Giving Back

I had scheduled a post about Prague but after seeing this video, I decided that Prague could wait a few days and that I should focus on something much more important: giving back.

I was brought up in a relatively poor family. My sister and I never lacked of anything but we benefited from food banks, our clothes were bought in charity shops and many of our Christmas presents were from the Chevaliers de Colomb’s annual toy appeal. My mom went back to school shortly after my sister was born and my dad and her separated so she received welfare. My stepmom generously paid week’s worth of groceries for my dad when we visited because he couldn’t afford to feed us otherwise.

Despite all this, I had a good childhood. I had a roof over my head, food in the cupboards and warm clothes in winter. I also had parents who taught me generosity, kindness and the importance of giving back.

When things got better for my mom, she started buying toys for the local appeal. She took us to the mall every year to each choose a bauble. We would then get the gift that child wished for, have them wrapped beautifully and dropped them back knowing we had made someone’s Christmas a much better one. She also gave us tinned soups and boxes of cereals to bring to the food bank. My stepmom works in a retirement home; she often buys perfumed body lotions for her ‘grandmas’ or chocolates for her ‘grandpas’. My dad is simply the most helpful person… He will wake up early and shovel the snow off his neighbour’s alleyway when her husband is away for work, he occasionally walks another neighbour’s dog and he is always there if anyone on our street needs a handyman with a well-furnished toolbox.

Can you feel how proud I am of these people? These are the steps I try to follow. Giving back is essential. It makes the world a better place.

Cheesy? Yes, but also true.

As Christmas approaches, we all talk a lot about giving and receiving but often forget that not everyone is that lucky. Loads of people won’t have food on the table or presents under the tree.

I was a social worker for many years and worked with a marginalised clientele. I also had the opportunity to work with some marvellous organisations eager to help the less fortunate. I decided to share some of my knowledge and put together a list of things you can do to give back:

Give to a food bank
Edward and I have collected points from a well-known recompense program all year and used the money (almost £30) to make a donation to the local food bank. There are a few obvious essentials you can give such as cereals, long-life milk, tinned vegetables, meat, fish and soups, snacks, flour, sugar, oatmeal, lentils and dried beans but there are also many items that are needed but are not as obvious. I made a quick list:

Baby essentials: food, diapers, wipes, rash lotion, etc.

Pet food: mostly cat and dog food, dry and/or tinned.

Feminine hygiene products: tampons, pads, wipes, etc.

General hygiene products: deodorant, soap, shampoo, etc.

Cleaning products: antibacterial spray, laundry detergent, etc.

Gluten and/or dairy free items: being poor doesn’t make your allergies go away.

Treats: bottle of wine, chocolate, etc. Everyone deserves a treat once in a while.

And if you’re not at ease with giving food or essential items, you can always give some money (or some time – see next point). It doesn’t have to be much, every little helps!

Volunteer at a soup kitchen, a helpline, a retirement home, etc.
If you can’t give money, why not volunteer some time? Many of those non-profit organisations rely on volunteers and an extra pair of hands is always appreciated.

Get the Big Issue
If you see someone selling the Big Issue, it means they are working hard to get their life back on track. They often do so standing in the rain or in the cold so if you can spare the £2.50 the magazine cost, you help them greatly. You can also subscribe online and receive the magazine at home.

Buy a gift for a kid in need
Several non-profit organisations do a toy appeal around this time of the year and you can help a tiny human have a better Christmas morning by buying them the present their parents can’t afford. I’m thinking of the Salvation Army, Giving Tree and Family Action to name only a few.

Bring old winter clothes to a homeless shelter
That old winter coat that doesn’t fit you anymore, the hat you rarely ever wear, those out mismatched scarves and gloves, that out of fashion sweater? They could keep someone else warm this winter. Charity shops will likely sell those items, albeit at a low cost, but many shelters will distribute them freely to their users.

If you see someone sleeping rough, contact StreetLink
StreetLink will then get in touch with that person and direct them towards the available resources in their area.

Take old books to a local school
The local school, or possibly the local library, would be happy to receive used books as long as they are in good condition.

Offer buffet leftovers to a homeless or women shelter
‘Tis the season of office and corporate Christmas parties… If there are fresh leftovers (sandwiches, soups, salads, fruits, vegetables and cheeses) after everyone got a second helping, why not offer them to a homeless shelter? Shelters for victims of domestic abuse might also be interested as the holidays are usually a busy period for them.

