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10 Ways to give back this festive season

By Danielle van Wyk

It’s around this time of year that tinsel and sleigh bells, Christmas crackers and stockings, trimmed trees and presents seem to be the theme. As shopping malls, and homes alike prepare themselves for the Christmas season. But among all the carols singing and secret Santa shopping, it is easy to forget about those less fortunate and how they’ll be spending their holiday season. Danielle Van Wyk looks at ways in which you can give back and spread some cheer this season.

-Santa Shoebox challenge: The Santa Shoebox Project originated in Cape Town in 2006 with a humble 180 shoeboxes. In the last 10 years it has grown in leaps and bounds, with the number of Santa Shoeboxes donated reaching a total of 551 979. The shoeboxes are in turn distributed to more than 1000 recipient facilities, through more than 60 satellites around South Africa and Namibia. It’s too late to partake in 2016’s Santa Shoebox challenge, but keep an eye out for when the call to donate comes in 2017.

Through this project kids and teens are gifted with a shoebox of essentials from toiletries clothing items. Click here for more.

-Save the Children: Save the Children South Africa is part of the world’s largest independent development and rights based organisation for children, represented in over 120 countries worldwide. In South Africa, they aim to work in all provinces to ensure that every child, especially the most vulnerable, has a happy and healthy childhood. This is accomplished through various workshops and programmes, run throughout the year.

The options to assist are vast as you can either donate money to the organisation as you are able, become a volunteer or a commit to being a child guardian, who donates money to a designated child monthly. To find out more, click here.

-Santa Cause for Paws: This organisation collects and distributes pet food, toys, blankets and other much needed items to shelter animals in various areas of South Africa. Similar to the Santa Shoebox challenge, this initiative, which started in October 2013, provides to neglected dogs, cats, and other animals in need.

“Santa Cause for Paws’ is committed to collecting and distributing Christmas packs made by the public to various animal shelters. Our aim is to make Christmas a little more special for cats and dogs in shelters by providing them with treats that they would otherwise go without,” stated the organisation. Click here to read more.

-Donating to a night shelter: In South Africa we need only drive through the streets to see the multitude of homeless people living in our city. We tend to often roll up our windows and look the other way, forgetting about them almost as quickly as we tend to pull away. But it is a growing issue, and one that we can make a difference to this season.

There are an array of night shelters in the area of the Cape metropole, and with a bit of research, finding one that is in or close to your area shouldn’t be too hard. These shelters often rely on financial donations, or alternatively clothing and blankets are always welcome.

-Volunteering at a soup kitchen: For many as much as Christmas signifies family, we simply can’t deny the role the Christmas lunch plays. With various soup kitchens in and around the city, why not volunteer at one this season. This is something anyone can do, and it really gives you a sense of purpose and perspective to see how grateful many are for a simple meal and act of kindness. You can join Souper Troopers, which gives out soup, sandwiches and other things that the homeless may need. Besides donating items you can also volunteer your time.

-Nazareth House: Nazareth House Cape Town is a Non-Profit-Organisation (NPO) situated in Vredehoek and Elsies River.

“They aim to provide a loving, stable and secure home environment for abandoned, neglected, disabled and orphaned children as well as a last resting place for children with terminal conditions who are unable to return home due to sociable ills. Many are the victims of poverty and abusive homes. Compared to childcare, caring for the elderly is not a priority for most people. However, similarly to orphans, the elderly are often abused and abandoned or have no financial resources. Nazareth House provides residential care for frail aged men and women in desperate need,” stated Nazareth House.

You can donate or volunteer at the facilities on a day and time of your choice. Click here for more.

-Wheel Well- Car Seats for Kids: Make a difference in a family’s life and better ensure a child’s safety on the road, by donating car seats that you don’t use anymore.

“Wheel Well receives donated child safety seats to create a seat exchange where lower income families can receive child restraints in return for an affordable donation. The seats are thoroughly cleaned and checked for defects before they put into stock. We encourage parents to return the seats once outgrown to perpetuate the cycle,” added Wheel Well. 

For more information on drop-off points and the aims of the drive, click here.

-Walk a child to school: With the start of the new school year on the heels of the festive period, it is usually the time where parents may start purchasing items of uniform or school supplies for their kids. For many under privileged families, however, the monies to do so simply isn’t there.

The Walk a Child to School campaign tackles this issue by aiming to provide school shoes to children in need. The public is either provided with the necessaries to go and buy the shoes themselves, to drop them off at hand-over points, or they have the option of donating contributions directly to the foundation.

“We do not realise how precious a pair of school shoes is to someone. Shoes can significantly change a child's schooling experience,” stated the foundation. For more information, click here.

-Donating blood: The festive season constitutes one of busiest periods on the roads, as many travel to and from holiday destinations. With this influx of traffic, comes the increased risk of accidents. As road safety services gear up in anticipation, so do services like the South African National Blood Service (SANBS).

SANBS is an organisation of voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors, who seek to provide all patients with sufficient, safe, quality blood products and medical services.

“Donating a unit of this “precious gift of life” can save up to three lives of those patients in dire need of blood,” stated SANBS.

To find out where you can donate and for more information, click here.

-Host a Christmas party: Why not set a few more places at the Christmas lunch table this year, and invite an underprivileged family over to enjoy the day with you. It would require more planning, preparing and forking out on your part, but the experience to those who could otherwise not have afforded it, is priceless.

The spirit of Christmas is usually categorised by giving and sharing. It’s one of the few times a year when the atmosphere of togetherness seems to lace every greeting and festive activity. With that, the season is also about tradition and legacy. So why not start a new one this year and if someone does a good deed for you, remember to pay it forward.

  Handy tip: Many of the above suggested activities require planning, and with just over a month left till Christmas day, we suggest you get   organised. If you are unsure about doing this alone why not get the community involved or your friends and family. This can easily be done by joining a Facebook group starting a crowd funding page on a website like GoFundMe.

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