Growing up, my sister and I were lucky enough to have a part of our education abroad. Lucky, because it gave us the chance to experience different cultures, cuisines and classroom politics.
One of the things we managed to bring from classroom to home was Christmas. Every year, we would dress the fake, silk palm tree that stood in the corner of the lounge with tinsel. An angel fashioned from aluminium foil would be perched precariously on the top of our make shift fir. My sister and I would be given a small allowance to buy gifts for each other with and there’d always be a gift for us from our parents too.
The years progressed. We returned to India. The silk palm tree was stowed away in the attic and long forgotten. Our Christmas tradition along with it.
In the last 6 months I have been reunited with this festival. And unlike in India, where Christmas is more about Midnight Mass and family lunches here all I see around me is mass consumerism. Gift guides, top 10 lists and must have presents. I should know – I’ve written enough of them myself. Since April, I’ve worked on brochures, radio spots, TV commercials and direct mailers for over 15 clients. I’ve encouraged people to buy Homer Simpson shower radios, cranberry scented candles and naughty, Santa’s little helper lingerie. While there’s nothing like receiving a well thought out gift, I’m sure people would rather get no gift at all than an electronic, singing trout.
This year, the average Briton will spend an average of £450 each on Christmas gifts.
That’s enough to feed a family of 6 in Sudan for a year. Now I’m not suggesting that
all of you return the gifts you’ve already bought or don’t buy the ones you’re planning
to. But I am suggesting this.
I’m sure the establishments many of you work for send out Christmas cards and gifts to
clients. Mine do. This year the agency had a budget of £2000 for corporate Christmas
gifts. A fine wine perhaps? Handmade chocolates flown in from Paris? Food hampers
from Fortnum and Mason? Donkeys? Donkeys!
A visit here gave us a wonderful list of unusual, Christmas
Gifts. Gifts that can be made on behalf of friends, family and business associates.
Donkeys, goats, school books, mango plantations – even a motorcycle. All of which go to
people who need
them the most in countries devastated by war or natural disaster. After much thought we
decided that the money would be used to build a classroom – replete with roof, toilets and
clean drinking water.
If your organisation is in the UK and hasn’t decided what to send clients yet give this a thought. Apart from Oxfam, The Independent has chosen 3 charities as part of its
Make a Difference initiative which are doing fantastic work across the globe. If you’re in India you can make a contribution to CRY, Project Why, ASha or any other charity that your organisation would like to support. Then send an e-mail out to your clients telling them what you’ve done in their name.
So maybe clients won’t get a chocolate walnut log this Christmas. But they’ll get to feel good knowing that they’ve made education a possibility for a child somewhere. And that’s something you can’t put a price on.