Be kind
It never hurts to offer a hot drink or some food to someone you see on the street but if you can’t afford it or can’t bring yourself to talk to them (no judgement here, it’s not always easy to approach strangers), simply smile. A smile goes a long way for someone who possibly feel lonely or forgotten.

If I forgot anything, please let me know in the comments!

This information is valid year-round. Christmas is a good time to be generous but not the only time. Many people and the organisations who help them struggle year-long to stay afloat.

I promise Prague post will be up soon.

In the meantime, I wish you all warm holidays filled with joy, love and wonderful people.

Merry Christmas!

19 thoughts on “Giving Back

  1. Last Christmas we did a good deed a day for the 25 days leading up to Christmas. Our family loved it. We handed out certificates to our favorite decorated houses. We made cookies for the police station, paramedics, and fire department. We donated food and returned shopping carts that wandered off. I wish we would have had the time and $$ to do it again this year.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s an amazing way to share and give back! Even if you can’t do it every year, I’m sure your kids will remember the good deeds they did and how good it make them feel. What a great thing to do, really!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this so much! Your parents are such beautiful examples of truly good people! Toys For Tots donates a toy to every single one of our students for Christmas and it is the most incredible thing to watch them see the library full of incredible toys-the magic in their eyes!! Everyone should be giving back when they are able!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, they are great people indeed. :) Aww, it must be a very special day for your students! And hopefully they will grow into adults who have the chance to be able to give back too… :) x

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s not very galmourous so I rarely talk about it but I think it’s one of the things that help me survive the 211 for so long! I felt I was giving back a little. :) Love you too my dear friend! xx

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A lovely post. I always feel terrible that I literally never have change on me when I see homeless people… but I was in Cardiff last weekend and it was so cold and I couldn’t believe just how many homeless people there were braving the awful conditions. So I went to the Tim Hortons and bought a bunch of coffees and hot chocolates and Tim bits and handed them out. I’ve always wanted to do that. They were all so lovely and so grateful and it really makes you feel good inside to put a smile on someone’s face for a few moments. In fact, I know it sounds weird but it almost feels selfish because I feel like I get as much, if not more out of it than they do. I also want to take the time to talk to people on the streets; I think more than anything they must feel alone. As I was handing out hot drinks there was a young girl talking to one of the young men who was homeless and I thought what she’s doing is amazing. Giving time.

    It also makes you want to do more. The rest of the night I kept wondering if they’d found shelter and how awful it must be sleeping rough. That StreetLink is a fantastic idea… you wonder how people without phones and internet can ever know what is available to them. I want to make even more of an effort this year to give back. I will keep all of these suggestions in mind!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel the same, I almost never have change on me… It’s a really great thing you did, taking food and drinks to those people! I’m sure it helped warm them a little as well. I was in Toronto once with friends and we saw a mother begging with her two toddlers… It was so sad. We went to a nearby fast-food and bought them meals and cold drinks (it was the middle of summer, awfully how in downtown Toronto). You’re right when you say it makes us feel almost selfish but I guess it’s a win-win. I wish this feeling could inspire more people to give, both resources and time!

      StreetLInk is a great organisation. You may have heard of the 211 Helpline in Canada? It’s a phone resources where people can call free to receive the contact information of help resources such as shelters, food banks, etc. There was also a phone book of all those resources available for consultation at most shelters for thos elooking to get out of the streets. I wish there was something similar here…

      Doing more for others is a fantastic new year resolution, let me know how you get on! :) x

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, what a great initiative! You’re right, a little goes a long way and like you said, this particular program can have a long lasting impact on the kids. Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll save the link and see if I can participate somehow from the UK. :)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a lovely post – you’re so right, being kind is so important and a value I hope I can instil in my daughter from a young age. Your family sound amazing – what fantastic role models!

    And congratulations because someone loved this post so much, they added it to the #BlogCrush linky! Feel free to collect your “I’ve been featured” blog badge :)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I loved this post & related so much. It’s so important to pay it forward, especially when you’ve grown up less fortunate. As a daughter of a mom who worked her hardest to give us all she could but couldn’t make ends meet, it resonates with me a lot. Thank you for sharing your story. <3

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, thank you for your kind words! I’m glad you liked the post and could relate. I’m very happy to see I’m not the only one who feels this way… If we all pay it forward just a little bit, the world will be a much better place. xx

      Liked by 1 person

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