Giving back can help brighten your mood and provide an opportunity to meet your community. From volunteering at food banks to befriending the elderly, there are lots of simple acts of kindness that can make a big difference.
If you're looking for ideas, take a look at the nine ways you can make a difference and give back in 2023...
1. Donate unwanted items to charity
January is an excellent month for a declutter. Instead of throwing unwanted items away, donate them to the British Heart Foundation. From books to beds, footwear to fridges, the charity offers a nationwide free collection service for your furniture, electrical items, homewares and more. Alternatively, you can also drop your unwanted clothes, books and toys at your nearest store.
Want to go that step further? Meet new people, learn new skills and build your confidence by volunteering in your local British Heart Foundation shop. Whether you have a few hours or days a week, there are plenty of opportunities for you to get involved.
2. Volunteer at your local food bank
Volunteers are the driving force behind food banks. With many food banks struggling due to the cost of living crisis, now is the perfect time to make a difference. A good place to start is The Trussell Trust — it has more than 28,000 volunteers across its network and supports around 1,200 food bank centres.
Alternatively, you could also do a quick search of food banks in your local area to see if they need volunteers. Food banks often use social media to call for volunteers to sign up. From sorting food to admin work, your skills could be just what they need.
3. Help the homeless
According to Centrepoint, over 29,000 young people faced homelessness last winter, with numbers expected to rise this year due to the ongoing cost of living crisis. Sometimes even a small gift can be a new beginning for a homeless young person.
Easy ways you can help include sponsoring a young person's stay at Centrepoint for a year (£44), buying someone a warm bed for the night (£35), donating a deposit for a young person to rent a flat and a move into independence (£750), or paying one month's bills for a young person living independently (£300).
"Even before this year's price rises, basic costs like gas and electricity can be a huge struggle for a young person," the team at Centrepoint say. "By gifting a young person one month of their bills, you’re giving them the breathing space and peace of mind they desperately need to focus on rebuilding their lives."
For more information about how you can help, visit centrepoint.org.uk.
4. Support an animal rescue centre
With the RSPCA reporting a 24% increase in abandoned animals during the first seven months of 2022 alone, supporting neglected or injured rescue animals is a brilliant way to help charities in need.
"It's very, very hard at the moment. The phone calls and requests for help are too much to cope with. It's trained staff that we need, people who know what to do," Jaquie Neilson, Founder and CEO at Rain Rescue, an animal rescue charity in Rotherham, says.
"People have been neglecting vet care as they cannot afford to pay the bills. Our own vet bills doubled last year as our staff decreased. It will be getting worse, and I dread what is coming."
Some of the ways you can help include:
1. Make 2023 your year to volunteer. Donations of food and other items are always welcome, but giving your time is also a great way to help centres stay on top of their ever increasing workload.
2. If you are able to, consider adopting an animal. As a number of the UK's struggling rescue centres have confirmed, they're at capacity, and there are more dogs and cats than ever looking for a new home.
3. Raise vital funds. One-off fundraising efforts are still hugely appreciated by animal charities, and money raised can help towards overheads, equipment and food, and go towards providing the best care possible for the animals.
4. Share your support online. Sharing pet profiles looking for new homes could just be the way to unite a pet with their new family.
5. Foster a guide dog in training
Are you a dog lover looking to make a difference? Why not consider fostering a guide dog through the Guide Dogs programme? The charity is looking for people who would provide temporary care for a dog in training whilst they embark on their journey to becoming a guide dog.
Your support will include:
Dropping your dog off at their training
Providing them with a warm and welcoming home
Engaging with their training programme to help re-engage your dog at home with their training to become a guide dog
Providing care at home, including grooming, walking and feeding them
Ensuring the dog isn't left at home for longer than four hours in a 24-hour period
6. Pick up litter in your local community
Volunteer your time to pick up litter, reduce waste and improve the environment around you. Not sure where to start? CleanupUK is a brilliant charity that unites volunteers by tackling the litter problems where they live, helping people to arrange litter-picking activities. With over 460 groups around the UK, simply head over to their website to find the nearest one to you.
Alternatively, you could also arrange your own litter picking group by asking friends to join you. The PECT has a helpful guide on how to collect litter safely.
7. Befriend an older person
Tackle loneliness in the UK by befriending an older person through Age UK. If you're empathetic and good at talking on the phone, why not consider becoming a Telephone Friendship Service volunteer. Once you have applied, the team will match you with someone who has shared interests. Just 30 minutes a week, your calls can make a huge difference to the happiness and wellbeing of someone who lives alone.
8. Volunteer as a translator
If you're able to speak another language, Charity Translators is looking for volunteers to support charities and community groups with translation projects. From refugees to ongoing campaigns, it's a great way to put your skills to good work.
"Charity Translators first started in the UK but we now have volunteers across the globe and we will support charities and community groups in every part of the world," the charity says. "Our volunteers work remotely and collaboratively in teams to support language projects."
9. Support a local cause
From injustices to child poverty, let 2023 be the year you campaign for change. Contact your local MP, raise awareness of an issue through social media or create a group to initiative positive change. It could be worth doing some research into the charities already campaigning for certain causes — you might be able to volunteer alongside them.
10. Help Ukrainian refugees
Help support people affected by the invasion of Ukraine. With more than seven million Ukrainians crossing borders to seek safety in Europe, UNHCR is urgently upscaling relief operations to support fleeing citizens. Some of the ways you can help include making a donation, gifting urgent supplies, volunteering at border points in neighbouring countries, and fundraising for those displaced by the situation in Ukraine.
If you are able to, you can also consider opening your home to a Ukrainian refugee through the government's Home For Ukraine scheme. Anyone with a spare room (it has to be available for at least six months) can apply to house a refugee. For more information, visit gov.uk.
11. Support rewilding projects in the UK
Help to heal nature by supporting the ongoing work of Rewilding Britain — a charity which brings together rewilding projects and local rewilding groups across England, Scotland and Wales. Whether you're able to fundraise, make a donation or join the rewilding network, every small help can make a big difference.
Rewilding is all about restoring ecosystems to the point where nature can take care of itself. With wildlife in dramatic decline, helping projects like those from Rewilding Britain is an excellent way to help reverse species extinction, tackle climate change and improve our overall wellbeing.
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