Delicious festive food in the shops, heartwarming Christmas ads on TV. And we’ve even seen some snow! No doubt about it, the countdown to the ‘big day’ is well underway.
Maybe you’re even counting down the days with the help of a Fairtrade chocolate advent calendar – just one of the many ways Co-op customers and members are supporting our work to tackle youth loneliness.
For many of us, Christmas will be about coming together to share good times with families and friends, colleagues and communities. But for some, traditional times of celebration can also be periods of loneliness, sadness and difficulty.
That’s why we’re supporting a new project called ‘Big Days’. Led by the charity Youth Focus: North East, it will develop a network of young volunteers who will offer practical help and companionship to people, young and old, who feel particularly lonely at certain times, and on certain days, of the year – Christmas and New Year included.
As the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission highlights this week, small actions can make a big difference. Helping a neighbour with their Christmas shopping, or offering a listening ear to somebody who’s lost a loved one during the year are among the initial ideas for the ‘Big Days’ project. As more young people get involved, they’ll come up with lots more ways they can help each other and their wider communities, throughout the year.
‘Big Days’ is one of nine regional projects recently awarded grants from the Co-op Foundation #iwill fund, expanding our UK-wide network of partners tackling youth loneliness. The #iwill fund (made possible through investment from the Big Lottery Fund and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, with match funding from the Co-op Foundation) aims to create more opportunities for young people to take part in social action – positive activities that benefit themselves and their communities.
This ‘double benefit’ is a vital aspect of our work to tackle youth loneliness. Young people may not be comfortable admitting that they feel lonely themselves – even though almost a third of them regularly do. But volunteering to help others can be an effective way of developing a sense of identity and purpose, which are important factors in overcoming loneliness.
Youth social action is also a great example of co-operative values in practice. It combines self-help, social responsibility and caring for others. As more young people have the chance to experience these mutual benefits, we hope that what starts with small, simple actions will grow into a lifelong habit of community involvement.
So what small actions can you take to help others this Christmas?
For a start, you could get in the festive mood by streaming or downloading the Co-op’s fantastic, community-themed Christmas song – all profits will go towards our youth loneliness projects.
Better still, if you want to continue supporting this work throughout the year, as a Co-op member you can now choose to allocate 1% of what you spend on own-brand products to our cause.
You could even make it your new year’s resolution to say #iwill support youth social action – have a look at the #iwill campaign website for the many ways people can get involved.
We’ll use this blog to share stories of how all our projects up and down the country are working with young people to beat loneliness. You can follow us to see how your support is adding up to make a big difference in our communities in 2018.
Merry Christmas from the Co-op Foundation to all our partners and supporters!