Denrele Animasaun, London
We all have the means to bestow on others the most lavish gifts; love, joy, peace, hope, kindness, acceptance, encouragement, laughter, forgiveness, time. There is not enough money to buy them and not too little money to give them. The more you spend, the wealthier you become; yet nothing will cost you more than what you freely possess to give. -Eden Elliot
The British are well known for donating to good causes at home and abroad. They give old furniture, clothes, books, and miscellaneous to charity. All these donations are given then sold to the public by the charity shops then the proceeds is then used to help the poor and the disadvantaged. Even in this recession times, the British are giving and they keep on giving.
Over the years, they raised millions and millions of pounds to helped refugees in the Sudan, Ethiopia, and Sierra Leone. They help across the globe to support subsistence farmers get fair price for their produce. They have set up training for street children, former prostitutes and marginalised women.
Why is this relevant? It is important to know that giving helps the giver as well as the receiver. I am not talking of handing out one- off several bags of rice , a box of stationery , with the photographers on toe to record the spectacle. Far from it.
Giving is much more than that and it should form part of our psyche. I know there are many unsung heroes and heroines in Nigeria who are giving without fanfare, pomp and pageantry. I know people who send clothes, shoes and books home to be distributed amongst the less privileged . People who send home hospital equipments, give financial assistance to school to furnish their libraries, labs and sports halls. I have heard of health professionals giving time to help out in their communities.
I have seen firsthand a group of retired nurses, fund raising yearly to provide scholarships, run an orphanage and provide pipe borne water system in their villages in Nigeria. We should all attempt to emulate these amazing selfless individuals who through their generosity transform lives. I once had the opportunity of meeting an inspiring woman, Maria who had a dream to transform the lives of children in her village in Brazil. She realised her dream by donating gift in a shoe box.
In every shoebox she placed a pair of slippers, tooth brush, tooth paste, a book, a comb, sample-size shampoos, soaps and deodorant, a top and a pair of underpants, cap or hat. In the last decade she started from 100 shoe boxes to 10,000 shoeboxes a year! People heard about her charity they told their friends , who told their friends and it grew from there. Some of these children are now giving back by extending this brand of kindness to others.
Last month Marks & Spencer, one of the largest retail companies in the UK, launched its Shwopping campaign. The idea is to encourage people to bring old garments into stores when they buy new ones, to reduce the one billion items chucked into UK landfill each year. More crucially, the old clothes will be sold or recycled by Oxfam, which already offers a £5 voucher to people bringing old M&S clothes into its charity shops.
In recession pressed UK, about 3 million people live below poverty line. They go hungry for reasons ranging from redundancy to receiving an unexpected bill on a low income. There are people volunteering at the entrance of food store ,raising awareness about shopping for extra food item and giving it to the food bank. Food is also collected at ‘Supermarket Collections’: These are events held at supermarkets where volunteers give shoppers a ‘foodbank shopping list’ and ask them to buy an extra item or two for local people in crisis. . All food is donated by the public and sorted by volunteers.
In these hard times, Food banks help prevent crime, housing loss, family breakdown and mental health problems. A simple box of food makes a big difference. They now work in partnership with faith groups and communities to distribute all food donations to those in need. So far there is over 200 food banks and there are plans to have one in every town .
Frontline care professionals, such as doctors and social workers, identify people in crisis and issue a food voucher. They then, receive three days of nutritionally balanced, non-perishable food in exchange for their food voucher. Food banks also make time to chat and to signpost clients to other helpful services. Volunteers sort food to check that it’s in date and pack it into boxes ready to be given to people in need. The food banks provide a minimum of three days emergency food and support to people experiencing crisis in the UK.
Last year, the food bank fed 128,687 people nationwide, 100% more than the previous year. Rising costs of food and fuel combined with static income, high unemployment and changes to benefits are causing more and more people to come to food banks for help. This is admirable considering that the country is considered one of the richest in the world.
So as you know charity begins at home. If you could, today have a rummage through your closets, garage, rooms and collect all your old, unwanted clothes, shoes, toys, books or other items. They could be of use to others. Better still, make up a box of promise, get your children to help, fill it with the essentials like pencils, erasers, a book, crayons, pass it on to a school where it can be distributed to those in need. A random act of kindness is so good for your emotional well being. Even in hard times , it is so important that we reach out and do whatever we can to help those less fortunate.
“The life of a man consists not in seeing visions and in dreaming dreams, but in active charity and in willing service”- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1807-1882