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.
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.