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

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