When we think of Christmas, we conjour up images of twinkling lights, gifts, full bellies, joy and laughter, but for thousands it is a time of loneliness, empty stomachs and simply another day of hardship. Read how Veronica Fazzolari spends her Christmas Day bringing warmth and comfort to the homeless, helping to reshape and rebuild their lives through charity Crisis.
Meet Veronica Fazzolari
Most happy in 25+ degrees
Always says yes to pizza
Advocate of getting off your butt and doing something good..
So Veronica, tell me about Crisis at Christmas, what is it?
Crisis is a British charity to help find solutions for homelessness, campaigning for the changes needed to end it. Crisis at Christmas takes place in five cities across the UK over the festive period and hosts a safe, indoor space that welcomes those experiencing homelessness aged over 18, for free. It provides companionship, hot meals, hair cuts and vital services such a doctor check ups, all serviced with a warm and friendly smile.
Which cities are they based?
This year they’re taking place in London, Birmingham, Newcastle, Coventry and Edinburgh. If you know of someone homeless or see a rough sleeper over the Christmas period, please share the information of where they can reach a local Crisis at Christmas centre.
So is it open to anyone in need?
Yes, all homeless people are welcome, whether they’re without a permanent address, sleeping rough or perhaps unable to afford heating/electricity for that period of time, doors are open to everyone.
How did you hear about it?
Honestly, I simply Googled ‘volunteer homeless Christmas’ and found Crisis! It crossed my mind around September time and you can sign up as early as October - they’re very organised! It helps to sign up early and confirm your shifts, but of course they’re always looking for last minute volunteers so keep an eye on their website if you ever want to join in.
What originally made you want to volunteer?
Personally, I find Christmas over-hyped and excessive, and in turn quite stressful. With no interest in materialism and the money-side of Christmas, what I do value is the time off from work. I feel very lucky to have that, so want to use that time generously and share it! Time is super precious to me, it’s an honour to share it with those for who it can make a difference.
What made you dedicate your time to Crisis in particular?
These centres really are very special places for our guests. In order to run them properly and safely however, it relies on volunteers. Tasks vary from serving hot dinners, cleaning the shower area, or guarding parts of the building which are not open to guests (most buildings used operate as schools outside of Christmas).
Every role plays an essential and important part of making sure Crisis for Christmas can happen, providing an uplifting and kinder alternative to those who are experiencing homelessness. Plus, it's the most incredible experience - you’ll socialise with great people that perhaps you wouldn’t meet in your 'everyday' life. You make friends and learn a lot about yourself!
Has it changed your perception of homelessness and the people it effects?
Absolutely. My favourite part of volunteering at Crisis is getting to know people and hearing their stories - it’s a real-time view of what’s really going on and breaks the stereotype that the media feeds us. The reality is it’s worse than what the polished ads show and tell us. We are in such crisis with homelessness which is mortifying and frankly unacceptable for a country such as the UK; we have education, we have information, we have money - how can we allow homelessness to exist?
All sorts of factors can result in a person becoming homeless, from losing a job, mental health issues, divorce, break-downs within families, addiction. What baffles me is how they can then escalate into homelessness, being without a permanent address to live. There needs to be more support, understanding, information, knowledge, and general help for those trying to resolve their problems. I often question why they aren’t accessible and ask our Government to start paying attention and look after it’s people!
Well God Bless people like you who are!! …tell me, what have you learnt from this experience? About yourself?
Loads! When I first volunteered at Crisis at Christmas two years ago, I was surprised on the impact it had on me, specifically how my eyes were opened even more to what real life outside my bubble of family and friends is about. It gave me perspective. It's such a humbling experience also... To truly connect with guests and fellow volunteers, I had to be vulnerable which is something I don't get to practise every day. As intimidating as it was, it felt amazing!
What advice would you give to people thinking about volunteering?
Just do it! Ask yourself what you really care about, what are you good at and how can you share that? It’s a great start to figuring out how you can help / where to volunteer.
Simples! …One thought though, do you miss your Christmas Day?
Well it now actually feels like my Christmas Day so I genuinely look forward to it - I share it with two hundred or so strangers and I welcome the unknown of what’s going to happen on the day!
Lucky them I say! …but do your family miss having you?
I'm really fortunate to have a couple of different ‘Christmases’ with family and friends before and after so we more than make up for it!
Finally Veronica, any advice for humanity?
Love yourself, genuinely. I think if everyone paid attention to that one tiny detail that most of us are missing, all the shit in this world would heal. If we 100% loved ourselves honestly, were kind to our minds and bodies, had self-compassion, self-respect, I think the world would be quite a wonderfully different place. Inevitably that love would have a ripple effect on others. There would be no need for greed, jealousy, a desire to cause pain or damage our natural world - instead we'd prioritise savouring, looking after and nurturing the good things! We’d realise their value and how much that brings real joy. Change starts within yourself and that includes love!
If you would like to help Veronica and others spread some love, and provide safety and very welcome warmth for those who need it this Christmas, you can donate here https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/VeronicaFazzolari
Peace & Love to all! X