HuffPost: HumanKind brings you an advent calendar of kindness, celebrating good deeds and the people doing them, in order to inspire and bring hope this festive season. Find out more about the series, and uncover new stories daily here.
“With homeless and vulnerable people, there’s not much skin-to-skin contact,” says 33-year-old Tali Clarke, which is why she spent four days last Christmas volunteering as a masseuse for the homeless charity Crisis. “I did close to 100 massages,” she tells me, explaining she did six hours of massage a day.
Tali admits that the intensity of the work was “really draining”, but she recognises just how important touch can be – particularly for those who haven’t felt that connection with another human in a long time. “Massage isn’t a necessity but it can be a preventative medicine,” says Tali, who is also a filmmaker. “It is so beneficial, especially to people who are physically, psychologically and emotionally under strain.”
It’s not just about the physical benefits. She adds: “To be made to feel that you’re worth more than the sum of your needs is important.”
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, says volunteers like Tali make a huge difference. “Crisis’ work is year-round, but when it comes to our Christmas centres, we rely largely on the generosity of our fantastic volunteers like Tali to help us provide a safe and supportive place for those with nowhere to turn to over Christmas,” he says.
“Our centres are not only about providing shelter and food to the thousands of people facing homelessness over the festive season – offering services like massage therapy allow our guests to completely relax and unwind often for the first time in a long while.”
When a person becomes homeless, self-care is almost always one of the first things to disappear. But, says Tali: “To be able to have half an hour dedicated just to you is so important.”
Helping others is not just something that happens at Christmas. Earlier this year Tali, who trained as a masseuse a couple of years ago to help homeless people – set up a weekly day clinic at Providence Row, which provides crisis support to thousands of homeless people in east London.
Once a week she will massage backs, shoulders and necks for people who are either homeless or living in temporary accommodation. The free sessions have proven incredibly popular.
“Lots of people carry all their belongings with them every day - often they have whatever bag they had with them when they had to leave wherever they were,” says Tali. As such, a lot of people present with problems in the middle of their backs, or stiff shoulders and necks from being cold or hunched over. Stress also plays a huge part in causing aches and pains.
Ammina Hamed nominated Tali to be featured on HuffPost’s HumanKind advent calendar. She says: ”Tali Clarke is an enigma. She has one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever encountered.
“She initiated a masseuse service for Providence Row, giving much-needed massages to homeless people who probably don’t get a lot of human contact on the whole, let alone massages. It was entirely her own idea, and something she didn’t tell anyone about. I only know because we tell each other everything!
“This is all done aside her own paid work and general day-to-day life, and all because she just really does care for others. That’s why I nominated her.”
HumanKind is HuffPost’s celebration of kindness, featuring people who do incredible things for others or the planet – transforming lives through small but significant acts. Get involved by joining us on Facebook. You can also nominate those who deserve to be shouted about by filling in this form or emailing email@example.com.