As the UK gets into the Christmas spirit, more Brits are being encouraged to join the estimated one million people who volunteer over the festive season. From gifting food parcels to hosting lunches, there are many opportunities to show how much we care.

Joan Hibberd, who has been billed as Britain’s oldest food bank volunteer at the age of 97, is personally urging more people to get involved.

Joan, who helps out at the Stretford Foodbank in Manchester, has spent six and a half years helping to distribute food to those in need.

Her dedication is certainly inspirational for anyone who’d like to become more involved – and use the feeling of joy and goodwill to make a difference to others by volunteering or working with charities that help homeless, lonely or elderly. 

There are plenty of volunteering roles across the UK to suit everyone. Charity shops, for example, a feature of many of our high streets, are always looking for volunteers to give up some of their time, especially during the Christmas shopping weeks.

Do you have a few hours a week to help sort donations, organise the shelves or take care of the till? It could make a huge difference to often overstretched staff and, of course, ultimately help their chosen charity. 

Many social care organisations run befriending networks that help match those in need with someone willing to offer their time. The role can involve everything from simply

visiting for a cup of tea and a chat or taking someone for their weekly shop – or at this time of year their Christmas shopping.

There are a number of ways to get involved, whether it’s through a local group or volunteering with a national organisation such as Age UK. Its volunteers are encouraged to be there when a lonely older person needs to have a chat and to be part of their community by providing vital support for older residents. 

If you’re considering a career helping others, befriending is also an ideal way to experience the world of social care first-hand.

Working with the vulnerable and those in need in the social care sector can be challenging, so starting off by befriending is a great way to discover if you have the passion, commitment and strength to do this as a full-time job. 

Thankfully, we’ve moved a long way from the Dickensian world of soup kitchens and poor houses. However there is still a great need for the more vulnerable in our society to have access to food. As well as volunteering to help out in food banks, there are many eateries where you could assist in bringing some much needed Christmas cheer.

For example, the Viridian, a vegan restaurant in Bangor in Wales, is offering a free, non-meat Christmas dinner to anyone who needs it and will be opening its doors on Christmas Day. 

Many more restaurants all across the UK are launching similar campaigns to offer free meals to anyone who is homeless, finds themselves alone and lonely or is simply struggling to afford a traditional meal.

So, if you fancy the idea of being a temporary kitchen porter, catering assistant or waiting staff, this could be the perfect time to help out and experience the world of hospitality and catering, while making sure as many people as possible enjoy a better Christmas this year.

Remember, too, that the power of volunteering is good for the wellbeing of both the provider and the recipient of support.

In fact, volunteering can be the perfect antidote to the stresses and strains that Christmas often brings, boosting our health and improving our mood. 

Taking of health, the NHS and many healthcare charities are also an important growth area for volunteering. Many of these roles don’t require formal qualifications and, with a little training and guidance from the professionals, you could soon find yourself working on the frontline of healthcare and social care.

Volunteering doesn’t always have to be hands-on work, of course. Many charities need individuals to carry out admin work, publicity duties and, of course, the all-important fundraising.

Finally, bear in mind, if you choose the right voluntary role, it can boost your own career prospects. The work experience will look great on your CV when applying for future roles and, depending on the charity supported by your work this festive season, you might even find a direct route into full-time and permanent employment. 

Why not discover more about volunteering roles across the UK with the latest vacancies on x1jobs? It’s guaranteed to get you into the true spirit of Christmas.