Giving isn’t just about money

So, when I started this blog I promised I wouldn’t say “I’m sorry I haven’t blogged in ages” so lets just say the dark mornings are taking their toll and move on, shall we?

Goodwill to all men (and women, children and animals etc.)

Santa Coat 009Christmas is a time of giving and sharing, of friends and family, and reaching out to those less fortunate than ourselves.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the giving aspect recently, particularly since most of us have very little extra to give this year, especially in monetary terms. But there are other things you can give that are just as valuable.

As many of you will know already the Dublin SPCA, where I volunteer, have found this last year particularly difficult. It’s no secret that they are ending the year with redundancies and somewhat curtailed services, particularly when it comes to healthy stray dogs, because of a lack of funding. Donations have dropped dramatically, which is unsurprising and understandable giving the Current Economic Climate*. I’m sure most other charities are facing similar problems.

Angel working at the Dublin SPCA

Angel hard at work at reception of the DSPCA

So back to Christmas and the charitable spirit it inspires in many of us. Giving is about more than just money. I’m sure to many charities the gift of time is just as valuable as the gift of money. The DSPCA rely heavily on volunteers to run the shelter and I am lucky to have the time to donate one morning a week to them. But time is another luxury most people don’t have to give.

Hang in there, there is a point to all this.

If you can’t afford to donate time or money, there are other ways of giving charitable donations. At any time of the year.

The pond at the Dublin SPCAThe DSPCA have a wish list on their website of supplies that they need to help run the shelter. This includes dog and cat toys to help stimulate the animals, as animal mental health is so important. They also use a large amount of newspapers in the cattery to line the litter trays. Old (untorn) towels are also vital to help keep the place clean and dry as all kennels, pods and every surface is cleaned daily with disinfectant to keep it clean and the animals healthy. (It is after all essentially a working animal hospital.) Nappy bags are also used in huge amounts for – scooping the poop, as it were. The list goes on and on, many of them items you might have lying around at home unused.

A foster kitten at the DSPCA being bottle fed

A foster kitten at the DSPCA

Oxfam Ireland launched a campaign in November 2011 called Make Space for Oxfam to highlight Oxfam’s shops urgent need for donations. Over the past year donations to Oxfam shops have reduced by up to 40% and stock levels are now critical in many shops. I’m sure this is the same for practically every charity shop.

St. Vincent de Paul run a food appeal and Giving Tree every year. I’ve seen areas set up in many shopping centres where you can donate an extra gift you have bought. From memory they are often looking for gifts for teenage boys. For me, if I buy 3 for 2 in Boots or somewhere I try to give the third (free) item to charity and it technically doesn’t cost me anything.

Do anything, just do something

If there is a charity you are particularly interested in, why not contact them to see if they have a similar wishlist. Or if you know of any other charities that take non-monetary donations please mention them in the comments.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Mia wearing her Christmas coat*My official Most Overused Phrase of 2011.

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Why I love volunteering with the Dublin SPCA

The pond at the Dublin SPCAAbout two years ago I was put in a four day week in work. Around the same time we got our first dog, Ollie. We decided to bring Ollie for training classes and picked the DSPCA training classes (which, by the way, I would highly recommend) and I found myself looking towards the shelter and wondering if, now that I had an extra day off a week, they would take me as a volunteer.

I registered on the website before I could change my mind (I have a habit of getting over excited about an idea, but the ideas often fizzle as quickly as they burn brightly.) Within a week I found myself scrubbing out the Dog Rehoming Kennels and loving every minute of it. Almost every Friday morning for the last year and a half I’ve been at the shelter, first working in the rehoming kennels and then attempting to help Barbara at reception.

These are the reasons why I look forward to Friday mornings:

‎- The feeling of being part of something worthwhile.
– The friends I have made with other volunteers and staff.
– The sense of satisfaction of a job well done – the animals deserve the best care and the cleanest digs and they get it!
– The feeling of utter exhaustion when I get home from a shift in dog rehoming – it’s hard work but so rewarding (and the dirtier I am the harder I was working).
– The sense of purpose I get from cleaning kennels and pods. I know I am making a difference in these animals’ lives.
– The reminder that life is about more than just me and what’s going on in my world.
– Volunteering at the shelter has really re-energised me and given me a sense of direction and purpose that was missing for a while.
– For some reason I don’t even mind scooping the poop.

(I saved the best for last)
– The wag of a tail when I go into a kennel. Some of the dogs at the DSPCA have had a hard life, but yet they don’t want much (somewhere warm to sleep, a good meal, access to water and a good walk). And above all they want a bit of love and affection and they reward this with ten times the love back at you.

Thank you Dublin SPCA for everything you have given me. And to anyone thinking of becoming a volunteer, for any charity: DO IT, it might just be the best thing you have ever done.