• These blonde Christmas fruitcakes support Youngcare, which aims to help young people exit or avoid aged care facilities. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
From cakes to coffee beans, these gifts make a difference.
Kylie Walker

5 Dec 2018 - 12:44 PM  UPDATED 11 Dec 2018 - 3:49 PM

As the end of the year approaches, present buying is in full swing. Whether you’re after a Christmas gift or a December birthday present, looking for a thoughtful purchase to mark other special days at this time of the year, looking ahead to various new year celebrations in January and February, or just wanting to make life better for others, if you are after a gift that makes a difference, here are some that caught our eye. Spending your money – or time – on these will not only give joy to friends or family, but help others, too.

Salsas and sauces

From jars of Syrian eggplant pickle to hand-printed tea towels, gifts sold by not-for-profit SisterWorks are made by women from migrant and refugee backgrounds taking steps towards employment and happy settled lives. SisterWorks evolved from a group founded in 2010 by Luz Restrepo, a political refugee from Colombia, who is now the CEO. Through two stores in Melbourne and an online store, the social enterprise sells food (much of it gluten-free and vegan), beeswax wraps, printed cushions and tea towels, jewellery, children’s toys (you really should check out the incredibly cute koala!) and more. If you’re looking for a present for a barbecue lover, SisterWorks has a BBQ hamper ($40) that includes three spicy sauces, while their energise  + refresh bath salts ($18), made with mandarin, cedarwood, grapefruit, orange, frankincense and rose essentials oils, sound almost good enough to eat!

The barbecue hamper pack from SisterWorks includes three authentic sauces, is available through social enterprise SisterWorks.

Cakes that care

Meet the Youngcake: These fruity blonde Christmas cakes ($26.95) raise funds for Youngcare, an organisation providing housing and home services to support young people with high care needs.

The cakes are made to a family recipe from Youngcare resident Bronwyn (watch her and chef Ben O’Donoghue making them, below) and sold online and through O’Donohue’s Billykart restaurants in Brisbane.

In Melbourne, a 20-year cake-making tradition continues to raise funds to provide education scholarships for young people in Romania and the Philippines. A group of around 100 volunteer cooks, along with students from Genazzano FCJ College, MLC and Xavier College, make between 2000 and 4000 Christmas cakes every year. And although orders usually close in September (when the group has access to school kitchens during holidays), this year they still have cakes available ($15-$50), along with fundraising puddings ($5-$10). Contact Julie Chamberlin on juliachamberlinmed@hotmail.com to place an order.

Students in Melbourne makes Christmas cakes each year to help young people in Romania and The Philippines.

Chocolate is always a good bet

If you’re buying for a chocolate lover, hospitality-based social enterprise STREAT is selling Brandy & Cranberry Christmas Brownie (300g, $15), alongside other festive baked goods including shortbread, parmesan bites and Christmas puddings, all available through their online shop. We also rather like the sound of Oxfam’s Limited Edition Gingerbread Crisp Milk Chocolate Bar (90g, $9.95), made by Fairtrade chocolate company Devine.

One for coffee lovers

Whitelion, a not-for-profit that supports youth in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia, has launched “If It Wasn’t for This Coffee…”, a three-bean blend professionally roasted in Australia, where 100 per cent of the profits will go to Whitelion’s programs to help young people dealing with poverty, homelessness and other problems. The tasting notes say it has “notes of sweet milk chocolate, full buttery body, with a caramel finish”, so we reckon it will make a cup that tastes good and does good too! Available in 250g and 1kg bags ($12/$35).

Not only does this coffee tastes incredible, it helps Whitelion do incredible things to support at-risk Australian youth.

Good for the planet

Buying for someone who’s keen to step more lightly on the planet? Onya (what a very Australian name!) offers a range of reusable alternatives to single-use plastic, including reusable food pouches, bread bags, eco shopping bags and sandwich wraps. 

We also love EcoSouLife’s brightly coloured bamboo coffee cups, cutlery and picnic and barbecue sets. Their bamboo bowls ($6.26), available in six colours, are reusable, BPA-free and dishwasher safe, but when buried in the ground at the end of their life, will eventually break down and return to the earth. They also sell several sizes and designs in bamboo coffee cups.

These cheery reusable coffee cups from EcoSouLife look good and are good to the earth, too.
For those who have everything

If you’re looking for a gift for those who don’t need “things”, a meaningful gift from Gifts for Peace  (part of international organisation Act for Peace) is a great option. The money helps families facing disasters and your loved one gets a card telling the story behind the gift:  training for a Syrian refugee in Jordan to start a kitchen garden, for example, or a shelter kit, including a cooking pan, for a family in Bangladesh. Gifts support programs in Zimbabwe, Jordan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Gaza, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Tonga.

“Our best-selling gifts this year are food parcels and school supplies for Syrian refugees, followed by temporary shelter for Rohingya families in Bangladesh and baby goats for farmers in Zimbabwe,” Act for Peace tells us.

This Christmas, you could buy a shelter kit for a refugee family living in Bangladesh.

The Karma Currency website is another great place to find charitable gift ideas – you can search for gifts that support specific groups (from refugees to people facing domestic violence) or fight particular problems (hunger, health issues, housing, etc), and narrow your search by price. You could help an enterprising sort start a cooking stall in India or for as little as $2, your gift could help provide a meal for an Australian in need.

Put food on the table

As the CEO of Foodbank, Australia’s largest hunger relief organisation, Brianna Casey knows how hard this time of year can be for people doing it tough. “This month alone, Foodbank will provide food relief for 710,000 people... These are everyday Australians who have fallen on tough times, whether it be related to loss of employment, rental or housing affordability issues, an unexpected expense or a serious medical condition. Foodbank is working hard right across the country to ensure that these families can put a meal on the table – not only on Christmas Day but for as long as it takes to get them back on their feet,” Casey tells us.  “This means sourcing and distributing massive volumes of food and groceries – the equivalent of 183,000 meals a day!”

These are the foods that charities need right now
Breakfast cereal tops the list, a reminder that this time of year can be extra-tough for many.

“It is an absolute joy to see so many people holding food drives to ensure Foodbank can get more food and grocery items to vulnerable Aussies this Christmas. We strongly encourage people to consult our ‘most wanted’ list before embarking on food drives to ensure they are focusing on the items in strongest demand.

“Everyday items like breakfast cereal, pasta, noodles, rice or couscous, tea and coffee, canned fruit, vegetables and pulses, long-life milk, baked beans or tinned spaghetti, personal hygiene products, especially shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste and toilet paper, shelf-stable meals, spreads like Vegemite and honey and cooking and baking supplies can make the world of difference to someone’s day and their ability to put a meal on the table for their family.”

Give the gift of your time

You can make a difference by lending a hand. Find charities and groups who need help at govolunteer.com.au - enter your location, the distance you’re happy to travel, and the keyword Christmas. Many of these don’t require special skills, just time.

Looking to donate?

If you’d like to make a difference by donating, do a search at GiveNow to find charities that will take donations of everything from bicycles to books, and if you search for “Christmas”, you can find groups that have special needs at this time of year. Their list of places keen for donations of food include the Australian Refugee Association, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Oz Harvest, several food banks and even organisations looking after cats and dogs that need pet food donations.

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