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Give the gift of friendship this festive season

Give the gift of friendship this festive season

While many people have plans with loved ones over the Christmas season, there are also countless Australians who spend the holidays alone.

According to the Red Cross, one in three Australians have previously experienced loneliness over the Christmas period. In regional areas, this figure is almost 40%. The same study also found that loneliness has increased since the pandemic, with 52% of respondents reporting that COVID-19 changed their relationships and the way they see the world.

If you have some spare time over the holiday period, companion volunteering could be a wonderful way of making new and interesting connections, and providing the much needed gift of friendship.

Loneliness during the Christmas season

Feelings of loneliness can be amplified during the buzzing Christmas season. Some reasons for loneliness at this time include:

  • Living far away from loved ones
  • Family, friends and neighbours being away for the festive season
  • Lack of mobility leading to social isolation
  • Regular activities that connect people to others temporarily shut down

The impact of companion volunteering

One-off companion volunteering can lead to rewarding long-term connections too. Kate Richardson, a career coach based in Melbourne, started volunteering with The Casserole Club in 2016. The premise behind The Casserole Club was to simply share home cooked food with someone in your neighbourhood, roughly every month or so.

Through the simple exchange of a moussaka, Kate connected with an elderly neighbour named Cliff. In the six years since this encounter, Kate has seen Cliff every 3-4 weeks, and continues their connection on the phone between visits. Nowadays, Cliff is often the one who treats her to his home cooked meals!

Kate has come to find out how valuable it can be to connect with a vulnerable member of society. “I’ve been able to be there for Cliff over the years when he’s really needed a bit of help or has been feeling isolated. It’s nice to know that I’m making a difference, I can feel that I am. But it works because I enjoy his company – it’s a two-way street and that’s what’s kept me doing it for this period of time. It’s a really rewarding part of my life.”

For those considering companion volunteering, Kate says to “think about how you’d like to be helpful, who or what you’re most interested in supporting and then it’s about finding the right arrangement for you.”

Supporting others through companion volunteering

Companion volunteering is a beautiful way to spread the festive cheer. This looks different for different people and could include:

  • Speak another language? Use your skills to connect with someone who may feel lonely due to their lack of English
  • Are you a good listener? Get connected with an elderly person in your neighbourhood or at an aged care facility and reminisce with them about their lives and families
  • Become a virtual buddy and connect with someone over the phone or FaceTime
  • Good at relating to young people? It’s a great time to begin a mentoring relationship to help a young person realise their potential.

If companion volunteering appeals to you, start search our Companionship & Social Support volunteer opportunities.