Monday, December 9, 2013

Season of Giving

Holy moly folks, we're two weeks out from December 25. I've got most of my gift shopping done, how about you? Like so many people I have just about everything I need - as do a lot of my friends and family. There's a lot of traffic online this time of year about gifts. Our in boxes and news feeds are chock full of bargains if you buy NOW NOW NOW - and there are countless opinion pieces about where your holiday dollars should end up.

This is not one of those. I think you can do what you like with your money, but I'd like to share what I do each year.

I think carefully about the kids in my life and what meaning my gifts will have for them. Overwhelm them with piles of plastic crap and they won't remember anything, but just the right thoughtful things can give them joy. When kids get the gimmes, it's unpleasant for everyone - including them.

I like to make a donation. I'm not flush with cash, but I budget a bit each year to donate at Christmas time. It's a perspective thing - I have a roof over my head, I'm free from persecution, I'm relatively healthy and so is my family. Others are not as lucky as me so it's not a big deal to go without avocado or berries for a few weeks to top up the amount.

How to choose?

The good news is, you can't go wrong if your heart's in the right place.

Sarah Wilson often comes up with worthy causes, and with a following like hers she's in a great position to make a difference. I think that's ace. Last year I donated to one of the causes she listed, and also to the ASRC.

My folks have told me that they have absolutely everything they need, so they like to receive a card but not any gifts - so I make a donation in their name. 

Here they are, proving that everyone in our family pulls a very weird face whenever a camera points in our general direction.

This year there are so many causes that spring to mind I thought I'd compile a top ten (in no particular order) handy list with links and information, in case you're stuck for ideas. Every little bit helps - so even if you're like me and can't afford to give much, giving something is worth taking the time to do. Tell your friends and family - they might appreciate the idea, and then they don't have to spend any time at Myer or Chadstone and be trampled or elbowed or go cray trying to find a park.

Love Your Sister leaves me in a blubbering mess whenever it comes on the telly. I love what Sam is doing for his sister Connie, and the difference it's making in spreading awareness about early detection of breast cancer. Check your boobs! If you don't have any boobs, check your partner's boobs! (If they say it's ok).The donation button is on the front page of the website. Sam must have a very sore bottom after riding so many km's around the country on a unicycle. Think of your bottom, think of boobs. Donate.

Bowel Cancer Australia is a cause very close to my heart. I lost a friend who was 30 years old just before Easter this year to cancer. I miss Rel every day, and just like breast cancer, early detection is a big factor in survival rates from bowel cancer. If there's something up with your butt, or your poop, or your energy levels in general - get a check up and if your doctor isn't caring enough about what's going on, get a second opinion. Rel went to a doctor about six months before her diagnosis complaining of stomach pains and very low energy, her test results came back with low liver function, but the doctor didn't recommend any further investigation. By the time they caught it, she was stage four (there is no stage five). If something is wrong, get tested. There's test kits available on the Bowel Cancer Australia website, as well a a big donate sign on the front page. Other places that I'd like to suggest in memory of Rel are The Gawler Foundation who provide amazing support and wellness retreats for people with cancer, multiple sclerosis and other serious illness, and the Make A Wish Foundation who make dreams come true for young people who have terminal illness. When your time is running low and there's been a lot of investment in medical costs, there often isn't a lot left over for fun and bucket list items. Both of these foundations made a big difference in the last few years for Rel. See her blog for more info about her journey.

PBS is your local friendly community radio station - if you like supporting purveyors of fine tunes by underrepresented creative types, you can show your love through purchasing a membership or just making a donation. A PBS membership is also a really good Christmas present for any freeloader PBS listener you know - start them off in the right direction for a year and they may keep subscribing. Yay music! Yay Melbourne!

It's 2013, and there's still a crapload of discrimation and shizz going on for queer folks. The good news is that the next generation are starting to show us old fuddy-duddies how its done. Minus18 is a brilliant organisation based in Melbourne who do all sorts of things - run underage dance parties for queer kids, questioning kids, and their friends. They're backed by Victoria Police and do an absolutely brilliant job. A safe space to explore who you are is essential for good self esteem, and Minus18 provide amazing services and online resources like this one. You can donate to Minus18 here. Why is this important? Because suicide rates are still high amongst GLBTIQ young people, and anything that cuts through isolation and reaches out is literally a life saver.

