[ADVERT]As a nation we're a fairly compassionate bunch of people. Each year Australians give almost $2 billion to charity.
Christmas often brings into sharp focus just how lucky most of us are with family, friends, presents and a great feast to mark the occasion. But with busy lives and financial pressures it can sometimes be difficult to find the time or money to give the amount of help that we would like to.
Here are six ways to lend a hand this Christmas, whatever your limitations.
1. Get Some Retail Therapy Too busy shopping for all those Christmas gifts? Add a couple extra to your basket and donate them to charity. The Kmart Wishing Tree is an Australian Christmas tradition which has been established over the past 26 years. In 2012, 450,000 gifts were given to people in need through program partner the Salvation Army. Some other businesses have followed suit, either with gift giving programs or donating a portion of proceeds to charity, so keep your eyes peeled.
2. Wrap Presents for Charity Are you crafty? Can you tie a ravishing ribbon around a perfect parcel? Charities such as HeartKids SA, the Endeavour Foundation and Pain Support ACT operate gift wrapping services in major shopping centres and department stores over Christmas to raise funds for their charities. Many organisations even provide training to gift wrapping novices. Check out volunteer.com.au for opportunities or ask your local shopping centre management.
3. Sing to Bring Joy It's incredible how much joy a rendition of Silent Night or We Wish You a Merry Christmas can bring to those who are feeling down or lonely.
Whether it's joining the Salvation Army carollers, your local choir (try a quick internet search or call your local community centre) or banding together with a few friends who can hold a tune, carolling can be used as a method of raising money, or simply to bring joy to those who might be lonely this Christmas (think nursing homes, hospitals, hostels).
Wish someone in need a Merry Christmas with a song
Charity starts at home. You don't have to join a cause or give money to make a difference. Visit your Nan and make her dinner, take a Christmas food parcel to your friend who has lost their job or mind your sister's new baby so she can have a much needed break. It's the little things that will bring a smile to an otherwise frowning face this festive season.
6. Ol' Faithful: Donate Cash
Don't have time but have a bit of spare cash? You might feel like it's an unoriginal and passive option, but online donation is easy, tax deductible and important. Poverty in Australia is real: the Poverty in Australia Report 2012 revealed that 2.2 million people are still living below the poverty line in Australia. Do your research first and find a reputable charity where you can be sure your dollar is going to good use, whatever cause you choose.