Get involved: Send your news, views, pictures and video by texting SUPIC to 80360 or email us.
Meet the exemplary men and women who are working on Christmas Day
As you slumber by the fire after a belt-buckling festive feast, spare a thought for the selfless public servants and volunteers absent from the bosom of their family home. Life doesn’t stop for these exemplary men and women, as FINN SCOTT-DELANY finds out.
Most will be snugly shut away indoors tomorrow indulging to their heart’s content.
But for every beautifully basted bird, there could be a smouldering turkey catastrophe which firefighters are called out to.
As friends and families raise a glass to toast Christmas Day, some will overdo it and police officers and ambulance crews will be called out.
The emergency services give up their precious time to keep residents safe while others sacrifice their festivities to help others less fortunate than them.
Seafront officers will be on watch for Christmas Day swimmers who get into trouble, homeless hostel workers will make sure rough sleepers have a meal and bed for the night and ‘urban shep- herds’ will keep watch over the city’s flock of sheep.
The Brighton Christmas Day dip has ballooned from just 50 swimmers to thousands.
And after a man was nearly drowned two years ago, the seafront team will be on alert to give first aid and liaise with the coastguard in case of an emergency.
Meanwhile the rough sleeper team will check with people in doorways and streets if they have anywhere warm to go.
In St James’s Street, six workers ensure the 24 homeless residents of one of three council-run hostels New Steine Mews enjoy some festive spirit.
Brighton and Hove City Council staff donated more than 100 presents which means many home less residents will have two or three presents each.
New Steine Mews hostel manager Karen Leenders said: “For some who have been living on the street with no contact with their families for years these are the only presents they will receive this Christmas.
“This makes a real difference to their lives at what is a really difficult time because it means someone has thought of them and that’s important. Part of what we do is getting people ready to get back on their feet and move back into society.”
Meanwhile eight ‘urban shepherds’ will be out checking the sheep grazing the city’s ancient pastures on Christmas Day Under a council scheme residents are trained as ‘Lookerers’ to keep a close eye on the sheep.
They quickly deal with any in trouble, for example getting caught in brambles.
The sheep play a vital role in protecting the last remnants of this hugely important habitat for wildlife.
Volunteer Vivien, 62, said: “I love being an urban shepherd in Brighton and Hove. It’s a lovely way to get out into the countryside and I have knitted jumpers from the leftover wool that has been shorn and then spun for me.
“It’s my birthday on Christmas Day so I will be out bright and early with my flock with my husband because it’s a wonderful way to get the day started.”
PC ROSIE STRIBLING, 30, of Brighton Neighbourhood Patrol Team
“I’VE worked every Christmas since I joined the force seven years ago. It’s quite nice because there’s a really good festive spirit.
“It’s got to be done. It’s a 24/7 service and we’ve got to be out there keeping people safe.
“I don’t have a young family so I’m quite happy if it gives other people time to spend with their children. You still get some time at home.
“Every day is different and people drink more than usual over Christmas. Nothing major happened last year but we do see a rise in domestic incidents. Last Christmas we had a dedicated domestic violence appeal.
“People are at home more, drinking more. You get called to domestic incidents every day.
“Brighton city centre is very busy on Christmas Eve. Lots of people come home and get together with friends, it’s a really good atmosphere.
“It’s very jovial and people don’t really want to get arrested. It can be difficult to arrest people over Christmas but sometimes you have to do it.
“After eight hours you look forward to going home and having a glass of something.
“Then you get ready to do it all again.”
GRAHAM EASTERN, Coastguard area manager overseeing Shoreham, Bognor and Newhaven
“THE coastguard has a duty to respond to people in distress and it’s a rescue service that’s available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
“The team at Shoreham is made up of 11 volunteers who are extremely passionate about what they’re doing and helping the community.
“They have to be available at a moment’s notice and put their lives on hold.
“When their pager goes off they have to drop everything.
“Employers are usually really proud to have people like that working for them.
“Last Christmas we got called out to a windsurfer off the beach in Worthing, but he turned out to be fine.
“One New Year’s Eve we helped with a land search for a woman missing in the South Downs area. We did a shoreline search and then looked further inland but she was found in a neighbour’s garden.
“Everyone at Christmas will have families around and a turkey in the oven but if their pager goes off they will drop everything.”
RICHARD CHAMBERLAIN, White Watch Manager at Preston Circus Community Fire Station
“THERE will be 11 White Watch firefighters on duty this year and we try to get in a little early to allow the night watch to get home to their families.
“We spend the first part of the day carrying out checks and during Christmas Day attend emergency calls.
“We don’t have a traditional dinner and prefer to have a buffet with all the members bringing in food to share.
“For more than 30 years at Brighton we have done a Christmas Day parcel delivery to local children to raise money for the Firefighter’s Charity.
“It is difficult to predict if Christmas Day will be busy. Last year calls ranged from over-cooked food, property fires, people stuck in lifts, serious road crashes. Like any other day you never know what is going to happen but we all hope it will be quiet.
“Being away from your family can be difficult but we accept it just part of the job.
“You learn to really make the most of the years when you do have Christmas Day at home.
“The majority of the watch have young families and will of course miss them during the day and night shifts.
“Some families will pop into the station for a cup of tea with us and make the day as festive as possible.”
STEVE PETLEY, 34, South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) paramedic
“WORKING over Christmas is something we all sign up to when we join the ambulance service and it is decided by rota pot luck.
“I’m married but don't have children yet so I'm happy to work if it means those with young families can take it off.
“We do very well food-wise and our station management provide a selection of unhealthy snacks and fizzy drinks to ensure Christmas weight gain.
“Last year one of our colleagues came in before his family lunch to cook everyone bacon sandwiches and we always get left chocolates from patients.
“My family have got used to celebrating Christmas on a random day so I had an early celebration this year.
“There is a really good camaraderie and though we are not with our families we have a laugh with the staff at the hospital and the other emergency services.
“No one wants to be unwell over Christmas so it is more difficult to take people away from their families and celebrations.”
RICKY DIXON, 27, volunteer at First Base, a homeless day centre run by Brighton Housing Trust
“FIRST Base is a really important cause especially with the rise in homelessness.
“It’s really important to get involved and help such a valuable service.
“We help with laundry and food and have specialist case workers to find out why people are on the streets and give them help with benefit claims, and job interviews. We all help with the general running of the place.
“Christmas is a particularly difficult time to be on the streets. It emphasises people’s problems and is an incredibly lonely and isolating time of year when everyone else is at home with their families.
“Though some find themselves sleeping rough because of choices they’ve made, others have faced circumstances beyond their control.
“I worked with one woman who had a good job but became a victim of domestic violence. She had to leave her partner and job for her own safety and found herself sleeping on the streets.
“I have my own business so I’m in a very lucky situation being able to give up my time and I volunteer for various charities.
“The homeless are like the invisible population, people ignore them. It’s a problem that really needs resolving.”
Comments are closed on this article.