Last week, I wrote about a family I worked with many years ago. This family faced overwhelming challenges and the odds that the children will rise above their circumstances are slim.

Please allow me to add a few more details about the mother in this family; let’s call her Jenny (not her real name). Jenny grew up in a home cursed with the scourge of domestic violence. She did not complete high school and had not attended college. I know she has alcoholic father who is still in her life. When I began my visits, one of the children’s fathers lived in the home and contributed financially. He left the home and totally abandoned the family. There was no positive male role model in the lives of the children. Everyone in the home lived in a state of constant turmoil, jumping from one crisis to another.

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And you and I thought we had problems.

Many of you asked for tangible ways to help a family and I find that heart warming. It renews my faith in society. I have a few suggestions that you may find helpful.  This will involve spending money so ask yourself:

  • Can I part with my hard-earned money without looking for anything in return?
  • Am I able to do this without passing judgment on the mother/father/caregiver?
  • Can you overcome your bias as a middle class person?

(We are biased far more than we wish to admit. As a rule, we hang around with friends who are a lot like us. We only become aware of our bias when we move outside of our comfort zone.

If you are up to the challenge, please choose one family you would like to adopt. Hopefully, you already have a relationship with someone in the family. Can you coach them to access services that may be available to them? Social assistance, for example. They may be eligible for drug, vision and dental benefits through Social Services. There are other charities including churches and service clubs that help with paying overdue heating expenses.

It is hard for children to learn when they are hungry. What can you do to ensure the family has nutritious food?

  • Pay for hot lunches at school.
  • Give the family a grocery store gift card.
  • Invite family and friends to contribute to a food basket filled with staples such as sugar, flour, oil, and oatmeal.

Physical appearance is a big deal for children. No child wants to be rejected by his or her peers. Unfortunately, children can be cruel and gang up against anyone who looks different. The child/children you are helping need to look like other children. Families in poverty do not have the funds for haircuts. Can you connect them to discount hair stylist? You will pay for the haircuts.

Children need to dress like their classmates. This does not have to be overly expensive. It is important that the clothing fits properly. Can you do some hemming? Collect gently used clothing from friends.  Poor families struggle to outfit children for a Canadian winter. You can provide new or used snowsuits, boots and mittens.

There are women and children who have fled violence and are living in shelters. Their dignity has taken a hit. Self-worth is is in tatters. They are simply trying to survive.

If I were a woman in that situation, what would I appreciate? Shampoo, conditioner, brushes, toothpaste and toothbrushes, deodorant, soaps, lip balm, lotions, pajamas, socks, underwear, makeup, pads and tampons, slippers, gloves, scarves,  and colouring supplies.

Perhaps you would like to help in a more general way. Please consider a cash donation to a food bank. Why cash? Because the food bank must pay for fresh items such as milk, eggs, fruit and vegetables. As well, this enables the food bank purchase large volumes when non-perishable items are on sale. The Salvation Army reaches out to the poor and marginalized among us all year

My plea to everyone is: 
Please open your heart and do whatever you can to provide a Merry Christmas for children who, through no fault of their own, need our help.


PS:  Much is said about the few families who take advantage of the system. Should 99 honest families suffer because one family cheats?