’Tis the season of giving, and sometimes the best gift someone can offer is their time.
Christmas can be especially difficult for people in need, but there are plenty of ways you can support them.
Use our volunteering opportunity finder — created in partnership with the site Do-it.org — to find out which charities and groups need help near you.
Type in your postcode and choose "Christmas only" to look for chances to help with festive events or projects, or "search all" to find out about longer-term volunteering that you could begin at Christmas or in the new year.
A recent Alzheimer’s Society poll found that 52% of people affected by dementia felt that the festive season can be one of the most isolating times of the year.
This Christmas the charity is calling for volunteers to "unleash your inner elf" in its 5km Elf Walks in Newcastle, Birmingham, and London to raise money to fund research and support people affected by dementia.
"Dementia is set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer, with someone developing it every three minutes and too many facing it alone," said Michael Dent, Alzheimer’s Society director of fundraising. "Every penny raised through events like these goes towards finding a cure for tomorrow and providing care for people living with dementia today. Taking part in a fundraising event like Elf Walk is a great way to meet new people, boost your confidence, and develop new skills."
You could also help Abbeyfield, a charity dedicated to the care and support of older people, by joining in with a carol singalong or serving mince pies at one of its events for people in your area.
Maybe there's an extra space at your Christmas table and you could team up with Host UK to invite an overseas student studying in the UK, who can't travel home for Christmas, over for lunch.
Of course, volunteering is not just for Christmas, and there are plenty of opportunities that keep going year-round, if you've got more time to give.
"We cannot underestimate how vital volunteers are to our work," said Karen Janes, head of volunteering development at the Blue Cross pet charity, which has loads of volunteer listings from fundraising to hands-on work with animals. "We simply would not be able to help the thousands of pets we do every year without their dedication and support."
Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of MS Society, described its 5,500 volunteers as "the backbone" of the charity.
"Whether they’re fundraising, running local services, or campaigning for change, their generous commitment means we’re able to provide vital support to people with MS, their families, and carers," she said, inviting anyone to take up one of the charity's many more volunteer opportunities.
"You’d be joining a community of people dedicated to making a difference to the lives of more than 100,000 people living with MS in the UK."
Laura Silver is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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Chris Applegate is an editorial developer for BuzzFeed and is based in London.
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