Among those volunteers working at the Lismore Soup Kitchen on Xmas Day will be volunteers Sarah Marsh and Alex Brown.
Among those volunteers working at the Lismore Soup Kitchen on Xmas Day will be volunteers Sarah Marsh and Alex Brown. Jacklyn Wagner

A Christmas conscience

But an increasing number of people are choosing to cut down on the presents they buy and help someone in need, he says.

In fact 2010However, 2010 research by the Australia Institute found that nearly four out of five Australians would be happy with a donation to charity instead of a gift.

They may give time, money, or gifts, but this much is certain this year: whatever they give will be very gratefully received.

"No matter what our politicians say, more people out there are doing it tough," Brian said.

He said charities need donations to help families with the staples of life, including food, power and rent.

Many charities are also looking for Christmas gifts for children who don't have any and, internationally, charities need money to help provide people in third-world villages with clean water, vital medicines and food.

If you want to get that good feeling that comes with giving - something numerous psychological studies have shown boosts health and happiness and even immune response - here are some ideas how you can help.

Help families in need

Give money, clothes, toys, food and more at your local St Vinnie's shop.

This year the charity will give out more than 2000 hampers to needy families in the Northern Rivers area.

More info: home-nsw

Be a Happy Christmas sponsor

Brighten the lives of those with mental health issues as well as young people in need and Lismore Soup Kitchen.

You choose someone from a basic description - age and gender - and donate goods and gifts suitable for that person for a Christmas hamper.

Watch the Northern Star or go to adoptafamily.

Buy a chicken

Through Oxfam Unwrapped, giving has never looked so good with 44 quirky cards that each outline ways the international aid agency works to help people around the world overcome poverty.

The gifts include goats, ducks and chickens which help poor people escape the cycle of poverty as they provide milk and eggs as a source of food and once they breed can be sold at local markets for income.

Prices range from the $10 chicken to the $3000 water-quality testing kit that monitors water quality in a natural disaster.

There is a way for people on any budget to assist Oxfam's work. Go to

Make a wish

The Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal is Australia's largest gift-giving appeal.

Last year a record 464,812 gifts were donated, bringing the total gifts collected during the appeal's history to more than five million.

Buy a toy and put it under the tree at Ballina or Lismore (write the age and gender of a suitable recipient on a gift tag) and you will be helping The Salvation Army help people in need.

You can also donate directly to the Salvos by calling 12 SALVOS, says Ballina captain Gai Cathcart.

"We always distribute hampers and toys at Christmas and this year, like every other, we need help."

Visit for more information.

Make a real difference to world's poor

World Vision supports people living in poverty in the world's poorest countries.

This Christmas, World Vision has a Smiles gift catalogue full of gifts you can buy that will go directly to people living in poverty - $27 will buy a blanket for someone in Zambia, $78 will buy a piglet in Cambodia and so on.

More info: or 13 32 40.

Change lives

Plan Australia is an organisation set up to help children living in poverty in developing countries.

You can give them $50 towards HIV/AIDS education to schools or $500 to establish a vegetable garden for orphans.

Why not suggest to friends that instead of exchanging gifts you all go in for the latter?

More info: or call (03) 9672 3600.

Support a worthy feast

The Lismore Soup Kitchen always has plenty of volunteers for Christmas Day lunch, says co-ordinator Margaret Lord, but what they really need is food items such as ham, and cash to help buy ingredients.

Phone Margaret on!0400 340 973.

Don't forget about Fido

Organisations like the RSPCA offer all sorts of presents for a beloved puss, pooch or parrot.

Why not buy a gift for your furry, feathered or scaly friend and raise mon

Other ways to spread Xmas cheer

Buy an extra toy or present this Christmas and put it in the collection box at your local shopping centre, office or church.

Buy a cake or pudding from a local community group.

If you have elderly friends or neighbours who are housebound (or just struggle to get out) offer to help them with their Christmas shopping or other errands.

If your friend or neighbour is a full-time carer, offer to step in and help for a couple of hours so they can get out and do a bit of shopping or just have a break.

There's a long tradition of Australian bikers doing toy runs, collecting presents to be distributed by community groups.

The website lists dozens of separate Toy Runs in all states - so if you have a Harley-Davidson hog in the carport then this is the moment to get festive.

Credit: ey to help animals all over Australia.  

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