“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”, yet we all know that this isn’t necessarily the case for everyone, and at a time of year when the disparity between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ seems all the more apparent, many of us want to ‘do our bit’ by reaching out beyond our own personal sphere of friends, family, colleagues and loved ones, to help others who we don’t know and who are in need.
However, it can be difficult to know where to start and what to do, especially if you already are on a budget over the Christmas and holiday season.
Charity begins at ‘Home’?
Consider helping out local initiatives that will benefit your community. For example, in my city there are appeals by homelessness charities that enable you to donate towards their Christmas appeal which will buy a person a Christmas dinner where they can enjoy it in the company of others, or to provide support services and winter essentials.
There are also various collections for clothes, food, toiletries and other essential supplies for homeless people, food banks, and toys for children and young people who otherwise go without. Local hospitals also hold fundraisers, events and collect donations.
These are examples of some of the initiatives happening locally to me – what about you? Are there any causes close to your heart and close to home that you would like to contribute to? Many of them are quite affordable or you can give what you are able to.
Alternative Christmas Gifts:
Maybe you want to combine gift-giving to your friends and family with helping a charity or charities. Here are some ideas for alternative Christmas gifts (mainly UK based) that can help you to do just that. There are obviously many more, but hopefully these might help as a starting point in your search for the perfect charity gift. If in doubt, simply do an online search for the name of your chosen charity followed by ‘charity gifts’:
- Traidcraft enables you to reach out to people in other parts of the world such as Kenya and Bangladesh as well as many others. Their ethically sourced products, handcrafted gifts and sustainable methods help to support farmers, artisans and growers in developing countries which means that you can ‘shop with a conscience’. Their website provides a background into what Fair Trade actually is and how Traidcraft started, and their shop also includes a special section for Christmas gifts:https://www.traidcraftshop.co.uk/christmas
- PDSA (The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) provides millions of free treatments to sick and injured pets, including preventative treatments, and is funded entirely by public support. You can buy Christmas gifts from their shop, particularly for friends and family members who prefer animals to people! 🙂 :http://www.pdsa-shop.co.uk/Shop/Gift-Ideas/
- Charity Gifts is a website that makes it easy for you to buy from the UK’s leading charity gift providers, including: WWF, Oxfam, Cancer Research UK, Help for Heroes, RSPB, Guide Dogs, The National Trust, and Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. Here you can easily find eco-friendly gifts, Christmas charity gifts, and ‘adopt an animal’ gifts. https://www.charity-gifts.org/
- Online Shopping: some online shops give you the option of choosing a charity and everytime you buy from the shop they will donate a certain amount to that charity. It is worth checking your preferences when you do your online shopping to see if this is an option.
Mental Health Charities and Charities for Older People:
For some people, a time when it seems that everyone else is celebrating and having fun, can be an unbearable contrast with how they are feeling and what they are going through. Mental, emotional and psychological distress and loneliness can have a huge impact on a person’s wellbeing, as well as that of their friends and family. If you want to support UK based mental health charities, and / or charities for older people, in your giving, here are some recommendations:
- The Blurt Foundation: https://www.blurtitout.org/
- Mind: https://www.mind.org.uk/
- Samaritans: https://www.samaritans.org/?nation=scotland
- Age UK: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/
You don’t have to limit yourself to giving money; you can make a real difference by giving your time, skills, care and attention. Are there any local volunteer opportunities that you could give a few hours to?
Ethical and Environmentally Friendly Giving:
As well as giving charitably and buying ethically sourced and produced gifts, it might also be important to you to make sure that the way you give causes as little damage to the environment as possible. Here are some ideas that you could try out.
- Instead of sending out physical Christmas, holiday or new year cards, you could alternatively send out greetings via e-cards, or combine sending e-cards or greetings via email, with sending fewer cards through the post and limiting postal cards to maybe two or three. You can add in a message to your e-card to explain that you want to be more environmentally friendly, and this might encourage friends and family to do the same. You also don’t need to worry about cost, as free e-cards are available online, such as at: https://www.bluemountain.com/ecards/christmas and https://www.got-free-ecards.com/Christmas-ecards/ as a start – there will be many more out there.
- Try to avoid buying and giving gifts with a lot of plastic packaging, and think about bringing a vintage / nostalgic theme into your gift giving by finding some quality second hand items, hand-making gifts, or ‘upcycling’.
- Instead of buying wrapping paper, there are many creative ways that you can wrap presents with recycled paper, used wrapping paper, newspapers, magazines and recyclable materials. You can decorate your wrapped gifts to make them look beautiful by adding hand crafted gift tags, bows, decorations and personalised messages.
- If you feel you have to buy wrapping paper, Christmas cards, bags, gift tags, etc. then try to make sure that the materials used are recyclable before you buy them.
- Other ethical and environmentally friendly ‘challenges’ you could take on might include: reducing your meat consumption if you currently eat meat, using public transport, or ‘car-pooling’ to get to events, family gatherings, etc., not going overboard with outdoor Christmas lights, and remembering to turn off lights, TV and other electronics, etc.
Finally, another thing you can do is to think of ways that you can turn giving into a creative process. This might be particularly helpful in encouraging children to think of other people and what they need.
- One way of doing this could be a ‘Reverse Advent Calendar’ where each day instead of getting something, you choose an item to collect so that at the end of the advent period you have something to give to others, such as food for a food bank, clothes for a charity shop or a care package for a homeless person.
- If you create things to sell such as arts and crafts, you could perhaps donate some or all of your profits this month to a chosen charity.
- You can have a festive event with friends and family, even if it is something simple, and turn it into a festive fundraiser for a cause that means something to you all, and / or to raise awareness.
- Think of some ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ that you can do for other people throughout the month.
- Giving, as mentioned earlier, doesn’t have to be only monetary. You can use your influence, skills and social media platforms to encourage and help other people during what might be a difficult or challenging time, and reach out to people in your life that might need a helping hand. Maybe as a blogger you can write articles to encourage, inspire and uplift others this season, and by doing so reach out to hundreds if not thousands of people. Whatever your skills, the possibilities are numerous, so why not give it a go and have an ‘ethical little Christmas’ that will help people near and far 🙂 x