Christmas is widely regarded as a time of year that's best spent with family and friends - but it can also amplify feelings of loneliness for many.
One local charity partnership fighting loneliness, Vintage Vibes, is aiming to change this through its Acts of Kindness Christmas campaign.
Launched on World Kindness Day on Wednesday, November 13th, Edinburgh residents were invited to apply for either one of free Christmas cards packs to then hand-write a warm, personalised Christmas message to one of the project's 'VIPs' - a lonely older person living in the Capital.
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Alongside this, Vintage Vibes has created what they say is a 'world first' chocolate 'Act of Kindness Advent Calendar' to inspire acts of kindness in locals throughout December.
And the project has been so successful this year that their website crashed just 36 hours after the launch due to the demand, which included requests for more than 1,360 Christmas card packs and the newly launched chocolate advent calendars.
Kindness Christmas advent calendar
Vintage Vibes has 50 remaining Acts of Kindness advent calendars - containing Cadbury's chocolate - they would like to offer to Evening News readers to apply for, for free.
Each door of the calendar features an act of kindness suggested each day throughout December, from helping someone across the road to talking to an older neighbour who may be lonely.
The idea came from a Vintage Vibes volunteer and each act of kindness has been suggested by Vintage Vibes VIPs, volunteers and supporters. The calendar also includes acts of kindness relating to other local charities, including Social Bite and the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home.
Georgia Artus, Vintage Vibes development manager, says: "We are staggered at the uptake and success of this year's campaign – our website crashed for 30 minutes last night due to the numbers of people requesting Christmas card packs and calendars. In just over a day we’ve seen nearly all our available stock snapped up, which is fantastic.”
“The Christmas card campaign started just two years ago and had worldwide interest, obviously striking a chord with many people well beyond the city. Most of all, it makes a huge difference to our lovely VIPs (over 60s), who can find Christmas a very difficult time."
"But it’s not only about tackling loneliness, our new advent calendar includes a wide variety of suggestions of acts of kindness that are easy for people to do in the lead up to Christmas. We hope as people enjoy implementing these small acts into their routine throughout December this will continue well into 2020. Being kind really is infectious and uplifting and we hope will become a regular occurrence for many."
The hope is for the calendars to take off at similar themed charities across the UK, and that the act of kindness theme will become a habit and last with people well into the New Year.
How to get a calendar
For Evening News readers to get their hands on one of the 50 remaining calendars they can go online and apply for a calendar by completing the form.
To sign up to receive a calendar, fill out the form HERE. At noon on Friday, November 22nd a random number generator will pull out 50 names from all those who have applied and they will be sent the calendar.
Kindness in Edinburgh
In 2018, Scotland was one of the first countries to add kindness to its governmental National Performance Framework.
But they say that Edinburgh is among the loneliest cities in the UK for older people, with pensioners in the Capital disclosing on average they spend less than an hour a day socialising.
Vintage Vibes say they are proud that Scotland is home to the first ever chocolate acts of kindness advent calendar.
The calendar is illustrated by one of Vintage Vibes' own volunteers and the design includes Scottish icons such as a kilted Father Christmas and Christmas Greyfriar’s Bobby.
Vintage Vibes is a charitable partnership formed by Lifecare Edinburgh and Space to tackle loneliness in local older people by creating friendships based on shared interest.
The partnership matches over-60s who suffer from isolation or loneliness with local volunteers (aged 17 and over) who meet them on a weekly basis to socialise. Vintage Vibes ensures quality matches based on shared interests through a highly personalised model managed by trained service co-ordinators.
Vintage Vibes says that 11,000 older people in Edinburgh are always or often alone and two in five have the TV as their main form of company.
Since its inception four years ago, the charity project has grown its reach steadily, training 268 volunteers and hitting a milestone of 10,000 hours of volunteering.
Vintage Vibes have supported 486 VIPs over the past four years and there are between 50 and 90 on the waiting list at any one time.