Do they know it’s Christmas? It was a question Bob Geldof asked of starving children in Africa, but it might also be pertinent for the thousands of Sydneysiders who don’t have a loving family to be with on December 25.
Christmas is a time when the city’s charities lift their already laudable network of outreach programs. One of the biggest events will be the Salvation Army Christmas Lunch at the Australian Technology Park in Eveleigh.
Attended last year by 1200 people, the lunch is open to anyone, including families, those experiencing homelessness or people who are simply feeling lonely at Christmas.
“It’s a really eclectic group of people who come together to share Christmas,” says Mitchell Evans, Sydney streetlevel mission leader for the Salvation Army.
“Christmas is a time to celebrate but also to be celebrated. If you don’t have family or friends to celebrate with, then you can come celebrate with us.”
The lunch will include ham, turkey, roast vegetables and pudding donated by businesses, volunteers and the public. There will be family entertainment including a mini jumping castle, a Santa photo booth and other activities for kids.
At Martin Place, the St Vincent de Paul Society will conduct a special Christmas Day “Night Patrol” featuring a BBQ at 7.30pm. Around 40 volunteers will dispense hampers including personal hygiene tools, biscuits and other odds and ends for those living on the streets.
Night Patrol, which operates seven nights a week excluding New Year’s Eve, is also about engagement and socialising.
“The conversation’s the reason why we’re there…to have someone who’s willing to listen to them, if they want to share their story,” said Lauren Whitby, the Night Patrol co-ordinator for Sydney University Young Vinnies.
The December 25 Night Patrol will also feature a DJ playing Christmas songs and most likely, Ms Whitby says, some carolling.
Julie McDonald, General Manager for fundraising and communications at St Vincent de Paul, said it’s going to be an especially tough Christmas.
“There are a lot of people out there needing help with the basics,” she told City Hub. “We’re only about 50 per cent of the way to meeting our appeal target.”
Ms McDonald said those wishing to volunteer should make time in January rather than on Christmas.
“It’s obviously a day people want to give back, but unfortunately it’s a day we’re well over-subscribed to,” she said. “Making a commitment to help on another day next year would be hugely beneficial.”