Saturday, 14 April 2012

The Joy of Giving

 If you can, give. Most of us can and it feels wonderful.

When we cleared out our lives in the UK we took great pleasure in donating most of what we owned to local charity shops. Every weekend we donated at least one full car load if not more. Last year we also gave the majority of everything my Mum had ever owned to local cancer charities. Perhaps we could have made a bit of cash at a car boot sale, and sometimes that's a good option, but for us giving our belongings away was much more joyful. I think seeing beloved possessions go for 50p might have been upsetting, but letting them go freely and hoping that the charity will make some money (probably more than we could) was a great feeling.

Charity shops are wonderful places and I'm so thankful that the UK and many other countries have embraced them. The concept doesn't exist yet in China, as far as I know, so I've been concerned about what to do with excess belongings while we're here. The most important thing of course, as far as waste is concerned, is 'don't buy anything you don't really need'. As for things like children's clothes, until recently I was a bit stumped. L will soon grow out of some really lovely knitted jumpers that I'd hate to throw away. A stay at our new favourite hostel Sim's in Chengdu a few weeks ago provided the answer. There they have a donation cupboard where items are taken to deprived areas of Tibet. I love that the cute clothes that are getting a bit tight on L will now hopefully one day be worn by a Tibetan child.

As we tried to find homes for our many belongings in the UK, I met some really inspiring people. I met a great lady whose company was doing matched fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support, she sold things like our infant car seat that charity shops wouldn't take. We also linked up with a wonderful team at a local homeless charity who we gave our cot and other children's items, cutlery, crockery, spare linens and goodness knows what else too. They help young people set up homes after they have been homeless, and it was great to be able to help them as their work is very underfunded. They also took all our art and craft supplies as the shelter does art therapy when the young people first arrive. We made complete strangers happy as they took from our home a plethora of no longer needed items- a toastie maker, baby sling, silver cutlery, garden toys and much more through the freecycle network.  We did sell some of our belongings but the mass giving was a much more positive experience.
I think that giving financially is important too, if you can. I give regularly to two of my favourite charities Amnesty International and Concern Worldwide. I'm really inspired by individuals who pledge a certain percentage of their income to charity, this isn't just wealthy philanthropists but also people with more modest incomes. I'd like to give more but currently as nothing is going into my bank account I have to be careful. In the UK, charitable giving is widespread. In 2009/10, 56% of adults living in households in the UK donated to charitable causes. This is great, but could be even better. 

Giving your time is also a wonderful thing to do, I think it's fantastic how many people volunteer in their free time to help others. This is something I'd currently really like to do, I need to find a good opportunity.

We are so privileged in the West and most of us own so much more than we need.  If you're sitting at a computer, reading blogs, then most likely you are very well off compared to so many in the world. So thank your lucky stars, stay grateful and be generous with your time, belongings and money to help those less well off. It helps others and makes you feel good so everybody wins!

 “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”
Dalai Lama XIV

How do you choose to give?


  1. What a wonderful post! I am enjoying reading your blog about China - we moved to New Zealand from Scotland and admittedly we did take with us all our stuff (made it easier when the employer here paid for a 40ft container including a car...) I just wanted to echo what you said about just giving things away. When my daughter was younger I volunteered for a small charity sending things to orphanages in Ukraine and it made me so happy thinking the things which I had donated (and bought in a charity shop in the first place) were going somewhere to get another home. You asked how people volunteer - I am a languages teacher and am just about to volunteer my time teaching English to refugees here. Just an hour or so a week, but I am so excited about it!
    The way you gave all your things away was just amazing - what a fantastic thing to do.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment and kind words Emma, nice to hear of another Scot abroad!

      We do still have things in storage and we definitely could have done better but I did learn so much from the process. I'd now really like to get back into the storage space, to give more things away!

      Your volunteering experince sounds great, good luck with it!

  2. What was the local homeless charity? I think I would rather give away children's clothes and toys for free to local homeless families than to the charity shops.

    1. Hey! It was CCP, general number here, I'm afraid I've forgotten the name of my contact but they'll help on the phone, they do pick up too.

    2. Brilliant thanks! just emailed them!