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Anne Else : Don’t Buy That, Buy This - Now

Letter from Elsewhere with Anne Else

Don’t Buy That, Buy This - Now

I’m having trouble getting into the Christmas spirit this year – and I don’t mean the brandy.

It’s partly the weather. A cold Christmas in the European winter is really enjoyable. A cold Christmas in what’s supposed to be the New Zealand summer is not.

It’s partly the absence of my son. He’s overseas, teaching English, and he always manages to have a good time at Christmas with all the other ex-pats. But I miss him.

It’s partly the war. I applauded retired Major General Sandy Thomas for saying the US and its “coalition of the willing” (which, thanks to Helen Clark, does not include New Zealand) should never have gone into Iraq. It should have spent all those lethal billions of dollars on food and education for Iraqi children instead. But it’s too late now.

And it’s partly the junk. When I do manage to get to the shops, everywhere I look there seem to be piles of absolute, utter rubbish, designed for only one purpose – to winkle hard-earned cash out of weary shoppers’ pockets. A lot of it is pink, and clearly aimed at girls of all ages. They don’t even buy it for themselves, they buy it for each other. If it’s this bad when we don’t even have free-trade agreements with the countries turning out most of this stuff, using exploited young women or even children to do it, heaven knows what it will be like when we do.

I know I sound like a nasty female Scrooge, but I’m not. Usually I enjoy all the choosing and wrapping, the cards and the food, the giving and receiving, as well as the getting together with people I love. But this year the flood of junk has just got to me. Please, don’t buy it.

To be totally contrary, having just urged you not to buy one kind of stuff, I want to urge you to buy another kind instead. Immediately.

Today I got an email message from Jac Lynch, a former Women’s Refuge worker. I want, as they say, to share it with you. Here’s what Jac says:

“Kia ora. I know this is a last minute appeal, but I’ve just run into the coordinator for one of the Porirua women’s refuges who said the two houses are full with women and their children. She mentioned that the workers are really worried because they haven’t received any donations of Xmas gifts for the children. As an ex-worker for refuge this makes me cringe!

Refuge’s National Office is sending boxes of donations suitable for women next week, but that’s all they have got. Porirua is in a tight spot because they don’t have a local Starbucks that collects gifts.

If you can help out, maybe collect up gifts in your office, or just donate something from yourself and your family, I’ll arrange to have them sent to the refuges in Porirua.

You can drop gifts in to my office, level one, 15 Bute Street (turn right at the Shell Station on Vivian Street), Wellington, on Monday 20 and Tuesday 21 December between 8.30am and 5pm. or into the Porirua refuge office in Pember House, level 3, room 12 on Monday 20 December (ph 04 237 7027). Or if you live around Johnsonville or Newlands, drop gifts at 6 Stroud Way in the evening.

If you wrap your gift please indicate on it what age group you think it’s suitable for.

Please don’t give anything used or broken in anyway (you’d be surprised at what can turn up!!!).

If you don’t live in Wellington, you can take gifts for your local Refuge to your nearest Starbucks instead.

As I expect you know, for refuges all over the country, Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year. Scrooge would mutter darkly about these foolish or feckless women bringing their misery upon themselves, and insist they should all go straight back to their partners, instead of relying on charity.

But you’re not Scrooge, and neither am I. It may be a while before these kids find a new home. When they do, there’s unlikely to be much to spare for new toys. Here’s your chance to enter into the true spirit of the season, and give a child who is spending Christmas in the Refuge something that will last long enough to brighten up the rest of their summer, and yours too.


- Anne Else is a Wellington writer and social commentator. Her occasional column will typically appear on a Monday. You can subscribe to receive Letter From Elsewhere by email when it appears via the Free My Scoop News-By-Email Service

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