September 5th marks the International Day of Charity, a day to remember the contribution charities make to society. Now more than ever, charities need our support. During the last six months, they have worked tirelessly to relieve the increased suffering brought on by the coronavirus and the related economic impact. The lockdown has limited many types of fundraising that charities usually depend on: big events such as the London Marathon were cancelled, soliciting donations on the street has been curtailed, and churches have closed.
The International Day of Charity was instituted by the United Nations in 2012 to raise awareness among the public of the role that charities play in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. The date was chosen for being the anniversary of the death of Saint Teresa of Calcutta, well known for her life dedicated to helping the poor. The aim of the day is to inspire people to support charity either by volunteering or by making a donation.
Donating is as simple as heading to the website of your favourite charity and clicking a few buttons, but there is so much more you can do. You could try to raise money for charity through a sponsored challenge, such as making a virtual ascent of Mount Snowdon by walking up your stairs about 475 times. You could clear out your loft and sell the best items on eBay, donating the profits, or take your clothes and household goods down to your nearest charity shop. Perhaps you have a talent you can use. For example, if you have some artistic skill, you could paint portraits of your friends or their pets and ask them for a donation in exchange.
There are also a hundred ways to donate your time. You could volunteer at a night shelter or food bank or help out at a nearby charity shop. You could sign up with a national charity and train to become a listener for the Samaritans or Childline. You could join a local community group and clean up beaches or canals. Your local church may have opportunities to get involved, for example, by joining the local branch of the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP).
Did you know that the patron saint of charity is St Vincent de Paul? Born in 1581 to French peasants, he became a priest and ministered both to the wealthy and to the poor. In 1617 two events changed his life. After hearing the confession of a dying man, he resolved to preach the Good News, and later that year, after appealing for help for a poor sick family, he saw many local people bringing them food. This inspired him to found the Ladies of Charity, who were devoted to person-to-person help. Many other charities were inspired by his example, the most well-known of which is the St Vincent de Paul Society, which was founded in Paris in 1833, and is now present in 153 countries. In England and Wales, the SVP has close to 10,000 members who last year made over 400,000 visits to individuals and families.
So, let the International Day of Charity inspire you to offer your help to the charity of your choice.
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