The holiday season is fast approaching and most of us will have some idea of what we’d like to find under the tree this Christmas. If you’re stuck for Christmas gift ideas and you want to give something that’ll make a slightly bigger impact than Marks and Spencers 100% cotton socks, here are five charities who offer ways you can give something life-changing, without spending a fortune.
Until I came across Centre Point, I had no idea how many young people in the UK were homeless or in unsafe accomodation. A staggering 80,000 young people are sleeping rough, or temporary accomodation, ‘sofa surfing’ or staying somewhere unsuitable or unsafe accommodation. These kids didn’t ask for their deal in life – they’ve been through family breakdowns, deprivation and abuse, being dragged through care and a whole host of other complex situations. These kids are part of our future and it’s shocking to find there’s so little help, and therefore hope, for them.
Centre Point is a brilliant charity that offers housing to 1,300+ young people every year in London and North East regions. Coming through Centre Point, these kids get support anything from 9 nights up to 2 years, receiving not just a warm, safe place to stay but the help and support they need to tackle the problems that got them where they are. Centre Point try and turn their lives around, and work hard to influence policy for a better future long term too. Funding is raised through ‘room sponsorship’ – for which you receive information about the room you sponsor and the young person that is staying in it.
Sponsoring a room on someone else’s behalf for as long as your gift budget will allow (£12/month) would make an amazing gift, and give a young person a real opportunity to find their feet in life.
This amazing organisation provides children who are orphans with a new family and home. Children are given an ‘SOS mother’ and join a family of around 10 in size. The charity has 518 children’s villages in 125 different countries. Their work is funded by a sort of ‘sponsor a child’ programme which costs £20 a month. However, there are two big differences to other such programmes which really make the organisation stand out to me:
1) All of your money goes to the cause. There’s no deductions for admin. This is really unique.
2) Your money goes directly to the expenses of the village where your sponsored child lives. You may think this isn’t great because it doesn’t go to your exact child. However, it’s better that way as more kids get the help they need – and it’s a lot more than is offered by other programmes who often don’t guarantee your money goes anywhere near the child you think you’re sponsoring.
You can also send additional financial gifts to the child for Christmas or birthdays if you want to – these are put into a savings account for that specific child.
Basically, this charity gives kids a mum, a roof over their heads and the opportunity of life. I think that makes them very special. A year’s sponsorship, or as many months as your budget will allow, would make an awesome gift that way exceeds the impact of a box of Thorntons. As lovely as they are.
It’s easy to forget the work of some of our oldest and most established charities but try to remember the NSPCC on your giving list. They tirelessly strive to end cruelty to children in the UK. Again, the figures are staggering – in the last 10 years, they’ve helped at least 750,000 vulnerable kids – it’s incredible to believe we live in a society where so many children are threatened, or in dangerous, unstable environments. As well as helping kids directly, they work to change the law for the better as well as educating adults in the process.
There are loads of ways you can make this a gift – for example, you can give a letter from Santa, or let someone get their will written by a solicitor for the cost of a charitable donation.
Kiva is a not-for-profit microfinance organisation that allows you to loan money to people in need all over the World. Microfinance means providing financial services (like loans) to low-income individuals or to those who do not have access to typical banking services. The idea behind this is that low-income individuals can get themselves out of poverty if they are given access to financial services. Through Kiva, you choose who you lend to, and how much you lend (from $25 up). You don’t lose the money – it gets paid back and then you can lend it to someone else – but naturally, there is some risk involved. Kiva simply gives people the power to create opportunity for themselves and others, with our help.
The range of projects is really wide – so you can choose something that’s close to your heart – projects cover Arts, Clothing, Construction, Education, Entertainment, Food, Health, Housing, Manufacturing, Retail, Services, Transportation and Wholesale. There’s also a category ‘personal use’ – I once lent towards a motorbike for someone, just because. Think how it would be if you could never, ever afford to treat yourself.
Kiva lets you buy gift certificates so you can give others these as a present, enabling them to choose the causes they want to put them towards.
The Good Gifts Catalogue is an absolute genuis of an idea from the Charities Advisory Trust, which is a registered charity with over 30 years of experience. Rather than buying your friends and family the usual run of the mill gifts, you can buy a ‘good gift’ on their behalf. They’ll receive a nicely presented gift card with details of what you bought for them, and a free warm fuzzy feeling. Of course, you can buy a good gift for yourself if you just want to donate to a really good cause.
100% of the money you give goes to what you’ve bought and there’s plenty to choose from, starting at around a fiver. I let my little girl pick the last things I ordered – she chose the gift of sight for a child and warm clothes for another child. There was a slightly amusing moment when she contemplated that perhaps the same child should have received both gifts but I’m pretty sure the overall message was beneficial. I love the idea of both giving and receiving these items, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be on the end of some truly amazing gifts including a well for a village.