Stories

With Christmas around the corner, we’re interviewing ChildFund supporters to find out what the festive season means to them and what motivates them to buy Gifts for Good.

For Carol Vleeskens the perfect Christmas gift is one that’s meaningful for both the donor and the recipient, and benefits the wider community.

Every year for the past nine years, the New South Wales resident has bought her Christmas presents from ChildFund’s Gifts for Good catalogue, which supports disadvantaged children and families around the world.

Among the gifts she’s purchased are solar lamps for children living in homes without electricity, ducks for families, and study sets and sports equipment for children.

Giving Gifts for Good is about sharing a part of herself with her loved ones, says Carol. Social justice is an area close to her heart and she has had a long history working with NGOs in the areas of social welfare and child protection.

“When I first started buying Gifts for Good I was looking for opportunities to support charities in a way that I felt like I could share with people around me that I was passionate about a particular cause,” she says.

It’s about “stirring the social justice gene”, says Carol, and she hopes the Gifts for Good her friends and family receive inspire them to help disadvantaged communities.

“It’s about getting people to recognise that ‘things’ aren’t important as we live in an amazingly privileged country and time, and there are many people who don’t have the same opportunities,” she says.

Each Gift for Good she buys has been carefully considered. She makes sure the gifts align with the recipients’ personalities or interests.

“I will try and match the gift to the person,” Carol says. “For example, I have a friend who works in public health so I gave her the gift that provides children with mosquito nets.”

“If I know someone who is a really good leader in their community, I’ll give them a gift that’s about empowering children and youth to become leaders in their community.

“If I know someone who is passionate about gardening I might give them one about seeds or trees.”

In addition to being an expression of her values and having meaning for her friends and family, buying Gifts for Good is easy.

“Gifts for good is fantastic because I don’t have to think!” Carol says. “I don’t have to go to the shops and spend time thinking about what someone has or doesn’t have, or if something is in their colour scheme. I don’t have to don’t do any of that.”

Carol buys Gifts for Good a couple of times a year and gives them as Christmas and birthday presents.

“I buy a whole heap and keep the Gifts for Good cards in my cupboards because don’t go off and get eaten like my chocolates!”

We’re a lucky country.

That’s the consensus of the students at Georges River Grammar in south-west Sydney.

“People in Australia have so much but we forget how little other people have,” sixth-grader Lourdes says.

“I think we should give more to charity because people in other countries aren’t as lucky as we are,” Oscar, also in Grade 6, adds.

We’re sitting under a giant fig tree in the school playground, and it’s clear the Grade 6 students we’re speaking to are wonderfully bright and compassionate. They’re also savvy and know a thing or two about the struggles their peers growing up in developing communities face.

For almost two decades staff at Georges River Grammar have taught their students about the importance of helping others.

The school, which has more than 470 students between kindergarten and Grade 6, has been sponsoring children through ChildFund since 2001 and hold regular fundraising activities each year to support disadvantaged children and communities.

Their most recent event – Helping Others Afternoon – raised $3000 for ChildFund’s Laos Nutrition Appeal and children affected by the Philippines typhoon, which killed dozens of people in September and forced more than 236,000 families to abandon their homes.

The money were raised over an afternoon in October when classes from Grade 2 to Grade 6 ran stalls and activities for students, including face painting and games, and sold cakes and second-hand books and toys.