait. When he has a home, he’ll hang it on the wall.

There wasn’t many examples of portraits I can show you because I’m not allowed to take photos on-site. We cannot disclose our location or leak sensitive information. Understandably.

The frightening thing is that ANYONE can be made homeless. At anytime. A couple I chatted to, was recently made homeless five days before Christmas, due to a dispute with the landlord.

Some are educated, some are veterans, some are migrants, majority were English speakers, some were not. Some have crippling debts, some had addiction to drugs, alcohol or gambling, and some have fallen out with their families, kicked out onto the streets.

Many guests had jobs. They were in employment, earning money yet no permanent address.

I love drawing portraits, and how it made the guests feel. Seeing their confidence grow, and wanting to have a goal to frame their portrait, in their new home.

As I left the building, end of my shift, I saw my illustrated portraits leaning delicately alone on the chair. Neatly ‘hanging’ above their sleeping bags and duvet on the floor.

volunteering-for-christmasI’m going to try and remember this for the new year.

There are lots of charities out there who needs people for Christmas, Crisis is one of them who accepted my application.

You can volunteer with a friend also! It’s a great and humbling experience looking back on this memory. I totally recommend anyone to do it, even once. You know what, it was a lot of FUN!

Thank you always for reading. Have you volunteered at Christmas before?

Stuck for ideas? Have yourself a London Graphic​ Creative Christmas

Hello, my friends and readers!
This year has been crazy, my brand new website and blog has not been completed. The reason why there has been a lack of posts.

junesees.comDelays in updating my website and my blog post so many apologies about this. I am a one woman show, thank you for your patience!

Christmas is coming far too quickly! I found out from my friends, that they find gift buying or gift wrapping Christmas presents a bit of a chore. With everything instantaneous, it’s hard to get that perfect and thoughtful gift for someone.

As a lover of art shops in general, London Graphic Centre invited me to their Christmas ‘Wrap’ battle (geddit??) to experience the joy of a creative arty Christmas.

I used my iPhone for the photos, so apologies for the quality!

We were presented with *secret* gifts to wrap, for the London Graphic Centre blog as a special giveaway.

Of course, we had a time limit. Felt like I was on The Apprentice for a bit. With lots of lovely gift wrap paper, colour and metallic markers, washi tapes, we were spoilt for choice and ideas. Normally at home, we have leftover wrapping paper from billion years ago saved up. This was an upgrade!

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Acceptable nudity on a gift wrap paper 🙈

With time running out, too many ideas – myself and Hubby went with the flow of creative panic and created this…. And surprisingly, we won the title of the ‘Best wrappers in London.” 😂  You can see us holding our ‘trophy.’

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Hubby and I won the London Graphic Centre Wrap Battle! With our unusual wrapping presents skills.

London Graphic Centre will be having its Christmas Fair on Saturday 10th December 2016, that will be tomorrow! If you’re around in Covent Garden, pop into the store. This is a haven of art, craft stationery supplies. Good idea for your Christmas presents and stocking fillers 🙂

There’s lots of in store workshops including notebook embossing by Leuchtturm, a gift wrap station and plenty of unique and fun gifts.

Leuchtturm notebook Embossing – Personalise your gifts with free embossing when you buy any A5 Leuchtturm notebook.

‘Build-your-own’ pop-up keyring workshop hosted by Freitag.

POSCA illustration wall – Interact and doodle on our glass wall with Posca pens.

Gift wrap station – Supported by MT Masking. Test out fresh gift wrapping concepts with a selection of tapes.

Calligraphy – Get great gift label ideas at our calligraphy demo.

Also London Graphic Centre will be giving away goody bags with every purchase over £25 on the day.

These super bags include a host of freebies such as a Pigma Micron fineliner, Mt Washi Tape, Graphik Line Marker, and much more. I couldn’t wait to test these products myself, even when I should be sleeping. Here are the results below:

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Trying out the fineliners pens from different brands

 

I hope this wets your appetite for a Creative Christmas! Personalise your gifts. Wrap your presents in washi tape, or doing an odd architectural wrapping like me and Hubby did…  Remember its the thought that counts 😉

Thank you to the London Graphic Centre for having us!

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Our team effort of gift wrapping – we are the ‘Best Wrappers in London’

 

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Gorgeous calligraphy skills by Alex Rayment

 

London Graphic Centre Christmas Fair

Tomorrow! Saturday 10th December, 10.30am – 6.30pm

16-18 Shelton St, London WC2H 9JL

Nearest Tube Station: Covent Garden or Leiceister Square (10 mins walk)