Sunday, December 09, 2007

Who needs your Christmas gift most?

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It's the time of year that compassionate old ladies knit shawls and stuff teddy bears for sick kids in hospital. When men with hearts of gold pass around the hat in pubs to raise dollars to buy toys for the children in the wards.

It's all very heartwarming, but I have a word to say on it. In the 1990s, I was the public relations manager of Sydney Children's Hospital. My job was to raise public awareness of the hospital and to handle all media inquiries -- daily media releases; celebrity tours of cancer wards so that soap opera actors and sports people could publicize themselves; children's condition reports for journalists; damage control when the hospital goofed. But I was also the officer who was the first port of call for people and corporations donating gifts to the hospital.

Your gifts might well be unneeded and unwanted
Each Christmas and Easter we were inundated with 'stuff'. Toys from big companies and the general public, enormous Christmas trees (last year's design from the floors and windows of big department stores, banks, and so on), chocolates, Easter eggs, sweets, Christmas hampers, decorations, and the rest. To be perfectly blunt, the hospital itself, and each child, got far more than could possibly be used. One Easter, we got a truckload of so much chocolate that the choice was either to send it to the tip (landfill), or let all the staff take the booty home. Nurses, doctors and clerical staff left that evening carrying several kilos each of the finest Belgian chocolate. The kids still gorged themselves sick.

It was a matter of course for us to take carloads of toys and games to other charities -- and I don't think that those organizations were so very grateful to add them to their bulging storerooms and warehouses.

Still, kindly people would come in with armfuls of presents "for the poor sick kiddies". They kept me busy.

In my experience, the plain fact is that rich-country hospitals (and probably many charities) need money for equipment, but not more stuff for the kids. Chances are that your lovingly crafted soft toys and hampers of junk food will go home with hospital staff, or to the Salvation Army, because the kids are already smothered with presents on top of what their own families and friends lay on them.

By way of contrast, I previously worked for the refugee aid organization, Austcare. It was hard to get a buck from the public to help those most unfortunate of men, women and children, usually from poor countries -- those who have fled torture, repression and the possibility of execution. Racism and xenophobia, as well as lack of global awareness, tend to tip the Australian scales of compassion and right action.

This Christmas, instead of giving unneeded toys to kids in a rich country, why not give Austcare or another refugee aid organization a few bucks to help people who are poor, traumatized and very, very needy? These philanthropic societies need cash, and most of them will use it very wisely. That makes for a happy Christmas, no?

YouTube: Do they know it's Christmas

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Blogger maria said...

I totally agree with you Pip.

There is an awful lot of money wasted on the wrong causes just because it's Christmas.

I rather donate my money for hospital equipment or some small
NGO's who do a lot of good work in Haiti,(for example).

My favorite right now is :

I even raise money for them by doing Good Search.


3:22 AM  

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