In the lead up to Christmas 2020, which is most unusual for most of us, something very familiar is happening. Localise youth volunteers are making preparations to answer the needs of people in their community. They are gathering gifts for long-stay patients in hospitals, collecting essential supplies for people experiencing poverty and homelessness, they are making video messages, artwork & writing letters for nursing home residents, sending care packages to older people living alone, sending gifts and messages of thanks to care staff and frontline workers, organising virtual Christmas parties for wheelchair users, virtually exchanging crafts & making handmade Christmas cards & decorations and so much more. 

When young people volunteer, when they respond to a need with action, a connection is made between people that they would not normally encounter. As a learning event this is significant as they come to realise that the time that they have committed to volunteering has importance in the lives of others. It is also significant as they come to the realisation that they already possess many of the skills needed to make a positive impact on those around them. 

Christmas is meaningful to all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons. For me it is an important time to solidify the family bond and to appreciate my community. It provides me with a time and space to affirm my sense of belonging. Christmas traditions give me a way to express why all of these things are important and a way to connect my history to my present. Perhaps most importantly it affords me the opportunity to be with people that are important to me. 

Through my work with Localise, I get to witness acts generosity and empathy all of the time, but this is amplified somehow at this time of the year, and even more so this year. This year, as we observe these magnificent young volunteers, we are witnessing in real-time the connections that are being forged, the personal history that is being made and the perspectives that are being drawn. 

If our best hope for the future is an empowered generation of people that have the capacity to make the world a better place, then a great place to start is to amplify this generosity of spirit and acknowledge the empathy shown to strangers. 

In this great time of uncertainty, one thing is certain, if we provide young people the right orientation and the right opportunity, they will lead us into a brighter future.   

It may just be a Happy Christmas after all. 

By Harry Keogh, Education Coordinator with Localise Youth Volunteering