I have had a lot of feelings about the world in the past few days. Many of them have not been happy ones. On Friday night I had to steer clear of social media, because the news that Britain- my mother country- had voted to leave the European Union, in spite of the huge amount of support among young people (the ones who will have to live with the decision longest) for staying in, in spite of the fact that the campaign promises and claims of leave were largely unfounded… well, it left me deeply depressed. And it only got worse from there. People saying they wanted to change their votes because they “didn’t think it would actually happen”. The leave camp admitting they actually have no plan for how Britain is going to exit the EU. And worst of all, casual racism in the streets and people of many nationalities (including British) and ethnicities living in fear.
And then I had the horrifying realisation: if Trump is elected president, it will legitimise prejudice in exactly the same way that the leave vote has done in the UK…but the racists, xenophobes, and homophobes will have ready access to guns.
I can’t sit idly by and let the world go to hell in a handbasket. And while I know there’s not much I can do to change the outcome of the US election, and not much I can do from the other side of the world to help people in the UK, and while I know that what one person can do is just a drop in the ocean…I want to do something. If you’re reading this, perhaps you do, too. So here are just a few practical things you can do to make the world a better place.
1: Give some Kiva loans
Kiva is a microfinance organisation. They work by members giving small loans ($25) and collectively funding larger loans to communities where it is needed. For example, war-torn countries where credit is hard to come by. Here’s the beauty part- as the loans get paid back, you can re-lend the credit. So that $25 can help people again and again and again.
2: Make some twiddlemuffs
If you knit or crochet, you can make these. A twiddlemuff is for people with dementia. Put simply, it’s a knitted (or crocheted) muff with little fiddly things (beads, tassles etc) attached so that people with dementia have something to do with their hands. With the added bonus that a knitted or crocheted muff helps keep their hands warm. If you’re in NZ, the link above will take you to Knit World’s page for Twiddlemuffs. If you’re elsewhere, google ‘twiddlemuffs’ and your country or locale to see if there’s a collection going on in your area. Or just contact a local hospital or retirement home to ask if they need any!
3: Eat your lunch
If you’re in Auckland (or, soon, in Wellington), you can help Kiwi kids living in poverty by supporting Eat My Lunch. You buy yourself a lunch which is delivered to your workplace, and for every lunch you buy, a lunch is given to a child in need. Many kids in NZ have to go without basics like a packed lunch through no fault of their own or their parents, so this is a great way to stop them from going hungry.
4: Buy some underwear
Smalls for All is a charity that provides underwear for women and children in Africa, where many girls often miss days of school every month because they are having their period and don’t have any underwear. Then there are the women suffering with conditions like fistula. And even more alarming- having underwear in many areas is seen as a sign that a woman has someone to care for her- that she’s not alone and vulnerable. You can donate packs of underwear, or money (which goes towards helping get said underwear to people who need it). Or both!
5: Take advantage of peoples’ love of baked goods
Baking is easy- a while ago I shared a super easy recipe for scones. Three ingredients. No muss, no fuss, bake ’em, get some jam and cream and you’re ready to go. Or perhaps you’d prefer some three-ingredient peanut butter cookies (gluten and dairy free y’all!)? Why not make a batch, take them to work, and tell people ‘hey, if you’d like a cookie/a scone you can have one- just pop a coin (or neatly folded donation) in this tub for…’ and pick a charity. Time it right (Monday or Wednesday morning or Friday afternoon) and you should have no shortage of takers.
I guess what I’m trying to say is- there are lots of things you can do that don’t take much effort on your part, but which could make a world of difference. All of us are drops in the ocean, but the more of us who do what we can, the better the world can be. If the world isn’t giving you much hope, you have to find a way to create some for yourself.