The Royal Children's Hospital is fricken amazing. My niece was airlifted there from Mildura last month after coming off her horse and knocking her head quite badly. The care and facilities there are absolutely world class - all of the staff I encountered were respectful of Sarah as a human and never spoke down to her, something that doesn't always happen with children. She spent a couple of days in the ICU and now she's right as rain. What initially could have been a severe brain injury with lifelong impact was healed and I will be forever grateful to the RCH for their amazing work.  I know they have a big appeal in April, but why not chuck em a bit of love in December and shake things up a bit? Their donate button is at the bottom of their home page.

Dudes. What the actual Uck is going on with the treatment of asylum seekers in this country? If you have rage about this and also a heart, donate to the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre. They do very good things for new arrivals, like not sticking them in concentration camps, or sending them home where their ethnic minority is in constant danger of hate crimes and death. The ace things they do are outlined here. If you live near Melbourne and need a cleaner or some catering, contact the ASRC and they can help you out as well as providing an asylum seeker with employment. Yay! Seriously, I've used their catering for events before and it is yum town. It's a scientific fact that ethical catering taste 900% more delicious. The ASRC website's home page has a donate button.

The Lort Smith Animal Hospital do so many wonderful things. Located in North Melbourne, they provide budget vet care for people with a concession card who have pets. I adopted my cat Gingko from there nearly 14 years ago. We are pals - and she controls the remote in our house. Gingko says donate to the Lort Smith, or I will stare into your soul until you melt inside!

Equal Love is a good one to donate to if you think it's totally lame that Tony Abbott and a bunch of other jerks think my lady-loving relationship shouldn't be legally recognised in the same way as heterosexual relationships. Like Britney Spears and K-Fed, or Elizabeth Taylor and all of her husbands. I think we can all agree that Kanye and Kim will be 4 EVA though.

Anyhoo, Ali Hogg (convenor of Equal Love) works harder than anyone I know to try and get marriage equality happening in this country. You can donate to the cause through their home page.

That's all from me. I wish you a zenny Christmas and a safe and fulfilling new year.


  1. Hi Jenny,

    Thanks for posting this .... It's always good to be able to give even a little ... like you say good reminder about what we do have.

    Unicef also have some great ones ....

    I didnt know the Asylum Seeker resource centre did catering ... good to know

    Happy Christmas ....

    1. Happy Christmas ma'am! Those Unicef gifts look brilliant, really practical and something people can visualise working.

      Seriously lady - the catering is divine. Yum!

  2. On Christmas day I go to Flinders St Station with a bucket of candy canes (an anonymous donation from my work - anonymous because they don't know so shhh!) and give them out to anyone who's game enough to take them from my elf-like self. I meet lots of homeless folks who like me, either don't have family or are estranged from them. I always have wicked chats & no one leaves without either laughing with me or at me. Then I go to St. Kilda, have yummy pastries from the awesome bakeries along Acland St before I head down to the Espy Hotel where I spend a few hours travelling the world through the stories & tales of all the friendly backpackers that congregate there for a beer & the company of other travelers away from home. Rain, hail or shine it's always a hoot! After that I make my way back closer to home & pop in to a few of the many "after family/orphans" festive feasts. I love the crazy uncle stories and hearing about the dramatic family politics and who stuffed up roast/what caught on fire/when grandpa got too drunk and fell over onto auntie who didn't wake up and was still snoring after the whole family almost wet themselves and they lost their 4yr old niece who was found to be playing in the kennel with old rover dressed as a nurse etc etc. That's how I do Christmas. I don't give pressies because I like to do that privately when people don't expect it however I like leaving anonymous ones for the kids of things I wish I had as a kid, like a compass and books I read but wish is read earlier etc. Thanks for the ideas Jenny, I'm going to use some of them very soon :) xx

    1. How gorgeous you are Chris, what a treasure the world has scored having you be here xxx