Larissa Ocampo is One Girl’s Online Community Manager and an avid drinker of coffee, eater of chocolate and is most passionate about educating and empowering women and girls everywhere to achieve their full potential. Get in touch with her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Christmas is by far my favourite time of year.
I love pretty much everything about it. The yummy food, the time spent with loved ones, the fact that singing Christmas songs (badly) in public is acceptable – what’s not to love?
When I was younger, Christmas was very much about the presents we got to open on Christmas day. Huddled around the tree, my family and I would take turns opening presents, ripping back the shiny wrapping paper and carefully tied bows, excited to see what new toy, or fancy item of clothing, they contained. It was basically one of the most exciting experiences a 10-year-old could have.
But as the years went on and the older I got – the less Christmas became about the presents I received. Of course there were still stand-outs gifts – like the handmade apron I got one year, or the wonderfully thoughtful personalised mug – but these great presents were being outnumbered by some incredibly well-meaning, but generally terrible gifts. I’ve lost track of the number of bath bombs, body lotions, scented candles and soaps I’ve received over the years. Photo frames, jewellery that isn’t quite my taste, and stationary kits round out my ‘unwanted present’ greatest hits.
We’ve all received gifts like this before – whether it’s the pair of socks from Nan, or the novelty Christmas-themed plate or mug from your aunt. A survey found that Australians will spend upwards of $700 million on these unwanted presents , most of which will end up gathering dust in our cupboards, or worse – end up in the bin and eventually in landfill. Not to mention the added waste that goes into the wrapping, cards and gift tags.
As we look for ways to have a greener, more sustainable Christmas – minimising on unwanted gifts and the environmental (not to mention financial) waste associated with them is an easy enough place to start.
Here at One Girl (www.onegirl.org.au), a start up charity working to provide access to education to women and girls in Sierra Leone, in amongst the waste we saw an opportunity. Imagine if we could capture just a TINY percentage of the $700 million wasted on unwanted presents and did something positive with it? It didn’t take us long to think of a project worthy of investing in.
One of the communities in which we work, Ronietta, is in desperate need of a new school. Their current mudbrick building has been badly damaged by tropical storms. Water has seeped in and softened the bricks, causing large cracks to form and sections of wall to collapse.
The government has threatened to shut the school down because it’s so unsafe, but the 260 boys and girls attending there are so determined to get an education that they keep showing up, every single day.
It was very likely that the 260 students would be out of school next year – but what if we could do something about it? If we gave up our presents this festive season and raised just $50,000 – we could give the community of Ronietta the best present ever – a brand new school. And the benefits wouldn’t just be for those 260 boys and girls, it would be a gift for generations to come.
So we started a campaign called I Don’t Want A Present (www.idontwantapresent.com) – and told our friends and family we didn’t want gifts this year, we wanted to help build a school instead. After being so inspired by the community of Ronietta, we knew if we shared their story others might be inspired to do something about it too. So we’re sharing it with like-minded, passionate people who want to do away with festive waste and join us in giving this community the gift of a new future.
Watch this video and meet the community of Ronietta:
Then head over to www.idontwantapresent.com and create a fundraising page – it only takes 2 seconds (we timed it!) and tell your friends and family to make a donation to your page instead of getting you a present. It’ll be the greenest, easiest and quickest present they’ll give this Christmas – a win for everyone!
Together we can cut down on our eco-footprint this festive season and be part of a positive change in the community of Ronietta.
One Girl works in Sierra Leone, West Africa providing educational opportunities to women and girls, through scholarships, classroom rebuilding, business training and sanitary pads. Want to find out more about One Girl’s work? Go to: www.onegirl.org.au
 The Australian Institute Survey, December 2010: http://www.tai.org.au/node/1686
Photo credits: One Girl Australia
This post has been shared – as usual – over at Essentially Jess’s I Blog On Tuesday (IBOT) linky, where she is sharing her Christmas wishes. Freedom for all and regular visits from the cleaning fairy (she likes cleaning right? it’s freedom for her) are my top picks from her list.