What can I do to help? is a question many of us find ourselves asking these days, especially with the state of the world being what it is. It hits particularly hard as Christmas draws nearer and we’re reminded that not everyone is in a position where they can simply enjoy the celebrations.
That said, the things on this list can be done year-round. The festive season is a good time to stop, reassess, and see what kind of contribution we can make—a Christmassy wake-up call, if you like—but I think it’s important to do what we can at any time. (Emphasis on what we can, since it’s not the same for everyone. I’ve tried to include actions that aren’t just monetary donations.)
This is something I haven’t always been very good at, and I’d like that to change. So, as I always do in times of reflection, I made a list.
|Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash|
Donate to your local food bank
It’s not unusual to see a news story about how more and more people are using food banks. The Trussell Trust alone provided 658,048 emergency supplies between April and September 2018, which is a 13% increase on the same period in 2017. The figure in 2013 was 355,982. It’s not good enough.
There are a few ways you can help. The Trussell Trust has a tool that tells you what your local food bank needs most, and gives you the address and opening times. If you can’t get there, most supermarkets have their own donation boxes at the front of the store—it takes no time to add some extra tins of food to your trolley and drop them off after you’ve finished your shopping. You could also donate products from your own cupboards that you know you’re not going to use, which has the bonus of saving on unnecessary food waste.
Help tackle period poverty
Period poverty is very real, and it affects people of all ages and backgrounds. Here’s how you can help:
- Donate sanitary products to your local food bank (they normally accept non-food items, too).
- Donate sanitary products to your local homeless shelter to support #TheHomelessPeriod.
- Get involved with your local The Red Box Project, which provides red boxes filled with free sanitary products to local schools.
- Sign this petition for free sanitary products for all children on free school meals (a first step towards providing free sanitary products for all children).
- Switch to reusable pads from Earthwise Girls—they donate a pad to an orphaned girl in Kenya every time someone buys a pack of three. (I’ll be writing a post about my experience with reusable pads in early 2019.)
Send unwanted toiletries to Beauty Banks
Lots of us think of a lack of food when we think of poverty, but hygiene poverty (being unable to afford essential toiletries like deodorant, toothpaste, and shampoo) is also a huge issue, which is why Sali Hughes and Jo Jones set up Beauty Banks. Beauty Banks is a non-profit organisation that sends donated toiletries to food banks and homeless shelters.
All you need to do is gather together your unwanted, unopened toiletries, pack them in a box with Beauty Banks written on every side of it, and post them to:
c/o Jo Jones
The Communications Store
2 Kensington Square
London W8 5EP
It’s a great way of making sure any surplus Christmas gift sets go to someone who really needs them. And as Hughes says in her piece for The Pool, items like moisturiser, spot cream and a sharp razor can go long way in helping someone in crisis feel dignified again.
You can also buy directly from the Beauty Banks wishlist and help supply everything they need, direct to their headquarters.
Download the StreetLink app
I find it appalling that homelessness is still such a significant issue, and so do the team behind StreetLink. You can use the StreetLink app or website to send an alert when you see someone sleeping rough. The more information you include (location, gender, age etc), the more likely they are to be found. The organisation will then try and help that person, sending an outreach team to assess the situation and offer the appropriate support, hopefully getting them off the streets sooner rather than later.
Use Give As You Live every time you shop online
Give As You Live is a system I first heard about on Josie’s blog. The concept is simple—every time you buy something online from a participating reader, they’ll donate a percentage of the cost of your purchase to your chosen charity. Mine is the homeless charity Shelter, but there are over 200,000 UK-registered charities to choose from, including Cancer Research, the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, and Greenpeace, and you can change it at any time. It makes a noticeable difference if you’re buying bigger items like electricals and car insurance, but smaller, more regular purchases like your weekly food shop soon add up.
Is there anything you’d add to this list? Let me know in the comments.