20/12/2013 11:13 GMT | Updated 19/02/2014 05:59 GMT

Christmas Charity Gifts Really Do Make a Difference

The worst Christmas present I ever had was from my grandad. And that, God rest his soul, is a cruel thing to write because his record on present-buying was otherwise second to none: football kits, mini snooker table, Subbuteo 1974 World Cup edition. His presents were always the most thrilling to unwrap. Then, one Christmas in the late seventies, I came to open a present I'd been examining for days. What could it be?

It was an electric toothbrush. There were no words to describe my despair and disappointment.

I only mention this because, let's be honest, it could well be the reaction you get from your child or grandchild the moment they realise you've gone and bought them a charity Christmas present.

But hear me out.

It needn't be the only thing they get for Christmas. There'll be other stuff they'll remember opening for a good long time. So why not give them something that might, even for one moment, take their thoughts away from themselves out onto the big, wide, world.

I recently went to a talk by a psychologist on how to parent teenagers. There was a fair amount of guff spoken. In fact, listening to some of the parents present, I wondered if the psychologist wouldn't have been better off giving the teenagers a talk on how to cope with their mums and dads.

However, several good points were made. The psychologist made absolute sense when she said that kids today have never had a greater sense of their rights and entitlements. Correct.

On the other hand, she said, they've never had less sense of their responsibilities. Also correct.

Now the gift of a goat for someone in Sierra Leone or reading lessons for a kid in Kenya isn't going to change any of that, but it will do no harm, and it'll do nothing but good for those who receive these gifts in far-off places of which our kids know little.

And these gifts really do make a difference. Trust me, I went to Guatemala and El Salvador with the charity Cafod to see it with my own eyes. The chickens - and the training to keep them correctly - which help families in the hills miles from anywhere with the food and raw materials to start their own businesses; the cheap-as-chips mother and baby care kits which, for buttons, give kids in remote areas the best chance of surviving and thriving in their first five years. Most of these things don't cost much and are life-changers.


And think of what you'll save in clutter. These gifts take up no space. Reflect on that this Boxing morning when, barefoot, you blearily pad down the stairs and tread on a piece of Lego. Painful, isn't it? Serves you right, I say. If you tread on a charity gift it doesn't hurt at all.

I've been talking about presents for kids; what about presents from kids? It does happen. And something from Cafod's World Gifts selection like a £4 Queen Bee to start a beehive or a £7 School Starter Pack wouldn't go amiss.


So having covered presents for kids, and from kids, what about presents for (or from) those people you hardly ever see and haven't a clue what to get them. Ok, maybe Auntie Pat won't be thrilled with a bag of worms to help a farmer in Peru fertilise his soil. But, what the hell, you can know for sure that the farmer in Peru will be thrilled to bits.

And if Auntie Pat really does kick off about it, just send her an electric toothbrush. That'll sort her out.

To find out more about World Gifts and to see the films from Adrian's trip to Central America click here.



Photo credit: Shea Bradley/ CAFOD