a few generous things to do cos it’s Christmas!

Posted on November 29th, 2010

Christmas time, right. Time to care, really.

In my family, we don’t do presents…which leaves a gaping hole for giving in other ways. Below are a few ideas, based mostly on some projects I’m working on…

1. give $2 to the homeless in your ‘hood.


I’m an ambassador for StreetSmart. So, is Stephen Fry! In the lead-up to Christmas, StreetSmart  restaurants – Longrain, Otto, Coast, Universal, Sake, Red Spice Road, Mezzo Bar&Grill, Ladro, Cutler & Co, Il Centro Restaurant & Bar, ecco Bistro, Urbane and hundreds of others – ask diners to donate $2 to StreetSmart on their bill.

The two bucks is simply added to your bill.  I’ve always liked this idea…it gives you the option to opt out…but invites you with conviction to give…it makes it easier for us to care, which I think we all want.

The cash goes to homeless projects in nearby areas – choirs, book exchanges and simple accommodation and food. This matters. Donating local I think is good. It’s more intimate. You’re more part of it. Your care is tangible.

I guess what you can do is choose to eat at a participating restaurant. And ask your favourite cafe/restaurant to take part next year.

2. if you’re buying gifts…

…check out this Women in Business gift guide Clare put together, which supports Australian women in business.

And avoid products made by this list of companies that committed some pretty sexist acts this year.

3. donate to Aboriginal literacy

2010-11-29_0713 Four out of 5 Aboriginal kids in remote communities can’t read. Donate some extra $$ to the Australian Literacy & Numeracy Foundation here.

4. or donate to young girls.

I’m also involved in the Because I Am a Girl campaign. ‘Because I am a Girl’ is Plan International’s global campaign to fight gender inequality, promote girls’ rights and lift millions of girls out of poverty. If you want to know why this matters…click here.


Do you have any gift ideas that matter? I’m happy for you to add here…

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  • Jess

    Thanks for the list, Sarah.

    A few years ago I asked my family to not give me any presents for Christmas and told them I would not be giving them anything either (and by presents I mean that dreadful “last year they gave us a DVD player so we have to equal or better that this year / nonsense chemical gift basket from Myer” nonsense). Instead I make mulberry jam from our tree in the back yard, and write everyone a Proper Card and make sure at some point during the holidays that I look everyone in my family in the eye and tell them I love them with all my heart (via skype if necessary!). I cannot tell you how much this has enriched my life.

    And my own little private Christmas tradition has become going to Kmart in late December and spending as much money as I can on toys to put under their Wishing Tree. I get to indulge in my “kids don’t need pretend laptops – they need skipping ropes and chess sets” bias and I usually end up having a little sniffle in the back aisle somewhere because it feels so damn good to give it all away.


  • These are really fantastic suggestions for reaching out during this special season. I hadn’t been familiar with Because I Am a Girl and was so touched by the power of the movement when I visited the site. Thanks for sharing it.


  • Mia

    Sarah, your bio on the Because I Am A Girl website, about your start in journalism through Caroline Jones’ Search For Meaning radio show… that was so touching. I love the idea that people in the media can reach you on a truly personal level, and that now you are able to give that back by helping out such a worthy cause.

    I usually tune out when I hear about the cause for women, which is sad to admit – being a woman myself! I fear that angry feminists of the world have made me jaded. Because I Am A Girl is the antithesis of that – beautiful, upbeat and positive!

    Thank you for a brilliant post!


  • Anon

    Why should we donate to Aboriginal literacy? Aboriginals get so much for free, free schooling for one thing, I don’t understand why they would need our donations.


    Kim Reply:

    I live in a remote Indigenous community and my kids are Indigenous. If the kids here want to go to boarding school in the city it is means tested – not free. I know Indigenous parents who pay full price for their children’s boarding school education.


  • shereen

    Sarah, the StreetSmart initiative is a great idea. I believe omelessness is an issue that is not publicised enough and is often overlooked. After travelling around the world, you see homelessness in every country & it is such an exruciatingly painful thing to witness. You will be in a city and pass by the same people begging day after day, and if you returned a year or so later, your life would have gone on, but they’ll still be on the same street corner begging. It is so easy to complain about the life we are given, we constantly feel we are not good enough or that circumstances fail to meet our expectations. But we don’t realise how lucky we are! Can we really fathom what it would be like to sleep outside in the freezing cold, in the snow, no shelter, nightmares, no assurance of food. None of us will ever really know. When I feel the desire to complain as of late, my conscious always brings me back to the sight of all of these people, the subaltern, those without a voice. & I try my hardest to button my mouth!! Thank you, for using your voice and your position to advocate such a worthy cause. I look forward to taking part in this initiative and others like it.


  • At the UNICEF website, you can help women set up businesses, villages build wells and other cool stuff as a gift and they send you a card saying where and what.


  • Prue

    For a donation of $25 at the Fred Hollows website, you can give someone a gift that keeps on giving for a lifetime – the gift of sight. You are then sent a Gift of Sight card to give to your loved one to let them know a donation has been made.


  • Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for the list! I had the opportunity to donate to Street Smart at breakfast on Sunday morning and I’ll also be taking a bag of unopened bath goodies to the girls at Fitted for Work – they also appreciate any gently worn corporate clothing that they can offer to disadvantaged women getting back into the workplace. It’s more fun giving that receiving sometimes isn’t it! http://www.fittedforwork.org/


  • Amanda

    Last year I called a homeless shelter and asked them if I could get anything for them for a Christmas dinner. I had decided to spend a certain amount per each member of my family, on a dinner for the homeless. The woman from the shleter said they had been panicking about what to serve – she couldn’t believe I was serious and asked for “some chicken”. I asked what else, and she said another item and I had to pry a long list out of her as she became more and more incredulous. It didn’t sound like she thought I was for real. I didn’t want a big fuss when I dropped off the bags of groceries, I just carried them into the kitchen at the shelter. But the looks of such profound gratitude on the faces of the staff at that shelter were priceless. It also made sitting down to a ridiculously over-catered Christmas dinner with my own family that night, that much easier for me. I am aware of the paradox in giving “selflessly” to make ourselves feel better, but as long as one gives without an expectation of feeling fulfilled or affirmed, I think it’s still a win-win situation.