Six easy ways to give back this Christmas.

“Every year that goes past, one person on this planet should be breathing easier because of you. It’s that simple. Make it your annual goal.”

It’s my closing statement. The one thing I always say to high school students when I’m invited to speak at their valedictory dinners or graduation nights.

This Christmas, there are so many with so little. Or, in fact, nothing. They are the people (and animals) who are forgotten, are unseen, as we dash around scooping up toys and hanging twinkly lights and butchering Michael Buble’s Christmas album and arguing about whether to serve trifle or pudding for dessert on Christmas day (I say trifle, because TRIFLE).

They are the women in shelters. The jobless men sleeping in cars or in city doorways. The children ricocheting between foster carers. Or living on the street. Or in homes where despair sits like a heavy fog around the kitchen table. They are the animals that are left, forgotten, rescued who have lost faith in the kindness of human beings.

And so it is up to us – you and me – to step up.

There are hundreds of ways to give back over the Christmas season but we thought we’d make it easy for you and list a few wonderful campaigns that will make your heart soar better than any Hugh Grant –Dancing-To-The-Pointer-Sisters movie.

Read this list. Pick one thing and do it this Christmas season. Santa will love you all the more for it.

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1. The Pyjama Foundation

Over the last decade, the number of children living in foster care in Australia has doubled and as a group they have the worst educational outcomes of any group of children in Australia.

92% of children in foster care have below average reading skills by the time they are only seven years of age, and it is a struggle for them to catch up.

So that’s where The Pyjama Foundation steps in. The organisation sends “Reading Angels” into the homes of foster kids every week to read books aloud to the children, which in turn improves their literacy.

HOW TO HELP THIS CHRISTMAS: The Pyjama Foundation is holding their annual toy drive so they can give a present to every child in foster care. You can also sponsor a ‘Pyjama Angel’, who will help children in foster care to read.

Every year the Pyjama Foundation also hosts Christmas Parties throughout Queensland, Sydney and Melbourne to help the kids in their program. Call (07) 3256 8802 or check out their website for more.

2. The Smith Family

This year the Smith Family is determined to spread Christmas cheer to the 638,000 Aussie children who live in jobless families. What I love about the Smith Family website is that you can choose a toy ONLINE and donate it.

Clickety-click from your desk and you can be tossing up between say a Puppy Surprise or a rather awesome looking Star Wars Walkie Talkie.

3. The Kmart Wishing Tree /Salvation Army

Enid Blyton couldn’t have made up something better than this … a Christmas tree that magically fills up with presents for disadvantaged kids. The Kmart Wishing tree is an institution and a great one to do with your own kids to help teach them about the power of giving and the combat skills necessary to survive a Kmart store in the lead up to Christmas. And remember when you place your gift under The Wishing Tree, make your own wish … something like, I don’t know maybe .. “Please don’t let Aunty Susan get drunk and touch my husband inappropriately again this year …”

the kmart wishing treee

4. Buy a $15 Chicken For A Child In Uganda

When you live in one of the poorest nations on earth, an education is your ticket to a better life. School for Life is a non-profit, non-religious, non-political organisation dedicated to providing education in rural and disadvantaged parts of Uganda. Put a child through school and you’ll change not just their life but also the lives of their family.

THIS CHRISTMAS: For that person who has every iToy going, why not buy them an iChicken? Okay I made that up. But for $15 you can buy a chicken for the school and help the kids learn agricultural skills as well as for breeding and feeding program.

5. Buy a jigsaw, a quilt, a beautiful scarf or some hoop earrings and help women give birth safely in Ethiopia 

Role models don’t come much better than obstetrician/gynaecologist Dr Catherine Hamlin. Since 1959, Dr Hamlin has been working in Ethiopia where she and her late husband Dr Reg Hamlin co-founded the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital, the world’s only medical centre dedicated to providing free obstetric fistula repair surgery to poor women suffering from childbirth injuries.

catherin hamlin

The Hamlin Foundation have the most beautiful scarves, handmade quilts, wooden jigsaw puzzles, soft, squishy toys, bracelets and books – all of which raise funds to keep the hospital providing free care. Out of all the presents you buy your loved ones – buy just one from the Hamlin store and help them help women on the other side of the globe.

6. Send a girl to school for just $75

This one is a favourite of Mamamia’s Editor-in-Chief, Jamila. She says “Of all the kids in this world who aren’t in school, about 70 per cent of them are girls. Girls are all too often left behind, considered an after-thought or a non-priority when it comes to education and that’s something we need to work together to change. $75 is nothing to most of us here in Australia but for a girl in the third world, it’s a gift that will last a life time and one that nobody can EVER take away from her. So why not skip that extra bottle of fancy champagne and put your money where it really counts this Christmas.”

You can send a girl to school by donating to CARE Australia.

And one last thing …

For all those gifts you really don’t, er, like … why not donate them to Givit?  Givit is like a matchmaking service between charities and those in need. So you tell Givit the item you have (bath products, tennis racquet, jigsaw etc) and they put the call out to dozens of charities to help find the ideal recipient. It’s that easy. Go to www.givit.org.au

How are you giving back this Christmas?

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