Only four weeks to go until the climax of the Season of Giving, Greed and Gluttony. Each year I hate Christmas a little more because of the frenetic and reckless spending on too much food and too many gifts, which could instead provide food, medical treatment and/or shelter for people who don’t have any. Every time somebody smugly pats their belly and says “Oh – I’m absolutely stuffed” I see visions of people starving to death. In their frenzy to get their hands on the latest must-have, children rip up and throw away wrapping paper and boxes which in other parts of the world would be treasured toys themselves. As a Christian celebration, where is the Christianity? Balancing these feelings with grand-parental love of the four youngest members of the family is a bit of a dilemma. We do not want them to think that we don’t care enough or are too stingy to buy them a Christmas present. For the last couple of years we’ve solved the problem in a way that we hope they appreciate – making charity donations on their behalf.
Some years back I went right off charities, after telephoning the UK offices of one of the largest. I’d been about to order their Christmas cards, and after idly reading the wording which said that “a proportion of the profits went towards ….” I wondered what that proportion was – 50%? 18%? 32%? 2%? Perhaps we ought to know? Curiosity aroused, I decided to ask. My polite question was met with a wall of arrogance, astonishment, rudeness and hostility, but could I get an answer? Bugger me backwards, I could not, which led me to the unavoidable conclusion that it wasn’t something they were proud of. And this so alarmed me that I never did order those cards and nor have I ever contributed to that charity again, praise-worthy though their efforts may be.
Unlike the multi-million pound charities with headquarter buildings, large advertising budgets and large staff with large expenses, the small charities struggle on quietly and mostly unknown and unsung. Tower Hill Stables, is such a one, a sanctuary for society’s rejects, the animals nobody else wants – too old, too ugly, too ill, too much trouble. The sanctuary in Essex, England is run by a flimsy-looking female called Fiona Oakes (Google her for some surprises), who cares almost single-handed for around 300 animals ranging from Shire Horses to hamsters. 100% of money received by Fiona goes to the feeding and veterinary care of her charges. That’s why it’s my No. 1 choice. With food bills reaching around £4,000 a month, she is in desperate need of support to supplement her own salary as a fire-fighter and her partner’s income, almost all of which is used for the benefit of the animals. £2 a month can make a difference. As all the grand-children are animal-lovers, for each one we have a monthly standing order donation to “adopt” a pet for them.
Other presents we have given the children include paying for uniforms and equipment for girls in Afghanistan to enable them to go to school for a year, and buying shoes for African schoolgirls.
This site has a fascinating range of ideas: helping educate or feed children or giving them toys; training teachers or medics or funding small businesses; buying a stove for Darfur refugees. There are also heaps of beautiful and original ethnic jewellery, gifts and clothing items, the purchase of which funds donations to charities. The cost of these gifts is derisory – less than a box of decent crackers; the warm glowy feeling they give is priceless.
Bonus! Purchases on the site are in dollars – which means they cost even less for those of us shopping in Sterling or Euros.
We had a fabulous present last year from our daughter, son-in-law and eldest grand-daughter: sponsorship of a beautiful little golden labrador called Willow, who is being trained to be a Guide Dog for the Blind.
Now, don’t say you can’t find anything for Auntie Polly or young Archie.