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The greatest gift – bringing light to darkness all year round

December 2023

Jim Islam, Chief Executive Officer

At this time of year, cold winter nights start to twinkle as families busily decorate their homes for the festive period. 

Even the darkest and drabbest of evenings are warmed in a glow of multi-coloured Christmas lights, whilst parents are driving their excited children around their neighbourhoods to enjoy the sharing of happiness and goodwill.

Meanwhile the very littlest members of the family are turning their eyes to the sky in the hope of catching Santa Claus flying overhead…

Whatever your customs or traditions, it’s a season that brings families, friends and communities together; it’s a time to remember the joyful tinsel of Christmas past and look forward to the future that’s to come.

Our lives are so busy that time can have a habit of just slipping past, but the Christmas break gives us a chance to pause. To slow down. To think.

It’s a time to consider others, to remember our neighbours, our communities and those people who might otherwise be forgotten. The elderly, the vulnerable, those who don’t have enough to get by and those sleeping on the bitter coldness of hard pavements. And this is where we turn to charities to organise the help that’s needed.

"The Christmas break gives us a chance to pause. To slow down. To think."

Our charities do an amazing job, for there’s a goodness of heart in the British people that sees them giving again and again.

It really is a strength in this country, helping to pick people up who have slipped through other safety nets.

Between April last year and March 2023, the food banks in the Trussell Trust network provided over 3 million food packages to people in crisis – a 37% increase on the previous year. And they expect to provide 1 million parcels of food this winter.

Meanwhile, Age UK has said that around 2.3 million older people wish they had someone to spend time with at Christmas, with a further 1.6 million saying that they find Christmas Day to be the hardest day of the year.

Loneliness… being alone… feeling like you have simply disappeared from sight… it must be absolutely terrifying.

"There’s a goodness of heart in the British people that sees them giving again and again"

At OneFamily we try to do our bit.

We partner with a number of different charities, local and national, throughout the year that galvanise support for the homeless, the elderly, the young and the impoverished.

As well as providing funding, our team gets hands-on by volunteering and providing expertise; each of our colleagues has three days of volunteering leave, which they can use as they wish.

So, between Christmas and the New Year some of our team will be serving food and keeping lonely older people company at a Fish & Chip event that has been organised by Age UK.

But throughout the year we’re rolling up our sleeves, picking up our paintbrushes and getting stuck in to do whatever we can to help.

That might mean helping at a foodbank, refurbishing a youth centre, providing mock interviews for school children or giving technical expertise to a charity that needs help with its website.

"Throughout the year we’re rolling up our sleeves, picking up our paintbrushes and getting stuck in to do whatever we can to help"

We’re living through tough times, that’s a given. And there has been a lot of darkness in people’s lives in recent years.

So, as we pause over the holiday period and look to the future, perhaps now is the time to think about what small thing we can do throughout the year to warm someone else’s life.

To make them feel cared for and no longer invisible.

To hold out the hand of support for those who don’t know where to turn.

Because maybe there is a light that shines brightly in each of us that can chase away the shadows.

And that is the greatest gift that can be given this year.

Jim Islam

Jim places great value on the importance of education, citing it as the foundation stone upon which social mobility can be built. As OneFamily’s CEO, he wants to hold out his hand of support to those who don’t know where to turn and to use his platform to lift people up and inspire them to fulfil their potential.

He encourages thinking big, having great aspirations and setting audacious goals to free potential. With education, encouragement and empowerment he thinks that any child can achieve their biggest and most colourful of dreams.

Jim was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of financial mutual, OneFamily, in December 2023.

OneFamily is the UK’s third largest mutual with over 2m customers.

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