While many of us have been winding down for the festive season, our NHS staff have been working harder than ever in a race against time to get booster vaccines rolled out. The Covid-19 Omicron variant, and the pace at which it is spreading, has brought about even more uncertainty. And the continued disruption to plans, loss and hardship that the pandemic brings will make this another difficult Christmas for many. But, Individuals and communities have shown that the worst situations can bring out the best in people.
Dr Alex George shares his experience as an A&E Doctor and working to spread mental health awareness as Youth Mental Health Ambassador, an initiative close to his heart after losing his brother to mental health last year. He also gives his advice for anyone struggling for any reason this Christmas.
Last year over twenty seven hundred people were counted sleeping on the streets in the UK, and deaths of rough sleepers rose by a third. In Tameside, Greater Manchester, Pauline Town explains how through the lockdowns, like many businesses, she was forced to close the doors but has transformed her empty pub into a now essential community hub to help the homeless.
Over in Northamptonshire, Jeanette Walsh - known locally as ‘Mother Christmas’ - is preparing hundreds of Christmas gifts for teenagers who grew up in care. Around thirty thousand young people in the UK leave the care system each year as they reach adulthood, and she remembers her own time in a children's home that motivates her everyday.
There are so many people who deserve recognition for what they’ve done to help others, and after a difficult two years, none more than those who have contributed to keeping the nation fed, watered and under medical care whilst most of us had to stay at home.
In Lancaster, Stephen Dealler, a former microbiologist for the NHS, decided to fundraise in his community to create Pandemic Hero medals for all those who worked on the front line during the pandemic. After having awarded NHS workers, local bakers, care home staff and more, we see him give his final medals to staff at Lancaster Royal Infirmary.
In Cardiff we visit St Andrew’s United Reformed Church, where the community have been working together to find the money for essential repairs to the church roof. Reverend Des Kitto enlisted the help of NHS worker Wayne Courtney and artist Nathan Wyburn, and they created ‘Dragged To Church’, a Christmas drag show put on for the community to help raise funds. Now in its 4th year, the show managed to go ahead just in time for Christmas, before restrictions potentially began to tighten again - bringing the community together in celebration. We also visit their new Coffee Court outside which is not only adding to the funds but providing a safe place for social interaction throughout the pandemic, helping to tackle loneliness.
It’s not the festive season that many of us were hoping for, heightened by the continued loss and loneliness of the pandemic, but seeing individuals within their communities try to tackle these issues, showing kindness to those around them, can only give us the hope we need to in the darkest of times to at least try to have a merrier Christmas.
Whatever you're going through, you can call Samaritans any time, from any phone for free on 116 123.
For homelessness advice and support contact Crisis
For more information on fundraising for pandemic hero medals Covid Hero Medals
For more information about The Christmas Dinners charity for care leavers.