Our Make a Difference Differently series features volunteers who do things a little differently, finding innovative ways to help the charities we support through Octopus Giving.
This month, we’re sharing a wonderfully Christmassy story. Nickie Hodgson is Head of Compliance Monitoring at Octopus and has been busy spreading Christmas cheer to the street she lives in. Along with her neighbours, Nickie has been creating and delivering Covid-safe food hampers to isolated people near her. The experience has made Nickie realise how much of an impact a small gesture can make during challenging times, especially in the festive season. Read on to find out more.
Hi Nickie, can you tell me about what you’ve been doing to help your local community?
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working with my neighbours to put together holiday hampers for some of the elderly people living in our street. We filled the hampers with all sorts of Christmas treats like crackers, biscuits and chocolates, as well as winter staples like soup and tinned vegetables. We wanted to spread a bit of Christmas cheer and give our neighbours a bit of comfort food that they might not otherwise get. Some of them can’t go out of the house really, and some of them might not be able to afford a couple of treats.
We got the kids involved too and they were so excited, especially to deliver them. Once all the hampers were ready, we all put on our Christmas jumpers and the little ones did some socially-distanced drop-offs along the street.
What a wonderful idea. How did you come up with it?
There are a few older gentlemen in our street who don’t often get visitors. One lost his wife a couple of years ago and another lost his wife this year and unfortunately has dementia himself. I thought it could be quite lonely for them at the moment, especially with the pandemic. For some older people, the only conversation they have in a day is talking to the television. And they perhaps wouldn’t be able to get out and get ready for Christmas like they usually would. So, I wanted to do something to make them feel good and put a smile on their faces. Give them a bit of a treat and have a bit of a chat to get to know each other too.
What were their reactions like when you delivered the hampers?
The kids and I were so excited to see our neighbours’ faces when we dropped them off. When we delivered them, it was a great surprise for recipients. One of the men had sadly lost his wife earlier in the year and he was so, so grateful for the hamper. He couldn’t believe he’d received it and was having a great time posing for socially-distanced photos with the kids.
We had a Christmas card from one of our neighbours’ children, too, a couple of days later. They were so thankful that we’d thought of their Dad at Christmas and said again how much he loved the hamper.
It sounds like the hampers went down so well. Did you take anything away from this experience?
It made me realise what a difference a seemingly small thing can make to someone else’s life. Coronavirus has really changed the way I look at life. It started earlier in the year when one of my neighbours and I did a sponsored walk to raise money for an Alzheimer’s charity. I lost my dad to it and my friend lost her grandfather, so we wanted to do something to make a difference. We walked ten miles in the pouring rain and raised about £1,500 between us.
The walk sparked something, because it showed me that my little actions can have such a positive impact on someone else’s life. The hampers were no different. Putting them together wasn’t hard and didn’t break the bank. But when we gave them to our neighbours, it really brightened their days. And selfishly, doing things like the walk and the hampers makes you feel better during these hard times. The kids enjoyed it too. They were very eager to drop them off and do something good for the neighbours which was lovely to see.
One last question, what would you say to other people considering doing something like this or volunteering themselves?
Put yourself in somebody else’s situation. There are so many people out there who don’t have much, whether they don’t have the money to buy treats or they’re isolated and lonely. Something that might seem small to you, like spending a couple of pounds on a tin of biscuits and dropping them off with a kind word, could make such a huge difference to someone else’s day. If someone is living on their own or is isolated, a gesture like that could mean the world to them. And it’s really not hard to do.
I’d never done anything like this before lockdown. But when you’re shrunk down to your immediate bubble, you realise what you have and what others don’t. Putting the hampers was such an easy thing for us to do, and it’s been very emotional and really rewarding at the same time.