I don't know about you, but I find it really hard to have a jolly ho -ho good time knowing there are people going hungry - about 13 million of them to be precise, not counting those outside Africa. Now I have found the perfect presents to send on behalf of the adults in my life. This allows me to indulge in that consumer impulse without too much guilt. Care has some not too expensive but useful gifts which may help to change someone’s life for the better. For little more than the price of a handful of Christmas cards, I have variously bought a chook, some schoolbooks and some condoms and provided a school kit for a High School girl. I really, really wanted to buy a piglet too, but I am already over budget.
There are many other brilliant ideas for those with deeper pockets e.g. – water for a family ($60) or a community ($450), a whole menagerie of animals ($338), teacher training, toilets for schools, paying for a girl to be able to go to school ($69), training a woman to become a legal worker, even things like landmine clearance or a bicycle for a birth attendant ($120). These are exactly the kinds of things I was thinking about which have long term effects and may help to bring about cultural change, rather than forever dealing with ongoing crises.
I particularly like that Care is non -religious, and as well as providing emergency relief, works on the underlying causes of poverty by helping women with things like education and setting up businesses. Unlike some other agencies, only 9% of the money is spent on administrative costs and where possible, they source products within the countries in which they work, thereby by helping their economies to grow too.
These are the kind of gifts I like. They take up no space, do a little good and don’t need dusting. Nor do you have that embarrassing moment when Auntie Flo comes around to see what you’ve done with that hideous vase she sent you three Christmases ago.
Here’s a simple way to help our nearest neighbours and also get children involved so that they too can experience the joy of giving at Christmas rather than just getting more stuff. An Ocean of Books collects children's books and sends them to poor schools throughout the Pacific. Children simply donate one or two books (in good condition) that they no longer read via a school book drive. Or, if you have no books, no money and or no children, you could offer to take part in surveys for which they receive a small fee.
Now about that other cultural change...
Schizophrenia in the Media
I find it faintly ironic that the above articles appeared in the Travel and Indulgence section of the newspaper. On the reverse side there are the usual advertorials for luxury hotels and expensive spa treatments etc. The Better Homes and Gardens magazine which included Kiva and the other suggestions mentioned previously, wasn’t much better with expensive kitchenware and extravagant pet treats featured on alternate pages. However, at least it’s an attempt to balance the consumer fest with some thought for others. Perhaps, like the mountains of festive food featured on one side of the page, followed by exhortations to lose weight on the other, I think it reflects a society doing battle with itself as older values give way to new ones. I suspect that it also reflects the internal battle going on in each of us as old certainties give way to new realities.
Perhaps we need a new model of Santa to reflect the times- Santa Lite - slim and trim with no red noses, laughing a little less maniacally and with only a small rolling suitcase in the interests of occupational health and safety.
Have a great Christmas with lots of light, life and laughter