Christmas is synonymous with giving; from filling stockings to the office Christmas Secret Santa to the annual charity appeals. Of course this is reflected in a season that is also associated with excess, waste, and constant reminders to remember the original message of the festival rather than falling for yet another Black Friday campaign insisting that you really do need to buy the toy or gadget of the year. In the wake of this it seems that more and more people are looking for ways to give back at Christmas which go over and above dropping £5 in a charity collection box. So here are seven ways that you can make a difference…
1. In both London and New York there are truly novel shops; places that you can enter and browse, buy gifts, but leave empty handed. These are the physical spaces of Choose Love, an initiative which supplies essential items for refugees. The London store is at 30-32 Fouberts Place, Carnaby Street and there you can buy food, clothes, and services which are distributed to refugees. Prices start at £3 for a hot meal or shower and top out at £599 for a “buy store” option which includes a month’s rent and food for a family, a donation to a women’s safe space, tents, books, and clothing as well as everything else listed in the shop. For those who cannot get to London or New York you can also buy items online at https://choose.love
2. Whether you love them or loathe them, Christmas jumpers are here to stay. To do some good while wearing yours, you can buy a Peace, Love, Hope, or Joy sweatshirt from a collaboration between Selfish Mother and Save The Children. If their £55 price tag is more than you can spend on a seasonal jumper, consider donating £2 to the charity on Christmas Jumper Day (Friday 14th December)- ugly vintage jumpers welcome.
Jumpers can be bought here: https://www.thefmlystore.com/collections/save-the-children
Sign up for Christmas Jumper Day here: https://christmasjumperday.org/about-christmas-jumper-day/
3. Most of us grew up with traditional advent calendars; a tiny square of chocolate each morning, or even a glimpse of a nativity scene for those with sugar-phobic parents. Today its not uncommon for people to spend hundreds of pounds on luxury beauty or wine calendars, but there is a way to celebrate advent and help others. The concept of the reverse advent calendar is easy; you find a cardboard box, and every day in advent you add an essential item before taking the box to a food bank or homeless shelter on Christmas Eve. It may already be December but there’s plenty of time to catch up.
4. Do you remember Operation Christmas Child? The annual appeal for schools and organisations to fill a shoebox with gifts for underprivileged children was a staple of my adolescence. However, the charity’s links with fundamental religious groups have made the cause less attractive for many contributors. Alternative box appeals include the Christian charity Links to Hope, which does not participate in any evangelism alongside the gifts, Aquabox, and women’s charity Refuge.
Shoebox appeals: https://humanism.org.uk/humanism/humanism-today/humanists-doing/good-causes-and-charities/samaritans-purse/
5. Have some time off over Christmas and want to put it to good use? Crisis have a special programme of Christmas services from the 23rd to the 30th December, including a Dogs Service which offers help and support for dogs belonging to homeless people. While the Dogs Service only operates from London whereas other volunteering opportunities are available across the UK.
Crisis Christmas volunteering: https://www.crisis.org.uk/get-involved/volunteer/
Dogs Service volunteering: https://www.crisis.org.uk/get-involved/christmas-volunteering-london/wellbeing-services/dogs-service-volunteer/
6. Loneliness amongst the elderly has been a recurring news theme this year. While there is a need for year round volunteers, Christmas can be a particularly hard time for those who live alone. Community Christmas is looking for people to arrange get-togethers for eldelry people, whether a Christmas Day lunch, evening at the pub, or film screening at a village hall. If that is too much, perhaps make an effort to invite a neighbour (whether old or not) who lives alone around for a cup of tea (and maybe a mince pie)
How to get involved with Community Christmas: https://communitychristmas.org.uk/get-involved/events-and-activities/
7. Send a Cow Africa is an established charity, and many readers will know that through them you can purchase a cow for a rural household in the developing world. For a Christmassy vibe you can buy a donkey and associated handling and care training, for just £12. In return you will receive a card and information to give to a friend or family member for Christmas, to show them how their gift will make a difference. There are also options to buy other farm animals, seeds, water purification, schooling for children, veterinary care, motorbikes, and radios, with a price range to suit all budgets
Send a Cow: https://sendacowgifts.org/gifts/