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How you could be someone’s angel this Christmas

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By Belinda Pate

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Tis the season to be jolly but for many Australian families, Christmas is far from it.

With the countdown to Christmas now well and truly on, it’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed by gift lists, recipe plans, party invitations, holiday activities – the bombardment can seem never ending! However for the 13% of Australian families living below the poverty line, the stress of Christmas is much greater.

The last few years have seen our economy take many drastic and unexpected turns. Chances are you or someone you know has been affected by the GFC in one way or another. It’s no surprise then, that increased unemployment and the rising cost of living have also resulted in an increase in the number of Australian families struggling to get by.

In March this year, the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, reported the poverty line for an Australian couple with two children to be a total weekly income of $883.48, or for a single parent with two children, a total weekly income of $730.99.

This same report also revealed that in cases where jobs have been lost and a family is forced to survive on Government support alone, nine out of 12 family types still fell below the poverty line.

In such circumstances, it’s common practise for parents to regularly skip meals in order to ensure their children can eat, or for children to be held home from school in order to avoid the shame of having no food to put in their lunch box. On top of these everyday struggles, the extra stress of Christmas can be devastating for many parents.

In a recent study by Anglicare Australia, it was reported that a large percentage of the families accessing emergency relief, felt immense shame, anxiety and strong inadequacy at having to ask for assistance.

But there is hope. Several organisations are fighting to bring faith and restore dignity to these families.

One such organisation is The Kogarah Storehouse which provides free food parcels and weekly lunches, as well as free English and literacy classes and ongoing case management by qualified social workers.

More than one-off handouts, these resources are ongoing systems put in place to empower individuals and give them the tools needed to release themselves from poverty. At Christmas time, these services are stretched particularly thin as more and more families feel the financial pressure of Christmas.

The good news is there’s plenty of little things you can do to make a big difference in the lives of others. This season as we all do our best to spread a little festive cheer, why not consider one of these Christmas angel actions:

Give a gift to a child you’ll never meet
Too many children will wake up on Christmas morning with little to feel excited about. You can help put a smile on these little faces by donating a toy to a child who would otherwise go without. The Salvation Army allows you the convenience of selecting and purchasing toys online to be distributed to children from underprivileged families. Alternatively, The Kmart wishing tree encourages people to actually purchase, wrap and place gifts under the in-store tree. This is a great way of getting your children excited about giving through allowing them to select and wrap a gift for a kid just like them.

Give a gift of hope to a family in need
We all know Christmas goes beyond toys and presents. Mission Australia meets the practical needs of those living in poverty. From a warm blanket and a hot meal to education and accommodation, you can help ensure the needs of a struggling Australian family are met this Christmas.

Support an organisation
Most not-for-profit organisations rely largely on the generosity of the public. A one off donation, or a pledge to ongoing support will not only ensure they continue to operate, it’s also guaranteed to give you an extra dose of jolly that will carry you well into the new year.

For more information on poverty in Australia and the organisations that are fighting to stop it, visit the links below.

Learn more: Anti-Poverty Week

One in eight people living in poverty in Australia: new report from The Australian Council of Social Service

Be generous:The Kogarah Storehouse

Mission Australia

The Smith Family

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Belinda Pate - to view all of Belinda's blog post click here

Belinda is a freelance writer and editor with a passion for all things literary. A book-worm at heart, she has a background in creative arts and book production and is currently interning at Coping with Jane as an editorial co-ordinator.

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