Christmas can be a tough time for those in financial difficulty. Many cannot afford a Christmas dinner or presents for their family.
Some find themselves alone with no-one to open presents or pull a Christmas cracker with.
The sad reality is that isolation, exclusion and poverty exists within society, whether that be in Malawi or Edinburgh, Darfur or Glasgow.
It’s the time of year when everyone deserves a treat and were it not for the work of dedicated people in local communities, many of the unfortunate people affected would go unnoticed.
Destiny Church is working hard to spread some festive cheer to make Christmas a magical experience for those less fortunate across Edinburgh.
It is now the eighth year that Destiny Angels are providing hampers to make sure the most vulnerable people in the Capital know someone is looking out for them.
The hamper appeal forms part of the Edinburgh Cheer campaign – a partnership with a simple aim at its heart, to use the festive period to help to make Scotland’s Capital the kindest city it can be.
Liz Bowes, social action co- ordinator, said: “Destiny Church is delighted to be part of this year’s Edinburgh Cheer campaign. It’s a real privilege for us to be able to work together with our local communities to make a difference.
“We’re not OK with the fact that people across the Capital are facing Christmas alone, that they’re struggling with their mental health, that they’re living in poverty, that they have no-one else to turn to.
“As a church, this time of year is really significant for us, reminding us of the Christmas message of love, hope, peace, of giving and living life to the full, and our Christmas Hamper Appeal is a practical expression of that.
“We’re so grateful to all the Edinburgh Cheer partners and volunteers from across the community who have come together by donating hampers, their time and finances to help us double the impact of our appeal.”
Although people can feel lonely at any age, older people are the most affected by isolation. Retirement, the death of a partner, or poor health can all lead them to feel socially isolated.
Mobility issues, a lack of confidence, and access to transport are some of the factors preventing people from taking part in their communities.
Loneliness can have a serious impact on both physical and mental health.
Left unaddressed, it can cause long-term misery and contribute to the development of serious medical conditions, such as heart problems and strokes, mental health issues and dementia.
Meanwhile big expenses such as Christmas can tip the family finances into crisis. As December rolls on, the pressure to spend becomes acute.
Destiny Angels work alongside various groups and charities such as Streetwork and Cyrenians to identify those who would benefit from a special hamper at Christmas featuring food, drink, toiletries as well as Christmas cards and gifts.
Through the GameChanger Partnership, other partners such as Hibernian FC have become involved in the project and this year have vowed to double its efforts by aiding 1,000 families in Edinburgh.
Hibs’ chief executive Leeann Dempster said: “It is a fantastic idea and we are so pleased to help.
“We decided to double the amount of hampers they are able to put out there by pulling all of our partners together. That still needs funding but it is a fantastic campaign, distributing excellent hampers to around 1,000 families in need this Christmas. It is an incredibly worthy campaign and we’re delighted to be part of it.
“There will be some people who are on their own who will benefit and also families who can also feel isolated. As a football club, we have given them the Hamper HQ while raising awareness of this campaign in support.”
Destiny Angels are in need of cash to add that extra Christmas treat to the hampers to put a smile on the faces of those receiving them.
The public can do this with a unique hamper gift card which enables them to pay £20 as an alternative Christmas present with all proceeds going to the appeal.
People can also donate via the online at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/hamperappeal2018 or drop-off cash or cheques payable to Destiny Church Edinburgh to any of the Edinburgh churches.
Liz said: “The gift card approach means you can buy someone a meaningful present this year. Spending £20 will pay for a hamper for a single person and it can make a huge difference to them. It would be great to give the gift card to a loved one to show you’re supporting a fantastic cause instead of buying socks for example
“It is so concerning that there are many people in Edinburgh who are isolated or struggling with poverty, especially at Christmas time.
“Isolation can really happen to anyone through a relationship breakdown or mental health, for example, which is why the situation is so close to our hearts.
“Our hampers make a significant impact on people’s lives. They are more than food. It symbolises that someone is thinking of them at Christmas.
“We are grateful for any form of donation which could perhaps make someone’s Christmas a special one.”
Liz admits it is devastating that Destiny Angels is needed in 2018, especially with the wealth that is associated with the Capital.
She added: “It is sad that Edinburgh is one of the most affluent and wealthy capital cities in Europe.
“But side by side with this are some of the most deprived areas in Scotland.
“It is more poignant at Christmas time with some people struggling financially and with mental health.
“It is fantastic to see society come together to produce these packages for those who need it most. We feel the hampers are a great way to demonstrate love during Christmas. A box of love which shows true support, that someone is thinking of them at Christmas.”
The Edinburgh Cheer campaign encourages the public to help spread a little kindness in whatever way works for you.
Whether it’s inviting someone to lunch or donating items to your local foodbank, the campaign pledges are designed to show how easily we can all give something back.
That is why the Evening News has teamed up with Hibs, Hearts, NHS Lothian and the Scottish Government once again this year to run our Christmas campaign to help make the Edinburgh and the Lothians the Capital of Kindness.
Destiny Angels are also in need of volunteers to help pack the hampers until December 10 for a huge push this week down at Easter Road.
To find out how you can volunteer, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0131 454 2001.
Anyone who requires more information about the hamper appeal can go to www.destinyedinburgh.com/hampers