“We must be careful to remember the true meaning of Christmas” is a BRILLIANT thing to say to someone if you want to get them to pelt you with chocolate coins. The true meaning of Christmas might be the sensation of teary panic that descends after you have been out for four nights in a row and fall over a display of Yoga Bunny drinks in Pret. It might be the bile that rises when you read a piece called “Give the gift of DIAMONDS!” and you’ve got everyone a Compare the Meerkat mug. It might be the sicky feeling you get when you see a red, lacy, fur trimmed “sexy festive” outfit, or the stabby feeling you get when you’re stuck on the tube with That Guy Who Thinks Everyone Should Be Pals And Sing Last Christmas Together Because It’s December And For God’s Sake Why Do People In London Not Talk To Each Other.
We should be kind to people all year around. Charity doesn’t begin at home, and it certainly doesn’t begin and end at Christmas. And charity at Christmas is a bit Dickensian. We can’t relate to monacled millionaires buying turkeys the size of tiny orphans and having an open house for “the poor”. It’s a bit “Milky Bars are on me!”
But this year’s Action Aid Christmas campaign is painfully relatable. It’s all about protecting young women from predators. And if you’ve ever been anxious when walking down a street alone, or worried about someone you love doing the same, it’s a campaign worth of your support, attention and donations. Action Aid’s Happy Homes project offers shelter to children and young women who might otherwise become sex workers. They give them a place to live and learn. 10 year old Salma lives there. She was eight when she ran away from the house where she worked as a domestic servant, because her employer tried to rape her. And thanks to Farhana Nahid, who found her and looked after her, Salma is now about to attend one of the best schools in Dhaka. Approximately 150 girls have stayed at Happy Homes, and thousands more have benefitted from their services. But Happy Homes relies on public fundraising, and unless Action Aid raise the £116, 212 it needs, it may be forced to close at Christmas.
Imagine being eight, and scared and homeless. Imagine having brothers, sisters and even parents who depend on you. Imagine that you don’t have anywhere to go where you don’t feel vulnerable. The most basic human entitlement is safety. All people should have somewhere they can go and know that they are safe.
We’re all broke. But if you’ve got £5, it would be lovely if you did without a gin and tonic or skipped Secret Santa and gave it to Action Aid instead. Or 50p. And if you haven’t got the ha’penny for the old man’s hat, tell someone who has. Club together. Make cakes or sing carols or just put this on Facebook so that people know about it. It would be nice if every child woke up to presents and people who loved them on Christmas morning. But for now, let’s try to make sure that as many children as possible wake up and know that they’re safe.
For more information on how to donate to Action Aid, check out this link: http://www.actionaid.org.uk/103419/happy_homes.html
@NotRollergirl is a freelance funnywoman and writerlady. She’s the women’s editor over on Sabotage Times (where she writes a ridiculously popular column on Made in Chelsea), she writes books, and she knows all the words to ABBA’s entire collection. Follow her on Twitter (recommended for daily giggles).