With darkness comes hopelessness, and as I have already written about this week, it can be extremely difficult to escape from such a stupor. Everything you day or do can feel pointless, regardless of its veracity. We’re in an age where action against cruelty and political bullying is non-negotiable. Yes, you’re allowed to take breaks from it, but you also have to put in some work. We can’t afford to rest on fading laurels or pretend those in official opposition will do the heavy lifting for us. If only we had that luxury.
I have tried to find ways, small and big, to take action over the past couple of years. I’m politically conscious but not active, and I’m also a naturally anxious creature who struggles to balance her work and academic commitments as it is. Honestly, seeing others do much more work to take on Trump, Theresa May and the planet’s woes can inspire feelings of intense inadequacy. Of course, none of this is a competition, so thinking of yourself as a loser in this context is futile.
Small actions matter, and not everything you do has to be a grand, earth shaking gesture. Change happens on every level, reverberating throughout the atmosphere, each drop adding to the ocean. There are causes major and minor that could use your help, and those who would benefit from any boost you can provide. In that spirit, here is a brief list of little things you can do that will make an indelible impact on our world. I’m afraid this list is heavily UK and US-centric, simply because they’re the resources I’m aware of, but please share your favourite causes and local ways to make a difference in the comments.
Donate books to prisoners
Literature is a lifeline, and nowhere is that more evident than in the prison system. According to the Baltimore Sun, Maryland’s prison libraries helped ex-offenders prepare for life back in the world, improve their vocabulary and reading skills, and make them less likely to return to jail. The American prison system is especially cruel and ineffective thanks to a for-profit mould that places no value on the life or well-being of the prisoner. For a while, British prisons banned books as gifts, a law by David Cameron that was nasty even by his standards, but it was quickly struck down. Check your local laws and restrictions of where books can be sent, and which ones are allowed.
Donate to a food and pet bank
As revealed by The Trussell Trust, use of food banks has skyrocketed in Britain over the past decade. In 2017/18, the charity gave 1,332,952 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis. The vast majority of food and items given to those in need comes from donations by the general public. As poverty rises and the welfare state is stripped to its bones, the need for food banks has unfortunately become a part of daily life. Non-food items like toiletries remain crucial. Oft-overlooked on issues of poverty is the plight of people’s pets. Many end up abandoning their animals or giving them up to overcrowded shelters because they can’t afford to look after them. Pet banks have become more popular in recent years. The Trussell Trust accepts donations of pet food, but you can also check your local area for places to donate. Check for your local areas.
Take on period poverty
It’s pricey to have a period. According to Bloody Good Period, the average lifetime cost of sanitary products is about £4800. Imagine living on benefits and not being able to pay for tampons or having to used rolled up toilet paper. There’s already enough stigma around menstruation without having to add the indignity of not being able to buy sanitary towels. Check out charities like Bloody Good Period and The Homeless Period for more information. I Support The Girls works to provide menstrual hygiene products and bras to homeless girls and women.
Knit for a good cause
Fellow crafters! Now is the time to put all that wool to good use. There are many charities who accept knitting and crochet items, both for sale and as donations to those in need. You can knit blankets and close for children and adults in crisis areas, make cardigans and hats for premature babies, or quilt for kids in hospitals. There are many ways you can volunteer and many places to do so. Here’s a list of regional charities in the UK looking for eager crafters.
Buy breakfast for a kid in need
Over half a million British kids go to school in the morning too hungry to learn. The odds are already stacked against children in poverty without having to add further hunger to the mix. Magic Breakfast, one of my favourite charities, are working to provide nutritious breakfasts for those who need it most. If you’re American, you can donate to fight the abhorrently cruel system of lunch debt. Kids with unpaid lunch accounts face bullying from classmates, shame from teachers, and yet further risk of going hungry. Check out the dishearteningly long list of schools that could use your donations.
Support diverse literature
Literature remains one of our greatest tools in the creation and spreading of empathy, and we could sorely use more of that right now. We Need Diverse Books is one of the best organizations working today to support and advocate for more inclusive storytelling in children’s literature. Their grants, mentorships and work with classrooms and libraries has left an immeasurable impact on modern kids and YA publishing. You can offer your services or make a donation on their website.
Fight for fairer funerals
Funeral poverty is a hidden stigma. The funeral industry makes massive profits from death, and often sends families into eye-watering debt just so they can put their loved ones to rest. In the past three years in the UK, funeral poverty has increased by 50%. The British Fair Funerals Campaign is taking the issue straight to the government.
Support LGBTQ+ causes
LGBTQ+ citizens remain some of the most at-risk people in our society, more so if they’re people of colour. There are various charities and causes you can support including:
Trans Media Watch: A UK organization fighting the ever-increasing problem of transphobic reporting and coverage in Britain.
The Trevor Project: An American non-profit that focuses on suicide prevention for LGBTQ+ youth.
Trinity Place Shelter: A homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth in New York City, which you can donate to or volunteer your services.
(Check your local area for LGBTQ+ charities and shelters.)
Support your local newspaper
Democracy thrives with a strong free press, and following the shooting at Annapolis, as well as the right-wing reaction to a newspaper office being the victim of an attack, it’s clear that more must be done to support journalism. Consider buying a subscription to your local newspaper or one of the major publications like the Washington Post. You can also support PEN International, who work to defend writers at risk, in exile and those whose free speech has been threatened.
REGISTER TO VOTE!
I mean, obviously.
(Image of Paddington being sweet and positive from Giphy)