Throughout the busy run-up to Christmas, Juventude Cruz Vermelha – Delegação de Braga once again embarked on one of its biggest annual actions, Venha Embrulhar uma Causa! This year led by the first-rate efforts of Rita Vaz, this campaign was an important part of raising funds that will allow the vital work undertaken at JCV to continue into the future.
The concept was simple; members of the public were able to bring their gifts to us and we wrapped them all ready to be given for Christmas! Continente supplied all the materials required such as wrapping paper whilst JCV provided the motivated and enthusiastic workforce. Whilst we were like busy bees wrapping away, we also explained to the public why we were undertaking the action and if they chose to do so, they were able to make a small donation, for which we are grateful, no matter how big or small the sum.
Therefore, every day from the 25th November right up until Christmas Eve, from half past eight in the morning until half past eleven at night, you would have been able to find a group of volunteers located outside the Continente supermarkets at Nova Arcada and The Minho Center respectively, eagerly waiting to wrap presents.
Requiring a huge effort from so many people, it brought volunteers together from all different areas of Juventude as well as introducing new people to our work. In total, nearly 500 fantastic volunteers came together to help fill approximately 1500 shifts. Both of the wrapping stations were in operation for a total of 465 hours each over the Christmas period! As such, it led to paths crossing that had not before, the action granting myself and others the opportunity to meet new people and learn more about what it is they do, whether they were a veteran or completely new volunteer.
An experience that can certainly have been described as stressful at times, you certainly felt the pressure of wrapping other peoples’ gifts for them. As a result, it was always key to remind yourself that you were not expected to be an expert in the art of gift wrapping - though it would have made things a lot easier - but rather that you were volunteering for a good cause and can only give it your best.
As well as allowing me to meet new people, Venha Embrulhar uma Causa was the perfect environment for me to practice my Portuguese, something that requires constant work as I look to master the language. Often the client began talking to me in Portuguese at 100kmh but once I explained that it is not my first language they slowed their speech for me. There were also several cases where people took the opportunity to switch to English; everyone often seems keen to practice themselves and I didn’t want to begrudge them the opportunity, even though I was keen to practice my Portuguese. However, I definitely think the experience benefited my Portuguese; at the very least I am now able to say ‘vermelho ou amarelho papel?’ like I have been saying it my entire life.
Finally the 24th December arrived and with it came down the curtains on another year of Christmas wrapping. In order to celebrate the efforts of everyone’s hard work a lavish evening was arranged at Lustre in the centre of Braga on 7th January. There, all those who had volunteered were able to come together to enjoy each other’s company, eat some marvellous food, as well as have a bit of a boogie. However, before the dancing could commence, some important announcements were made! Firstly to thank all who had taken part in the campaign, followed by the awarding of prizes to the three volunteers who had completed the most hours of wrapping. First prize was brunch for two but despite my best efforts I couldn’t convince the winner to take me! Then, finally, it was time to declare just how much had been raised. In total, Venha Embrulhar uma Causa raised a total of 9,258.81€ in 2016! This was an extraordinary success, with the generosity of the public resulting in a final total with an increase of over 2500€ on the previous year.
Finally, already mentioned in the opening, a big shout must also go out to Rita, who was responsible for organising the whole event this year. Rita worked tirelessly to make sure everything ran smoothly during the campaign and spent what must have been a considerable amount of time on the phone asking people when they were available to help; I wouldn’t like to see the phone bill for December! I believe, if it was not for Rita’s efforts, it is feasible to think that Venha Embrulhar uma Causa 2016 would not have been anywhere near as successful as it turned out to be.