A couple of weeks ago Connor was sitting at the kitchen table with a pencil in his hand. “Mom,” he asked, “how do you spell ‘Dear’?” I spelled it for him. “How do you spell ‘Santa’? How do you spell ‘Christmas’? How do you spell ‘Ewok Village’?”
He was writing a letter to Santa, of course – actually writing it, on his own, and spelling some of the words himself, which made me incredibly proud. After I finished laughing, of course, because this child is nothing if not specific in terms of what he wants. A LEGO Ewok Village. For Connor, that’s the ultimate gift.
I’m aware of the luxury of this, of course. Not all kids, even those in my own city or country, are going to get something as fabulous as a LEGO Ewok Village. (Mind you, neither is Connor because that particular set costs $300 and there are limits to what I think a six-year-old who already owns at least half the LEGO in the world needs to get as a Christmas gift, but there will be LEGO under the tree for him.)
For many children, even the most basic items are a luxury. The simplest essentials, such as clean water and nutrition, are necessary to help children survive in unforgiving environments. As most of you know, my particular pet cause is mental health (followed closely by ovarian cancer, which my mom had – and beat!). And I’ll tell you a secret: I find it hard to relate to some of the developing-country stories. It’s not that I don’t care, or don’t know anything about the challenges many developing countries face. I guess it’s just that those challenges are so far from my own experience that I almost can’t imagine what it would be like. But today I want to share some of those challenges and offer some help, because if there’s one thing I do relate to is the desire to make this a better world. (I even have a whole category on my blog for it.)
Here’s the deal: Your kids might want LEGO or…whatever it is that girls want this year. But for many people in the world the ultimate gift is not the hottest toy or trendy tech item, it’s possibilities. UNICEF has a campaign they’ve dubbed “unBOXing Possibilities,” as in unboxing possibilities to give children the opportunity to go to school, protect newborns from illness and provide children with the basic nutrition they need to survive.
That’s quite a different sort of gift, wouldn’t you say? One that can literally change a child’s life.
UNICEF’s Survival Gifts are the actual products children will receive. Once purchased, UNICEF will pull the product from the warehouse in Copenhagen and send directly to people in the field.
I shared this idea with Connor (explaining why it was necessary) and asked him which gift he would choose to purchase. He chose therapeutic milk.
I suspect a large part of why this one appealed to him is that he is a big milk drinker, and his little brother is definitely in a milk phase right now. “Milky, milky!” is something we hear from Ethan often, so we make sure we don’t run out.
That’s not a luxury all parents have, of course. Heartbreaking, and quite scary when you think about the nutritional implications for those children.
Therapeutic Milk is a powder-based product that when mixed gives moms the ability to feed their babies. For 25 packets, it’s only $20. So we bought some therapeutic milk from the UNICEF site and helped 12 children and hopefully taught Connor something in the process. (I had asked Connor why he chose that gift, in particular. “So the babies have enough milk and don’t die,” he said. “It’s better to live than to die.” Sometimes the lesson really is that simple, I guess.)
Here are some other Survival Gifts that are in need this year. If you want to purchase one, you can do so in honour of someone and have that person sent a card letting them know of your donation.
This seems like a simple, cotton blanket that would be second nature to us, but it can mean safety and comfort for not only babies but moms too. Imagine if you didn’t have something like this to comfort your newborn.
Blankets for babies are only $22, and that gives 3 babies a cozy welcome.
This is another Survival Gift that seems so simple, but that provides much-needed nutrition to children. As we’re planning parties and holiday celebrations full of snacks and food, this is such a big reminder of how $10 can give malnourished children food just to survive. If a child has Plumpy’Nut 3 times a day, they can gain up to 2 pounds in one week!
On the UNICEF shop site there are tons of other options so you can personalize your choices, like soccer balls for a sport-loving child or Art-in-a-box to go along with the crafty gift you’re putting under the tree. While we’re buying the hottest new toys or stocking the fridge with extras this season, these are gifts that can feel like a luxury to moms and children who need them.
To see what an effect UNICEF Survival Gifts are having for the recipients, check out www.youtube.com/unicefcanada for real-life experiences. You can shop from there too. Or join the conversation at #unBOXPossibilities.
If you do decide to add a Survival Gift to your Christmas to-do list this year, come back and tell me about it, would you? A better world gets even better when we share these good things we do with each other.
Disclaimer: I was compensated for this post, but I’ve chosen to put that money towards Survival Gifts for children in need.