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How your Christmas shopping can change lives

Wondering what to buy friends and family this Christmas? Why not choose a gift that will make a real difference to someone in need?

Listening to the news and hearing of so many needs can be overwhelming, but Christmas offers us all a chance to make a difference to someone’s life.

It could be as simple as buying cards and gifts from a charity catalogue or choosing to buy (or receive) alternative gifts, which can transform the lives of people living in poverty or difficult conditions. There’s a wealth of ideas to suit all budgets and you can be sure that your money will be used wisely to improve the lives of those in need.

ALL WE CAN

For example, it takes just £91 to change the life of a Syrian woman who is a refugee in Jordan. The charity All We Can explain that Syrian refugee women who are widowed or without a husband are especially vulnerable, so they are trying to bring them together to develop new skills and training them how to start their own enterprises. These women develop small cooperatives like sewing groups that make clothes; craft groups that make soaps, candles and other items; beauticians and hairdressers who serve their community, and groups who prepare and cook food to sell.

The women each bring different experiences and areas of expertise, and they learn from each other. The women in one cookery group said: “We work together to achieve what we need from our business. Some manage the cooking, some are good with biscuits and sweet items, some are good with marketing, so we all work together on all things.”

Called the Change Bakers gift, your £91 helps vulnerable women develop friendships and earn a regular income to support their families. Find out more from allwecan.org.uk/Christmas or call 020 7224 4814.

BIG SISTERS

Embrace the Middle East support a project to help young girls growing up in Beirut, which provides mentors or big sisters to help girls stay on in school and learn more about their human rights. Their Big Sister gift costs £25.

Embrace say that even though they have escaped the immediate dangers of war, Syrian refugee children face overwhelming challenges in Lebanon. Having been through trauma, they then find themselves in an unfamiliar country, in poor living conditions, with no sense of stability and nowhere to go to school.

Even those who do manage to get a school place can find it hard to adjust to the Lebanese curriculum and there is a high rate of drop-outs amongst refugees.

Girls are particularly at risk of missing out on an education. They are often expected to stay at home to care for younger siblings and look after the house, and early marriage is a common phenomenon. Other out-of-school girls spend their time playing in the streets, where they are at risk of sexual exploitation and violence.

Beit el Nour, a Christian-led centre have been supporting vulnerable Lebanese girls for many years, and have adapted to the changing needs of the population by welcoming Syrians too. Its centre in the Bourj Hammoud area of Beirut offers numeracy and literacy classes in a friendly, caring environment where girls can make friends and increase their confidence.

The centre also reaches out to the girls’ parents, helping them learn about the emotional and physical dangers of early marriage and to understand the importance of educating girls.

And the project is working. Staff at the centre were delighted when a Syrian father recently registered his four daughters for another term at the after-school club and told them:

“Before, we used to hurry into finding a husband for our young daughters, but today we understood that we were wrong.
“I believe that the girls are still young and they should focus on education and activities that will help them in the future. Early marriage is a disaster!
“I am happy to find a place at the centre so my daughters can pursue their dreams and can accomplish something important in life.”

Find out more about the Big Sisters gift at https://shop.embraceme.org/products/big-sisters

FIVE REASONS TO CHOOSE AN ALTERNATIVE GIFT

• It’s easy
Chances are your favourite charity either produces an alternative gift catalogue or includes a section for gifts for life. Request a copy or visit the gift section on their website. You can make your purchases by phone, mail order or online. Simple.

• There’s something to suit all budgets
Whether you’re looking to spend £5, £50 or £500, there are lots of gifts to choose from. Why not club together to buy one special gift? It’s an excellent alternative to office ‘Secret Santa’. And don’t forget to add gift aid (if you’re eligible) to help your gift go further.

• There’s no waste
We’ve all given – and received – those presents that were funny or useful for five minutes, but if we’re honest were a waste of money. Choosing an alternative gift means you know your money has been well spent.

• It shows you’ve given some thought
With so many ideas to choose from, you can really tap into your friends and families’ interests. Do they love animals? Are they keen on education? Concerned about women’s rights? Would they like to support families, farmers or whole communities? You can show you understand their interests and concerns.

• It makes a big difference
For a small amount of money you can put a meal on the table, provide warm clothes for children or older people facing a harsh winter or contribute to the health and well-being of a whole village. Whatever you choose, you’re making a big difference, not just for Christmas, but for years to come.

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