What do the holidays mean to you? Unfortunately, one of the first things that comes to my mind is wasting hard earned cash in the over-consumption of cheap plastic stuff you don't need. It seems like there is so much pressure to give gifts, we end up buying "something good enough" just so you can cross names off your list.
I would like to challenge you to shift the way you spend your holiday gift giving dollars from unnecessary stuff, to giving to those who can really use it. Come to think of it, it's not just about money. You can also donate your time, expertise or goods - it's all a gift. There's nothing better than getting your kids involved in the decision making process, and providing them with a firsthand philanthropic experience to watch them enjoy that feel-good rush we get by doing good.
The first step is finding a needy organization which reflects your interests and values.
Here's my list of national non-profits which resonate with me and my family:
World Vision - I didn't understand the amazing effect World Vision is having in developing worlds until I actually spent time in Malawi with a group from World Vision. I had the unbelievable gift of being taken to many small villages and seeing with my own eyes how our donations are helping build clean water wells, create sustainable farming, and provide education for orphaned kids. Since my visit, we've been sponsoring a little girl named Grace. Most holidays, my dad delves into his Holiday Gift Guide and buys assorted goats, sheep and medical clinics as gifts for my kids. They are proud to know they are making a small donation to some other kids' lives far away.
Huggies Every Little Bottom Program - I'll bet you never really thought about how diapers are a life essential when you have a baby. The sad truth is that so many women living in poverty can't afford to buy diapers for their baby. 1 in 5 Canadian moms have struggled to provide one of their babies’ this most basic need.* Instead they have to wash out and reuse diapers or choose between buying diapers and food. Through the Huggies Every Little Bottom program, you can donate money to help moms buy diapers, or host or attend a Diaper Drive. Last year Candace Derrickx discovered this program and launched into action, running a diaper drive in Ottawa. The idea caught on and Diaper Drives started popping up across the country. Boxes of diapers would make a needy mom's Christmas so much better. Here's how you can start your diaper drive. If you choose to run one, we'd be proud to post the details in our YMC events listing.
Free the Children - Started by a 12-year old Toronto boy determined to fight injustices faced by children in India, Free the Children has grown into a powerful organization that motivates youth to do good. My son and I experienced their We Day mega-event this year, and were inspired by the thousands of youths nationwide who are raising money and changing attitudes for the greater good. My son has started raking our neighbours’ leaves and donating the money to this charity. You can participate in a multitude of interactive programs to help fundraise - even take a family trip to their Kenyan headquarters to have a hands-on experience building a schoolhouse.
Rethink Breast Cancer - Five women in my life are currently battling breast cancer at this very moment. It's rampant. As fate would have it, I was invited to moderate a panel for Rethink Breast Cancer with four breast cancer survivors, making me that much more aware of the challenges we are facing while battling this disease. Rethink Breast Cancer's mandate is to support young adults concerned about or affected by breast cancer through education and research. They can use as much help as they can get to fund their programs. Women supporting women. There's nothing better.
SickKids Foundation - This charity has a special place in my heart. On a very personal note, I'm happy to say I've never had to bring my daughter to this hospital due to a severe anaphylactic reactions, but I'm relieved to know it's there should we ever need it. I know too many families who have had to spend way too much time at SickKids with ailing children, but all are so thankful for the quality of care. Not only does the hospital take care of local children, it is a hotbed of research and development for childhood diseases, with many medical breakthroughs coming from here. When my kids donated their money from their lemonade stand, they were given a plaque of appreciation. What a great gift that is on so many levels. There are all kinds of opportunities to donate and fundraise with SickKids.
Here's are some of the charities my Social Media friends support:
I'm in love with @KarmicEvolution's charity @5DollarProject! So doable and inspiring. Also, the Food Bank & Women's Shelters
Children's Wish, Covenant House, Hadassah Wizo, Sick Kids
Markham Stouffville Hospital Foundation. Expansion of the Maternal Health Unit in particular. Much needed and local.
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Children At Risk, Ottawa
Here in Ottawa, the Alzheimer's Society and Breast Cancer research
#zacksdreamroom of course! :-)
I'm all about Sick Kids. My DS5 is proof of the amazing dr's and nurses there!!
Big Brothers Big Sisters and United Way.
MADRE, Women for Women International
World Vision, Because I am A Girl, Canada Food Banks, Kiva, Kids Help Phone.
Save a Child's Heart (SACH)
@Ann-Marie Smith Burton
The Canadian Red Cross for sure!!
well, I'm a bit biased :) #redcrosscanada plus I volunteer/fundraise for uganda orphanage. I also love @WWFCanada adoptions
Youth Emergency Shelter, Peterborough
I am partial to @girlguidesofcan - donate both my time and my money to them!
What are the charities that you support? Tell me about them in the comments below, so we can turn this into a Give Back Guide for moms who want to make the holidays a happier one for all.
* Results of The HUGGIES® Every Little Bottom Study