Kick off the Giving Season by Helping Kids to Think Globally on “Giving Tuesday”

By Wendy As we get closer to Christmas, it’s hard to get my kids to see beyond their wish list to think about giving rather than “gimme”.

For them, “thinking globally” extends about as far as figuring out where we live in relation to the North Pole; in a big world of over 7 billion, it’s a growing concern whether Santa will be able to make all the rounds in one night.

When it comes to living close to Santa, it’s pretty sweet for us Canadians – we’re pretty much next door neighbours – and it shows by the bounty under the tree on Christmas Day.

Maybe, my kids wonder, it’s because they live so far away from the North Pole that children in some countries don’t get any Christmas gifts…

“So maybe”, I say to my kids, “Santa can use our help.” They look at me quizzically: But how?


Enter the charitable gift giving catalogue. There are many to choose from, but here are a couple to get started:

Canada Food for the Hungry “Gifts for Change” Gift Guide; and Plan Canada Gifts of Hope

I love these catalogues and what they have to offer: meaningful gifts – many under $30 - for the hard-to-buy-for person on your Christmas list; and hope for those who receive much needed training, equipment, supplies and animals. Many of these gifts are matched with a donation by a government, foundation or organizational partner that extends the reach of a gift to help even more people and communities.

My kids enjoy looking through the catalogues and choosing gifts that match the people on our list:

• seeds or gardening tools for a grandparent or neighbour with a green thumb

• school supplies or uniforms for a favourite teacher

• sports equipment for an awesome coach

This year they will get a kick out of trying to decide who most deserves “a piece of crap” – a gift that turns poop into environmentally friendly organic fertilizer for growing veggies. No doubt they will point at each other!

For bigger ticket items with an even bigger impact – like filling a stable with animals or a medical clinic with supplies – it’s fun to browse the catalogue at a family gathering, or at the office and decide on a gift as a group.

This week, Tuesday, December 2 is Giving Tuesday, which - following Black Friday and Cyber Monday – kicks off the giving season from now until Christmas. Giving charitable gifts that help our global neighbours is the perfect way to give and give back at the same time!

And there are plenty of other great ideas at Whatever you choose to do, make sure to get the kids involved - and don’t forget to Tweet your #unselfie to @GivingTuesdayCA!

How will you encourage your kids to focus on the giving, not the getting, this Christmas season?

If I had a million dollars...

If you had a million dollars, what charity would you donate to? Thinking about this question had me floored for a while. How do you choose just one?? How do you decide which cause trumps another?

The answer is simple - every cause out there merits attention. Children with special needs, cancer research, hospitals, homeless shelters, environmental groups...the list goes on! What's important is that a charity means something personal to us - somehow, we have been touched by something and believe passionately that we must make a difference in the world.

So, in light of a recent conversation, I believe that my money (if there was ONE MILLION DOLLARS in my bank account...hehe, I can't help but do that in an Austin Powers voice) would go to Hopewell, Ottawa's Eating Disorder Support Centre.

Now, I think that I might be slightly biased towards this wonderful local charity. I worked there for two years as their Program Coordinator - organizing support groups, applying for funding and developing new programs. But there is no better way to get to know more about a charity than to work with one :)

According to experts, we currently have an "epidemic" of overweight and obese children in our society. When we think about weight, we normally don't think about eating disorders - that's because we picture the stereotypical case of anorexia, when an individual restricts food intake. But eating disorders run on a wide spectrum, and there are such a variety of issues. Many eating disorders begin in childhood, and children are not taught about what it means to have a healthy relationship with our bodies and our food.

That's where Hopewell comes in - although they also provide front-line services for those individuals who are very ill, they are also focused on prevention. Getting to the root cause of our challenges with food and weight are essential in solving the current epidemic. And we won't be able to do it without a fundamental shift in our thinking - shaming, extreme diets, and weight loss surgery are NOT the way to go.

If you've never heard of Hopewell, please check them out! Consider donating to this amazing organization, whether you have $5 or $1,000,000


Giving Back at the Holidays

food bank rachelNow that December is upon us, many people are starting to get into the holiday spirit. For some, that means thinking about what they are thankful for during the year and wanting to pay it forward in the season of giving. Over the past year, my girls have volunteered in a few ways. Both have visited the Ottawa Food back and learned that not everyone in Ottawa has enough to eat each and every day. They've visited residents in nursing homes to play games and sing with them and have shared their allowance with the typhoon victims in the Philippines.

Giving back doesn't need to be big. It just needs to be meaningful. For kids, learning that there are people who need a helping hand is a great lesson in empathy and kindness. There are so many ways to get your kids involved. Here are a few ideas for you and you kids:

  • Donate to a charitable organization
  • Invite an elderly neighbor or someone who lives alone to join your celebration 
  • Deliver a meal to a family in need
  • Write a thoughtful note to someone special
  • Donate clothes you've outgrown
  • Donate food to a local charity or food bank
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen
  • Send a care package to a soldier
  • Visit hospital patients
  • Foster a dog or cat
  • Adopt an endangered animal through a zoo
  • Shovel snow for a neighbor
  • Help pick up trash at a local park
  • Join a church or school group that does community service projects

Giving back is a great thing to do all year round, but the holidays tend to bring out the charitable side in most people. Try some of these ideas with your family and make a difference this holiday season.

How does your family give back at the Holidays?

Christmas Shoe Boxes

This year we were looking for a Christmas charity geared for children that would help our daughter better understand the world. A friend recommended Operation Christmas Child or the Christmas Shoe Box as we now call it. Operation Christmas Child is a charitable project from Samaritan’s Purse that strives to provide gift filled shoe boxes to children around the world. Shoe boxes from Canada are primarily sent to countries in Central and South America, the Caribbean and West Africa. Each shoe box can be filled with either a boy or girl in mind, within 3 age groups (2-4, 5-9, or 10-14). You can use either a regular sized shoe box, or a plastic box. The boxes can be wrapped, but the lid needs to be wrapped separately. I believe that they are checked before being shipped overseas. The suggested items are all small things that we may take for granted, but that can mean so much to children.

Here are some of the suggested items:

- notebook

- pencils/ pens

- eraser

- pencil sharpener

- pencil crayons

- toothbrush

- pair of socks

- comb

- bar of soap (in sealed bag)

- wash cloth

- toothbrush

- pack of stickers

- ball

- toy car

- activity book

- small soft toy

- hard candy (in sealed bag)

This can also be a great group charity activity. You can set aside a time for everyone to fill their shoe box, or each child could bring in an item from the list and the group can fill as many shoe boxes as possible.

To cover operating costs, they request a donation of at least $7 a box. This can be placed in an envelope inside the shoe box, or online at Operation Christmas Child collection takes place the week of November 21-27, so it’s a great way to start your holiday season. There are various collection points across the city. Check the locator for the location nearest you.

Alison is the mother to two energetic children, ages "almost 6" and 2. She blogs at  Ali’s Adventures.

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