Holiday gifts that make a difference

Topics: Our Impact on the Ground
December 15, 2016

Sending a Canadian Red Cross gift of survival this holiday season has a direct impact on lives in Canada and around the world.

Read how each gift can make a difference. 

Blankets: Warmth for Refugees 

I remember a particularly cold night in Germany in early October. We were registering close to a 1,000 people through the night, arriving one bus after another.

One man was looking a little more distraught than the rest of his group as he made his way through the welcome tent. Generally, all of the refugees had been through a long journey and looked fairly tired when they arrived at our refugee camp, but this gentleman just looked particularly weary.

I approached him with one of our Arabic-speaking delegates to help communicate. Just before we began speaking, we offered a blanket, and the man wrapped it around his body as if he hadn’t felt something that soft and comforting for a very long time. He paused and looked at us with a gratitude that needed no exchange of words to be understood.

As the conversation continued, we quickly learned just how devastated this man was, as he had lost his child on a capsized boat just days earlier. Further to this awful sadness, he had yet to inform his wife back home of the news. He needed both the means to communicate by phone, but also, he needed some rest and comfort before he could undertake the task. We found him a quiet and comfortable spot to rest, provided a phone, and made certain he had a plan that would help him through the next few days as he continued his journey.

The power of that blanket wrapped around a tired, dreary, worn-out father is an image I will not soon forget. These are the small and basic comforts of life that we can so easily take for granted but which have the power to get a person through agonizing minutes, hours, and days with some measure of comfort, dignity, and acknowledgement.

Matthew Colling, Canadian Red Cross Community Planning and Response Manager

Food and Water Relief 

Living with one leg is not easy. It’s hard to do things like work in the garden, or collect water from the well. I can’t walk very far on these crutches and when it’s raining it gets very slippery and I often fall over. When Cyclone Pam hit us here, it was very hard. The food in the garden and everything we planted was ruined.

My house was not in good condition so I went down to the doctor’s house to be safe. When I saw that my house had been destroyed I felt terrible.  My family lost their house too. They rebuilt theirs first and then they rebuilt mine for me.

Before the cyclone I didn’t have a water tank and my family would have to bring me water for bathing and cooking. If I could find someone to collect water for me I would ask them. If not, I’d have to do it myself. I’m thankful to the Red Cross for what they’ve done.

These are things I will have for my entire life. 

Karie Manaruru, Red Cross beneficiary following Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu


Mother-Child Health Parcel 

In the town of Torit, South Sudan, a small two-year-old boy got sick and started showing all the common signs of cholera – dehydration, vomiting and muscle cramps. Quickly, a babysitter brought the boy to the Red Cross community health tent that has been specifically set-up to detect and assist with early intervention of cholera. At the tent, two Red Cross volunteers quickly took the boy inside and provided him clean water with rehydration salts.

However, as the boy was very young, he rapidly became worse and the Red Cross volunteers quickly took him to the main hospital. Along the way, he was provided emergency first aid to stay alive. At the hospital the doctors begin treating the boy as his mother arrived. Very much in panic, she was assured by the volunteers that the boy is in good hands and to allow the hospital to do its work.

This story has a good ending. The doctors were able to save the boy’s life and provide him with more clean water and the rehydration solution to counter cholera. Within a few days, the boy was healthy and back on his feet.

Chiran Livera, Canadian Red Cross Deputy Director of Operations (Ontario) and Aid Worker


Two-Day Grocery Supply 

When disasters happen, and people have to get out of their homes, they leave a lot behind. They need help with things like food, clothing and lodging. The Red Cross and their volunteers helped us quickly get that assistance to people who needed it.

I’m comfortable knowing that when we need support for a small or large-scale event, Red Cross workers are only one phone call away, and together, we’ll get help to those who need it.

The Red Cross helps people get back on their feet and recover. Our partnership with the Canadian Red Cross was key in responding to this fire, and we could not have done it without them.

Dan Derby, Regional Emergency Coordinator at the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary


Infant Care Package 

We saw people running, panicked. We didn’t have time to take anything before the fire.

I was surprised to see the Red Cross respond. I always thought they did work in war-torn places or in earthquakes and floods.

I am very grateful for those volunteers who left their own homes so late at night to come and help me and my neighbours. It’s extraordinary, it’s wonderful. We received hygiene kits as well as everything my baby needed: diapers, milk, cereal.

When my son is old enough I will tell him how important the Red Cross is. I’ll tell him that once he has a job he should donate, because it really makes a difference.

Zahreen Goolamally, family received Red Cross assistance following a house fire


Hot Meals 

Patricia and her husband live in a quaint bungalow in the north end of Etobicoke. Both are retired and grandparents to eight grandchildren. Patricia is in her early seventies and has recently become bedridden due to health problems.

Before her health problems began, Patricia was an active grandmother who spent her time helping out with the grandchildren. She also did all of the cooking for herself and her husband.  “That’s changed now,” said Patricia. “He’s never been a cook and has had to adjust to making breakfast and dinner. He asks me what to do every step of the way.”  The only break Patricia’s husband gets from cooking is lunch, which is delivered by the Red Cross. “I’m really happy with Meals on Wheels - it’s way better than hospital food,” she said.

When I asked Patricia why she thinks the Meals on Wheels program is important, she didn’t hesitate with her answer. “You’re helping people out who are in desperate need,” she said.

Nathalie Moncur, Canadian Red Cross Communications Advisor 2014-2016

Giving a Canadian Red Cross gift in the name of a loved one is one meaningful way you can ease suffering here in Canada, around the world, or both at home and abroad. With all gifts, you’ll be able to send a personalized paper card or e-card to the recipient to let them know you’re thinking of them this holiday season.