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Give the greatest gift this season with the Express A Caring Christmas campaign

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Doctors, celebrities and politicians have thrown their weight behind the campaign at a time when, more than ever, “so many people depend on the kindness of others”. With energy costs rising, inflation soaring and the spectre of conflict ever-present, our message is a simple one – “You don’t have to give expensive gifts – little gestures can have a huge impact”.

Take a minute this morning to consider what you could do, from helping out neighbours by cooking, sharing a meal, running an errand, donating food or clothing or simply taking the time to chat.

TV presenter and campaigner Dame Esther Rantzen, Dr Mike Dixon, chairman of the College of Medicine and Integrated Health, Danny Kruger, MP for Devizes, and comedienne Ruby Wax are all supporting the campaign. Dame Esther, who has helped combat loneliness and isolation among older people with her telephone helpline The Silver Line, said the country was in the midst of a “famine” of volunteers to help older vulnerable people.

She said: “I think the Sunday Express campaign is fabulous. There are so many lonely and isolated people and many would really appreciate some support, a meal to share, a Christmas dinner or help with errands or transport.

“I recently had a call from one very lonely widow who just wants someone to pop round and have a cup of tea and a laugh. This elderly lady is very lonely and has a lively mind and a sense of humour. She just wants a bit of company. I called around our local projects and I couldn’t find one volunteer to go and meet her.

“There really is a volunteer famine in Britain but so many people depend on the kindness of others. Why not knock on the door of someone and ask if they would like some help or would they appreciate it if you brought round something to eat or share a meal or cup of tea.”

Ruby Wax, author of books including I’m Not As Well As I Thought I Was, released in May, said: “Since money has lost its lustre mainly because there isn’t any – all we’ve got left with any value is kindness. If we’re going to survive, we need community – working as a team not each man for himself which is how we’ve lived up to now. Let’s use some kindness and make the human race human again.” 

Dr Dixon said that community spirit was key to seeing us through the winter. Help with food would improve health, he said, while personal interventions would stave off psychological problems.

He continued: “This is a great campaign and ticks every box. The idea of cooking and sharing a meal is very important –healthy eating is crucial for those who are socially isolated and research shows the health risks of prolonged isolation are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Social isolation and loneliness have even been estimated to shorten a person’s life span by as many as 15 years.”

“It is terribly important to feel cared for and the only way we can generate health in our communities is through ourselves.”

He added: “We know only too well the problems the NHS is facing this winter –this Sunday Express initiative is what we need if we are to restore a sense of community and connection and in our disconnected and alienated communities which increase the risk of falling ill and decrease our resistance to illness when we do become ill.

“This campaign is simply what we need – to connect, help and create the sense of community which we have lost in so many parts of the country.”

Bestselling author Sarah Stacey has been running a successful scheme to encourage meal sharing and is urging others to follow suit. She said: “This year our winter blues may have a different tinge with rising mental health problems, the cost of living crisis, food and fuel poverty as well as the post-pandemic slump.

“Many people are feeling low but we can do simple things to make people feel better. Communities need to look after each other and be neighbourly.

“Giving makes us feel happier. You don’t have to give expensive gifts. Little gestures can have a huge impact.”

Her Share a Meal initiative, which is running in Devon and which started during the pandemic lockdowns, has the support of celebrity chefs including the Hairy Bikers and Prue Leith.

Ms Stacey added: “There are plenty of ideas for one-pot meals that can be shared, or if someone doesn’t want to cook a whole meal they could instead bake a cake.

“If you don’t want to cook you can simply invite your neighbour in for a cup of tea and a piece of cake. Many are suffering from post-pandemic and winter blues.

“Many people are lonely. It’s terribly simple – we just need to do little things for our neighbours such as sharing some food, popping in, or offering to run some errands.”

● shareameal.co.uk/about

● thesilverline.org.uk

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