Gift Ideas: A Guide to Giving
We all know the theory: Good will to all people, a time for giving, “ye who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing”. But how easy it is to emerge into the New Year from the hubbub of Christmas to find that the only gainers from our celebrations of Jesus’ birth are our waistlines, our overdrafts and the people who give us stuff back. There is no shortage of charities offering opportunities to include giving and supporting their work in our celebrations. So, as an early (and admittedly rather cheap) gift to you, let Reform suggest some simple ways to make sure that a few more people benefit from your celebrations.
SEND A DESK
Present Aid, Christian Aid’s alternative giving scheme, has been running for eight years and has raised £16m. It allows you to give your friends and family gifts such as chickens for a family in India, or seeds for a farmer in Malawi.
There are more than 50 gifts to choose from. Most popular is the goat, with 23,000 takers since 2005. The second bestselling is new this year: For £12, a lap desk (pictured) gives a child with no school access the chance to learn to read and write, allowing classes to be held in the evening in a church hall, or under the shade of a tree at home. Or your church could club together to buy a well for £268.
For more information phone 020 7523 2225 or visit www.presentaid.org
The Traidcraft catalogue offers a wide range of rather charming Christmas decorations, all produced in the developing world, from Peru to Thailand, and 100% fairly traded. There are nativity scenes and baubles, Advent calendars and recycled paper angels. You can buy your cards and wrapping paper there too, along with chocolate coins and Christmas pudding.
While you’re looking at the Traidcraft catalogue, there are Christmas shopping opportunities there too, from bookmarks through to a decorative firescreen depicting the tree of life. Traidcraft sells the UK’s widest range of fairly traded products, and works directly with producers.
For more information phone 0845 330 8900 or visit www.traidcraftshop.co.uk
GIVE AS YOU BUY
Giving doesn’t come more pain-free than supporting the work of Oasis through the Give As You Live scheme. If you shop over the internet, then signing up to the scheme means that whenever you buy online from one of the 3,000 participating retailers, they give a part of the price to Oasis, at no extra cost to you. Try it for your Christmas shopping, and you’ll keep giving throughout the year, without noticing it. The scheme has raised £4m for the charities involved. Oasis is a Christian charity working with young people and their families, developing healthy, whole and safe communities.
For more information phone 020 7921 4200 or visit www.giveasyoulive.com/join/oasis
WEAR A JUMPER
Save the Children
Friday 13 December is Christmas Jumper Day. In schools, offices and homes, people wear their Christmas jumper and pay £1 to Save the Children. If you want to organise a jumper-wearing event, you can register online or by phone, for a free fundraising kit.
This year for the first time, John Lewis are selling a Save the Children Christmas Jumper, with £25 out of £49 going to the charity.
Save the Children works in 120 countries for the rights and welfare of children.
For more information phone 020 7012 6400 or visit www.savethechildren.org.uk/christmas-jumper-day
SPONSOR A CHILD
For a personal gift, you could give a loved one child sponsorship, or join together as a family to raise the £15 a month. With that money, ActionAid will support a whole community in the country you choose, from Guatemala to Burma. Sponsors help and communicate with an individual child, but ActionAid spreads the benefits of sponsorship more widely within the community, explaining: “We’ve learnt that it’s counter-productive to help one child and not others.” Sponsorship might build a school, pay for teachers, or provide seeds and irrigation for a family.
For more information phone 01460 238000 or visit www.actionaid.org.uk/child
PULL A CRACKER
Embrace the Middle East
Will there be peanut butter in your Christmas cracker? Crackers from Embrace the Middle East include everything you expect – paper hat, bad joke, and a bang – and something you might not. Instead of tweezers or a plastic magnifying glass, there is an alternative gift sent to disadvantaged people in the Middle East. It could be eye screening, travel for a disabled child, or peanut butter – nutritious and easily stored – for a pregnant refugee. Crackers are £24 for six, with £12 being spent on the gifts. Embrace works with local Christians in the Middle East to provide health, education and community development programmes.
To order, phone 01227 811646, or visit www.embracechristmas.org
Life in Bethlehem today is not Christmas-card cosy, so Amos Trust offer a resource pack to help churches talk about the current situation there at Christmas. You can base a whole service around it, or just take some prayers from it. It includes reflections, prayers and a liturgy; stats about Bethlehem then and now; firsthand accounts from local Christians of Christmas under occupation; and links to short film clips about Bethlehem.
Amos Trust is a human rights charity supporting justice and peace initiatives in Palestine/Israel and elsewhere.
For more information, phone 020 7588 2638, or visit www.amostrust.org
SUPPORT A UK CHILD
Action for Children
This year, Action for Children’s Christmas appeal is for children who feel crushed under the pressure of adult problems. When parents face redundancy, illness, divorce or domestic abuse, children can struggle to cope with daily life. The charity has projects in local communities, offering: Intensive family support, counselling in schools, art therapy sessions in children’s centres and more.
As well as giving directly to the appeal, you can buy Action for Children’s Christmas cards, some of them designed by the children they support.
For more information, phone 0300 1232112, or visit www.actionforchildren.org.uk/itsnottheirfault
This article was published in the December 2013/January 2014 edition of Reform.