The bus driver
For the first time in Dorset, bus drivers will form part of the Christmas day workforce. Morebus has just announced they will be running a new service on Christmas Day, reaching the Royal Bournemouth Hospital from Poole, via Poole Hospital, on their M1 service between 9am and 8pm. Drivers have been asked to volunteer to take the wheel on Christmas day so that those with families have a choice of working or enjoying the special day with their children and loved ones.
Boxing Day and New Year’s Day will also see more of their fleet on the roads. It will be the most extensive seasonal services offered by morebus and Wilts & Dorset ever. morebus.co.uk or call 0845 072 7093.
The charity support worker
Dorset disability charity Diverse Abilities Plus has a whole team of staff who will be spending time with some of the adults with learning disabilities the charity supports on Christmas Day.
The organisation’s Supported Living service allows service users to live in their own, adapted homes 24/7 throughout the year, and December 25 is no different.
Natalie Watkins will be supporting a client who has invited some friends to his home for Christmas lunch.
Natalie, 19, said: “They’re coming over for Christmas lunch and to open a couple of presents and spend some time with each other. They love to help in the kitchen with what they can. I love the people that I work with and it’s nice because we all have our families, so it’s nice to support someone else in being able to have that. It’s a really nice way to spend Christmas Day.”
Danielle Watson, 23, will be helping cook Christmas dinner with her client Simon, who has invited his parents for the day.
She said: “He’s quite happy to get involved in making dinner, so it will be nice and festive. It makes for a nice Christmas, it’s a nice atmosphere.”
The homeless manager
Sarah Ward is the homeless and substance misuse development manager for social welfare organisation BCHA. She always does a shift at Christmas, and is responsible for services which deliver support to people who are homeless, specifically those who are street homeless.
“For them it can be a very tough time of year,” she said. “There’s so much emphasis about people being this perfect family unit and when you are totally excluded from that and out in the cold, emotionally and physically, the pressure just makes it worse.
“We try and recognise that and make sure everything isn’t too in your face and hi-de-hi but give them an opportunity to celebrate Christmas in a good way.”
An all-day rolling Christmas buffet is held at Bournemouth’s St Paul’s shelter for any service-user who turns up, as well as the shelter’s 40 residents who will have woken up to a stocking full of little gifts.
Residents get a full English breakfast and the chance to relax in the lounge, taking in the afternoon movie and the Queen’s Speech, as well as playing board games. The day wouldn’t be possible without sponsorship and fund-raising from businesses, as well as the army of volunteers who help.
“Being involved in this way really makes Christmas mean something,” says Sarah.
Like many branches, Bournemouth Samaritans will be available to support callers over Christmas.
The charity’s helpline will be open all day Christmas Eve, and then from 6am to 2am Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Dr Andrew Mayers, patron for Bournemouth and District Samaritans, said: “Crucially, we are ‘on-call’ during what can be the most lonely and desperate moments of the Christmas period. We are grateful to all of our volunteers for the time they give. Some volunteers feel especially motivated to work at Christmas, as we know that this is when we receive some of the most desperate calls.
“It can be rewarding, but it is often challenging and distressing for them. “Volunteers hear some of the saddest stories, which can be very chastening. “We have support networks to make sure that our volunteers have an opportunity to share their distress with a colleague and/or mentor.”
Anyone in need of help can call the Samaritans on 08457 909090, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. All calls are confidential.
The animal charity
With so many abandoned and neglected animals in desperate need of a home, the RSPCA centre in Ashley Heath is preparing for a busy Christmas.
Deputy manager Gaynor Cannings will be working on Christmas Day along with six other dedicated staff members at the shelter.
She said: “Cruelty and neglect of animals never stops at any point during the year, so we will have a number of carers working at the shelter throughout the Christmas period. We need to be on hand to help animals in need 24/7 and there will be a number of inspectors patrolling. We get a similar number of calls during Christmas as with any other time of year even though most people are busy celebrating.”
Gaynor lives with her terrier Rhaps – short for Rhapsody – and several rescued rabbits.
“I have been working with animals all my life, so I am used to working unsociable hours. As my family don’t live in this area I don’t mind working over Christmas too much.”
The Ashley Heath Rescue Centre currently looks after 123 animals including dogs, cats, rabbits, chinchillas, guinea pigs and two retired horses.