New Year’s Resolutions that make a difference

Discover the history of new year’s resolutions and how your resolutions for 2024 can help charities like ShelterBox

2 January 2024

Woman running with her hands in the air wearing a ShelterBox shirt as part of a race

New year, new you… or so the saying goes. Many of us take the start of a new year as an opportunity to vow to make changes in our lives. Sadly though, the majority of new year’s resolutions end up broken. Research from Forbes in 2023 showed that most people gave up on their resolutions in a few months. Only 6% of people committed to them for the entire year.

One thing that many agree on is that having specific goals helps us keep to our resolutions. Having very clear motivations also helps. So if you’d like to make it past ‘quitters day’ (the second Friday in January), why not firm your resolve by helping others?

In this blog we’re looking at the origin of new year’s resolutions. And we’ll see how your goals can help bring shelter to people who have lost their homes due to disaster of conflict.

Why do we have new year’s resolutions?

A ShelterBox solar light lit up in Paragua
New Year resolutions began from vows of loyalty to the state and to make up past wrongs, in the hope of blessings for a brighter year ahead from deities


You might assume that new year’s resolutions were a modern invention, but they’re quite old – 4000 years old! The first known new year’s resolutions were made by the Ancient Babylonians. They had a twelve-day new year festival called Akitu, held around the spring equinox. During this vows were made to honour the gods, pledge allegiance to the king (or crown a new one) and repay debt. It was thought that this meant the Gods would smile kindly on them.

These traditions were continued by the Ancient Romans. At new year they made pledges of loyalty to the emperor and the state, and to honour their deities. Ancient Rome also saw the shift of the new year celebrations from March to January 1st. This was with the introduction of the Julian Calendar in c. 46 BCE. January was named in honour of the God Janus. This deity had two faces that looked back at past events, and forward to future hopes. An appropriate God for the making of new year’s resolutions!

In the Middle Ages knights would renew their vows to the order of chivalry at the new year, by swearing on a peacock. As time moved on it seemed that new year’s resolutions became more commonplace. As early as 1671 Scottish writer Anne Halkett wrote ‘resolutions’ in her diary on January 2nd. This was a list of ideas taken primarily from the Bible, such as ‘I will not offend anyone’. In 1740 John Wesley, founder of Methodism, introduced the Covenant Renewal Service at new year. This service featured prayers and scripture readings to encourage people to look back at past mistakes and vow to do better in the future. The services were also a more spiritual alternative to the typical new year celebration!

By the early 1800s, vows that people make at new year but never kept were being satirised in newspapers. And it was in 1813 that the phrase ‘new year’s resolution’ was used in a Boston newspaper.

As time has moved on, new year’s resolutions have generally moved from its religious origins to more secular overtones (and typically no swearing on a peacock, or any other bird, is expected!). Common resolutions include getting fit, losing weight, and looking after our mental health. And yes, most of them fail! But a strong incentive for keeping to resolutions is to have a set target in mind, and clear motivation.

In 2024 I resolve to… get fit, or physically challenge myself

The most common new year resolution for 2023 was to get fit. However, ‘getting fit’ is such an unclear target, it’s easy to see why some give up on their goal. One way to stay motivated is to have a particular challenge in mind, such as an event to train for, or a milestone to meet. As such if you’re vowing to get fit in 2024, one way to do so could be to undertake a fundraising challenge for a charity like ShelterBox!

Our fundraisers make a massive contribution to our work. Their dedication and determination raises essential funds that mean we can help people after disaster. And the great news is that there are many types of challenges you could undertake!


Woman wearing a ShelterBox shirt with a rucksack
Delia walked 100 miles a month in 2023 to raise money for charity – including ShelterBox!


One of our 2023 fundraisers was Delia. She began the year with the aim to walk 100 miles each month, raising money for a different charity each time. In August, her chosen charity was ShelterBox. At the age of 78, walking 100 miles a month is no mean feat! Delia was helped on her walks by her faithful companion, a teddy bear named TT. Delia said, “It’s a nice feeling knowing I’m doing something to help and it’s keeping me fit, so I’m really enjoying it. Even in the bad weather I just think carry on and get on with it!” As such if you’d like to get fit in 2024, why not set yourself a challenge similar to Delia? Or you could train for a specific event like a marathon, raising money for charity through sponsorship.


Man wearing airman overalls
David Earl celebrated his 80th birthday with a parachute jump to raise money for charity


If you’re more of a daredevil, you could follow in the footsteps of fundraiser David Earl. He marked his 80th birthday with a parachute jump, raising  funds for ShelterBox! Fortunately as a former RAF pilot David already had a head for heights. He said, “Clearly the scale of ShelterBox’s activities demands very significant investment, and therefore fundraising and making people aware of the ever-increasing need of suffering people all over the world is critical to its continued success.  My aim is to do what I can to help.” If your new year’s resolution is to undertake something as adventurous as a parachute jump, why not raise money for a worthy cause while doing so?


Man sailing on River Avon in a homemade boat
Paul Weatherhill loves boats so much he built his own to sail on the River Avon and raise money for ShelterBox!


