Compassion at Christmas
Here's some background to the Christmas program we ran at the end of 2020...to illustrate what we can do when we work togther.
We opened both these Christmas offers out to local charities, as well as pulling together a core team of volunteers to call over 150 Bath Open Christmas guests from last year, to ask if they’d like a call and a meal on Christmas day. The response was incredible as many of the individuals were so grateful to have had someone think about them and the volunteers were thoroughly enjoying being able to be the bearer of good news, in a time when this is rare to come by. We were kindly approached by Bath College to see how they could support and we worked on a unique Compassionate Communication course with them to offer to the volunteers taking part in the Christmas Day Call. Bath College ran 5 well attended courses for the volunteers and we had 130 volunteers give a phone call to isolated individuals on Christmas Day. The feedback from volunteers highlighted to us how crucial this initiative was to the overall campaign. One volunteer said "Taking part in making a Christmas call to someone who needed it was so special; especially in 2020. The call organised by compassionate community was a great way to give back and was very well- managed. I really felt part of something big and I am grateful for the experience."
Whilst the COVID-19 situation continued to worsen during the Christmas period, what was fortunate was that we’d always planned this campaign with that in mind so the heightening of restrictions did not come as a shock or hinder our ability to carry out the majority of the initiatives. If anything, the Government's last minute decision to restrict travel over the Christmas period made our campaign even more essential to those who may have been expecting company.
Needless to say from day 1 of the campaign it was busy and as Christmas approached the intensity of work and the awareness of the campaign grew. We worked as a small team coordinating the initiatives which gave us the ability to be agile and fast-moving, however we were fortunate enough to be able to partner with a significant number of local organisations to help compassion throughout the community during a very challenging time for so many.
The first of these initiatives was the Special Star Award which was simply to encourage others to recognise and nominate those who had gone above and beyond to help others this year. The nominated individuals would then receive a handmade Special Star that was sewn by an incredible local group called The Sewing Collective and this star came with a handwritten card, with a message inside as to why they were nominated for the award. We had over 300 nominations for our Special Star Award and these were delivered by volunteers to the doors of those individuals who had gone above and beyond to help others. Whilst we launched this initiative with a focus on self nomination by doing acts of compassion, it was heartening to realise that people wanted to recognise others far more than they did themselves and so we quickly altered how we marketed the Special Star Award.
With the COVID-19 Pandemic ongoing and increasing speculation of an imminent second wave, we made the decision in October that we needed to plan early for Christmas. We knew this Christmas was going to be more challenging than ever for so many people in our community, particularly as the prospects of any vaccine being rolled out was many months away. We fundamentally wanted to show compassion to the community by utilising the resources we had, such as mobilising volunteers, as well as encouraging and supporting organisations to support the community. It was decided that 3SG & the Compassionate Community Movement would run the campaign together from the 1st November to the 31st December. It’s fair to say that the campaign went from a simple concept to a full blown campaign made up of 5 initiatives.
We also wanted to build on the existing wellbeing pack initiative that has been running since March 2020, with 8 local organisations all working together to produce free wellbeing activity packs for those who are isolated. We wanted the Christmas pack to be extra special and so we contacted local schools to see if they would be willing to make Christmas cards to go in the 630 packs. When we put the call out to schools I was worried we might not get enough christmas cards made to put in all 620 wellbeing packs, how wrong I was. The schools exceeded all expectations and we had over 2,000 individually designed cards with some heartwarming messages, poems and even jokes! This great increase in numbers meant we were able to deliver cards to other local charities who needed them such as Julian House, as well as Care Homes. What was so brilliant about this initiative was that it had an incredible impact on both the children taking part, as well as those individuals receiving the cards. Overall we had 24 local schools send in Christmas cards, as well as Bath College, Bath Spa & the University of Bath contributing too.
We never expected to have the University of Bath Student Union run a sideline campaign with us and it was great to have the Hindu Society do a week of Random Acts of Compassion to celebrate Diwali. Off the back of this we felt it essential to recognise that there are many other cultural events take place during November & December and as a result put together a cultural calendar on our campaign page and spoke with local groups to find out how we could be inclusive in our campaign.
One of our other close partners during the campaign was Bath Open Christmas, who are a charity who would usually host a dinner for over 150 individuals across Bath and North East Somerset on Christmas Day. Unfortunately they were forced to cancel this due to the Government guidelines around COVID, however we worked closely with them to devise an alternative to support their previous guests, as well as others who were in need of a Christmas meal and sense of community. It was decided that we would offer a Christmas Day Call to individuals, as well as a fresh meal which would be provided by Wessex Water. To achieve this we called upon our volunteers from the Emergency Volunteer Response who showed their support in numbers.