November 8 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Keeping Christmas real

Christmas is a time for celebrating the birth of Jesus and how His love for us transforms our lives. However, Christmas is now all too often seen as a time of unrestrained indulgence, materialism and consumption. Here, SCIAF Volunteer Neil Alexander explains how the charity’s Christmas Real Gifts can help us to reach out in love to others, and recapture some of the real meaning of Christmas By Neil Alexander

For many people, Christmas has become an expensive and stressful time, with too much shopping in crowded streets for gifts such as the dreaded six-pack of socks that will be greeted with a forced smile and a polite thank you. This, along with too much to eat and drink, repeats of Del Boy and Rodney on the TV, and tasty leftovers, is what Christmas has become about.

But we don’t have to go along with this. By keeping our love for others at the heart of what we do, we can reach out beyond the narrow confines of consumption for consumption’s sake and bring a deeper joy to our loved ones and people in need throughout the world.

For little more than the price of those unloved socks people will never wear, books they’ll never read or DVDs they’ll never watch, SCIAF Real Gifts enable us to provide practical help to someone living in poverty. Instead of just throwing the socks in a drawer, the giver and receiver can go to sleep on Christmas Day knowing they have given, or been given, a present that will genuinely make a difference to the life of someone in need. You will also receive a special gift card and fridge magnet to pass on to your loved one.


Staying mobile

For instance, SCIAF’s Real Gift of a wheelchair repair kit will help disabled people in South Sudan to stay mobile, earn a living and keep their independence. This kit, which costs just £30, really is a life changing gift for disabled people in this war-torn, poverty stricken country.

Take Rebecca, a disabled lady living in South Sudan. She relies on her wheelchair to earn a living by selling produce at her local market. But when the chair broke down, she could not get to the market, leaving her without an income or the freedom to get around. However, thanks to the work of SCIAF partner, the Sudan Evangelical Movement, she was able to repair her wheelchair quickly. Rebecca was soon back at the busy market selling her produce, and with her wheelchair fully restored, she can be self-sufficient again.  Without her wheelchair working properly, Rebecca would also have had to rely on others to do basic day-to-day chores like fetching water and cooking meals.

A  SCIAF Real Gift of a wheelchair repair kit not only gives disabled people mobility, it helps them to regain their dignity too. Instead of being forced to drag themselves along the ground or stay at home and depend on others, if their wheelchair breaks down, they can repair it and get back on the road.

The key point of SCIAF’s ethical Christmas gifts is that their benefit selflessly reaches out beyond us and our immediate family to help other people who are less fortunate than ourselves. The range of gifts means there are many ways we can do this.


Education and farming

The Real Gift of school books for children can help many young people with their education in Cambodia. If you fancy giving something with a bit more life, the Real Gift of a Chicken, which provides eggs, meat and cash from the sale of extra eggs and chicks, might be your answer. Just one or two chickens can really change the lives of a whole family—from struggling to find enough food to having extra money, from the sale of surplus eggs or chicks, to pay for other types of food and essentials such as medicines and school fees.

Blanca Alicia de Paz and her family in El Salvador have received chickens thanks to SCIAF. “I sell the chickens for meat and eat some of the eggs,” she said. “Life is much better for us now.”

A SCIAF Real Gift can provide everything a family in Cambodia needs to set up a fish farm, something that can make a huge difference to their lives for many years into the future. Not only does a fish farm provide the obvious food of fish, but surplus stock can be sold and the money used to cover other family costs.

Gardeners can give pineapple and banana plants to help prevent soil erosion for a family in Haiti. When planted on a hillside, the long, tough leaves of pineapples and bananas create living barriers to trap water and prevent soil being washed away by rain, increasing the yield of other crops and supplying tasty pineapples and bananas which can be sold at market or used to provide important nourishment for the grower’s family.

Pigs are another popular SCIAF Real Gift that can make a huge difference to the lives of people in developing countries. Not only can they be a source of food but pigs can provide fertiliser and cash from the sale of piglets. Pigs really are the gift that keeps on giving, and with piglets selling for 100,000 riels (£15) each in Cambodia, every litter sold can provide cash for other essential goods.


Combat consumerism

In his homily in St Peter’s Square in September, Pope Francis called on us all to look deeply at consumerism and to be careful that it does not obscure God’s presence in our lives.

“Whenever material things, money, worldliness, become the centre of our lives, they take hold of us, they possess us; we lose our very identity as human beings,” the Pope said. “Let’s try to think: How does something like this happen? How do some people, perhaps ourselves included, end up becoming self-absorbed and finding security in material things which ultimately rob us of our face, our human face? This is what happens when we become complacent, when we no longer remember God.”

Pope Francis has also encouraged us to ‘find new ways to spread the Word of God to every corner of the world.’

So, this year, instead of buying bags full of presents that your loved ones don’t need, why not let your friends and family know that you would prefer them to spend the ‘sock money’ on one—or more—of SCIAF’s Real Gifts. By doing so you’ll be ensuring that people in developing countries can get something they really need—something that can change their lives, forever. By extending our love outwards in this way, we can also help to restore the true meaning of Christmas.









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