Of course you may be more at home on the water than the earth or sky. But that doesn’t mean you can’t fundraise for charity! In May 2023 Paul Weatherhill sailed along the River Avon in his home-made boat, the ‘ShelterBoat 2’. This was three-day adventure to raise money for ShelterBox. With a love of boats from childhood, this was a natural challenge for Paul to undertake. “I came up with the idea for my challenge because of my love of the water and wanted a way to capture the attention of people and raise funds for charity.” Building your own boat might not appeal to everyone. But if you want to spend 2024 in the water through sailing, rowing, or even swimming, then a target to help a charity like ShelterBox could keep you on track.


Two young children on bikes
Murdo and Morven braved over 27 miles of muddy trails to raise money for ShelterBox


And it’s worth remembering that adults aren’t the only ones that can raise money for a good cause! Siblings Murdo and Marven cycled over 27 miles to raise money for ShelterBox. They were inspired after seeing a ShelterBox display at a Rotary event. Murdo, aged 7, said, “When I saw the ShelterBox tent, I was really interested to know what it was for. When I learnt about the charity I thought, nice people help other people and people could die if no one helps, so I’m going to help.” Together, the pair raised £620, smashing their original target of £590! So if cycling more appeals to you in 2024, why not use Murdo and Marven as your inspiration?

We are grateful to all our amazing fundraisers, and we’d love it if you want to join them! Find out more about fundraising with us on our website.

In 2024 I resolve to… read more, and learn about other countries and cultures

Front covers of books that have been included in the ShelterBox Book Club
Some books featured in the ShelterBox Book Club.


Reading can provide us with an escape from our everyday lives, and help us explore new places and people. Spending more time looking after ourselves is a popular new year’s resolution. Reading is a fantastic way to do that! But what if there was a way to read more books, learn about other places, and help a great cause at the same time?

You can do just that with membership of our ShelterBox Book Club! For £10 monthly donation, you’ll receive a new book to read every six weeks. These books are voted for by club members from a selection of three titles. The books featured in the club are inspired by the places ShelterBox has worked and the people we have supported. Becoming a member gives the chance of reading titles you may have never considered, and exploring new places from the comfort of home. On top of that you can take part in online video discussions and a social media debates with other members. And there is the opportunity to join live events too, such as a Q&A with one of the book authors.

The extra benefit of joining the book club is that your monthly donation will help fund ShelterBox’s work around the world.

You can learn more about the book club here on our website.

In 2024 I want to… volunteer my time for a good cause

Group of people standing on the steps of a building
Volunteering could be a great new year resolution if you’d like to do more and help others. Here are some of the ShelterBox volunteers at our Volunteer Conference last year.


Volunteering is a great way to get out more, meet new people and take on new challenges. And on top of that, it can be crucial to support the work of charities!

Here at ShelterBox we have around 250 volunteers signed up. Some volunteers travel with our staff to help with our disaster responses. Other volunteers act as ambassadors within the UK. They speak about ShelterBox to community groups and represent us at fairs and events. Our Brand Ambassadors help raise our profile on social media. And our Rotary District Coordinators share the work of ShelterBox to Rotary Clubs in their area.

Our volunteers are vital members of our team. We are very grateful to them for their hard work and dedication. And charities everywhere rely on volunteers to complete their work.

Volunteer roles available vary widely by charity. With some research you may find a role that is perfect for you! As such, 2024 could be the perfect year to make a real difference through volunteering. If you think that volunteering for ShelterBox would be the perfect fit, visit our volunteering page.

In 2024 I want to… make a difference in the lives of others

Man outside a durable shelter in Somalia
Ibrahim lost his home due to the drought in Somalia. We were able to support Ibrahim with a durable shelter thanks to donations.


Not everyone can take on a fundraising challenge, or has the time to volunteer. But if your new year resolution is to make a difference in the lives of others there is a simple way you can do so. Donate.

Charities like ShelterBox depend on donations to continue to be able to work. For us, donations supply tents, shelter kits and household items to people left with nothing after a disaster. They help bring staff and aid materials to the places they are most needed. And they help replenish our emergency aid after a major response. This means that when the next disaster strikes we can be ready to respond as quickly as possible.

Some may feel that they cannot make a donation to charity because they do not have a lot of money to spare. But any donation, large or small, contributes towards the great work that charities do.

And if your new years resolution is to regularly give to charity, why not sign up for a monthly donation? These regular monthly donations help charities continue their work for the long term. And no matter how small the donation is, the amount adds up over time. You may be surprised at just how much difference you can make.

We know that times are hard for many at the moment. But if in 2024 you would like to make the difference in the lives of others and are able to do so, donating to charity can have a big impact. In 2023 we began new emergency responses following the Türkiye and Syria earthquakes. We supplied emergency shelter to people in Chad who had fled violence in Sudan. We helped families forced to leave their homes due to the drought in Somalia. Our aid was also needed after the Morocco earthquake and flooding in Libya. We also began working towards a response in Gaza. And that is on top of our ongoing work in countries such as Syria, Ukraine, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso. All of this was possible through the donations and fundraising of our supporters. As such if you can support us in 2024, you can help continue our work bringing shelter to those who need it most.


We hope this blog has helped you plan for your new year’s resolutions! We wish you the best for 2024, and hope you achieve your goals for the new year.


Information on history of New Year’s Resolutions from Forbes, The Conversation and History Channel