This Christmas I want a goat. I would also be happy with two hens and a rooster.
Like many, I don't want more stuff. In fact, I struggle with the stuff I have and I am not alone in the battle with clutter and overconsumption. I yearn for a simpler life. I also want an ethical and value centered relationship with possessions (from a green and also economic justice point of view). I know these are "first world" problems, nonetheless they are my problems and maybe yours.
Along with too much stuff, comes the difficulty at Christmas of how much to spend and what to buy or receive from family. I remember the year I suggested to the adults that we make charitable donations instead of gifts. I feared for my life at the outcry. For several years I asked my elderly parents for gifts of food instead of objects or money. Consumables was the way to go. But, as my parents aged, it became increasingly hard and stressful for them to go out and buy it for us.
So, a few years ago, my husband gave me a goat from Plan Canada. Goats are hardy foragers, provide milk (nutritious and easy to digest), cheese, wool and meat (sorry goat). My parents, having grown up in rural Maceodonia, were well aware of the value of goats, and were faintly amused by the idea. According to their website Plan Canada is "not for profit, independent, and inclusive of all faiths and cultures, we have only one agenda: to improve the lives of children."
World Vision Canada also provides a similar type of service. According to their website they "help children, their families, and their communities by responding to the root causes of poverty." In addition to animals they also offer fruit trees and farming packets. They have a most needed category which includes feed a hungry family in Canada, build a community latrine, clean water for a family, stock a medical clinic etc.
I like donating to the modest, but deeply satisfying, Sleeping Children Around the World (SCAW). Their focus is good sleep for children. They work in partnership with indigenous Kiwanis groups and locally sourced products. They're frugal and careful with your money.
According to their website "SCAW donations provide bedkits to children of any race and/or religion who will benefit the most; typically being located in underdeveloped and developing countries. No portion of a bedkit donation is spent on administration — 100% reaches a needy child. Each $35.00 donation (Canadian funds) provides a bedkit that consists of a mat or mattress, pillow, sheet, blanket, mosquito net (if applicable), clothes outfit, and school supplies. Bedkit contents vary from country to country depending upon local needs." They've distributed over 1.4 million bedkits.
The Financial Post writes on their top 25 Canadian charities, evaluating them on transparency and financial accountability, which makes interesting reading (the three I've highlighted here all make the grade). If you're looking to evaluate Canadian charities you will be interested in the organization Charity Intelligence Canada (Ci). They use analytical research techniques to find exceptional charities for donors ... as they say "not just 'do gooders' but 'good doers', too".
If you're interested in some of the subjects I've touched on you may like these books:
Year round libraries, especially where I work at the Toronto Reference Library, see a lot of marginalized folks, those who struggle with poverty, loneliness, addiction or mental health issues. So I am also moved by the work of the Good Shepherd Ministries who work in downtown Toronto with the homeless - they serve 1300 meals a day.
During the holidays many of us will show generosity, compassion and kindness to help out a neighbor or stranger. Can I ask you this year instead of another white elephant gift, instead of another martini at a bar, instead of another gift card to someone who has enough, consider donating to a charity that moves you and speaks to your condition. Merry Christmas.