There’s something sobering about watching a small child toss aside a half-opened Christmas present in the hope of finding a more instantly gratifying one in the pile beneath it. Or observing an office manager remove a festive hamper from reception with a frown that seems to say ‘Not another delivery of shortbread and Chardonnay!’
Every year at this time, perhaps in a fit of Bah-Humbug-itis, I reflect on how much money we knowingly spend on unwanted gifts when a tiny fraction of it would dramatically change the lives of others.
Sometimes it is just not possible to give someone the benefit of a donation made on their behalf. But sometimes it is. It’s never too early for kids to learn the happiness that comes from giving as well as receiving (see Happiness versus pleasure http://davidmichie.com/blog/2014/07/14/happiness-vs-pleasure-whats-the-difference/) And how wonderful if, by giving a gift, we seed curiosity in a cause that helps provide new energy and purpose to someone’s life?
If you’re struggling to find a gift for the person with everything, I’d like to make the following suggestions:
Sponsor a Tibetan Buddhist Nun: $365
You can sponsor a nun for a year at Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery for $365. Nunneries in the Himalayas have traditionally been the very poor relatives of monasteries. But the extraordinary and inspiring Western nun Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, who I have no doubt is a true bodhisattva, has established a wonderful nunnery in India where girls are accommodated, fed, cared for and provided with a mainstream education as well as taught about Buddhism.
This is a truly life-transforming gift for a girl who may otherwise be left to fend for herself in a society where there is no social support system, limited opportunities for self-improvement and where poverty and hardship are on a completely different scale from what most of us experience in the West.
For more information to to: http://tenzinpalmo.com/support/sponsor.htm (As a suggestion, you may like to supplement this gift with a copy of one of Tenzin Palmo’s books: (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=tenzin+palmo
Befriend a bear: $100
Animals Asia is a truly amazing organisation and I believe its founder, Jill Robinson, to be the Mother Theresa of the animal world. More than anyone else she has successfully fought to close down bear bile farms in China – prisons of the most barbaric cruelty. For $100 you can ‘befriend a bear’ enabling one of the former bear victims to live a life of freedom and contentment.
Befriending a bear for $100 is just the beginning. Animals Asia is also making huge inroads preventing the systemic cruelty inflicted on dogs and cats in China, both through direct action, as well as by successful public education campaigns.
For more about the befriend a bear package, which includes a photograph of the bear and a certificate, go to: https://www.animalsasia.org/au/donate/befriend-a-bear.html
Adopt an orang-utan: $65
Orang-utans are the most extraordinarily, gentle, intelligent and curious creatures. The world orang-utan means ‘person of the forest,’ implying their closeness in many ways to human beings. Tragically, thousands of orang-utans are being killed every year because of rapid de-forestation in Malaysia and Indonesia to make way for palm oil plantations. Within ten years, orang-utans will be mostly extinct in the wild.
The Orangutan Project is among the longest-established and most successful organisations working to create reserves where orang-utans can live without threat, to rescue those who have been orphaned or injured by plantation workers, and to confiscate those who are being kept illegally as pets. The Orangutan Project is founded and led by the highly-regarded Leif Cocks who, for over 25 years has devoted his life work to ensuring the survival of the orang-utan.
For $65 you can adopt an orang-utan, with a heart-tugging wall of candidates to choose from. Go to: http://www.orangutan.org.au/adopt_orphan_orangutan
Restore a person’s sight: $25
Four out of five blind people in the world don’t need to be. They are blind because they have no access to simple but life-changing surgery. You may not believe yourself to be a miracle worker, but for every person whose eyesight you restore, you have most certainly achieved a miracle.
The Fred Hollows Foundation is internationally renowned for its work mainly in Asia, Africa and Australia. It is a professional organisation I would highly recommend. For more information go to: http://www.hollows.org.au/
Save lions, servals, bats and monkeys: Any amount
The Twala Trust is an animal orphanage run in my native Zimbabwe by another inspiring animal lover and conservationist, Sarah Carter. Twala Trust is a small organisation, but run by the most fiercely committed group of people who have opened their doors and their hearts to all kinds of orphaned animals, from lions and serval cats to vervet monkeys and others whose photos you can find at: https://www.facebook.com/TheTwalaTrustAnimalSanctuary
As a country, Zimbabwe is in deep trouble: basic utilities like electricity and water can’t be relied upon, the currency is the US dollar, and unemployment is around 80%. Trying to manage any kind of organisation in such conditions is a struggle. The fact that Sarah and her team continue doing it, year after year, shows their remarkable courage, dedication and love for animals. All donations would be appreciated. Email Sarah at: firstname.lastname@example.org
There are so many extremely worthwhile causes, it’s really hard to pick out just a few. But these are charities I know well and which do extraordinary work. In some countries donations are tax deductible. But so what? Who cares? Be guided by your heart, and if you find this short-list of suggested gifts of any use, please share it with your friends.
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(Photos sourced from the relevant charity’s websites)