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Christmas gifts you can buy that help more than the recipient

Charities have loads of great presents on offer that could make life-changing impact

Buying Christmas gifts from a charity allows you benefit more than the recipient. There are loads of great options to choose from.

Scents of surprise

Jack & Jill, which provides in-home nursing care and respite support for children, is helping to spread good scents this Christmas with gorgeous candles from designer Paul Costelloe and his son William.

On sale from the Jack & Jill Children’s Foundation website, they cost €27.50 for one or €50 for two, and come in two fragrances, Pink Grapefruit & Champagne, and Recharge, a blend of neroli, clementine and bergamot. Each comes with a Christmas surprise of a costume jewellery pendant in a little treasure tin, and the chance to win a real diamond pendant.

Jack & Jill also does a great gift alternative for children to give their teachers at Christmas, who, to be fair, are coming down with candles, and soaps, and chocolates at this time of year. Its Teacher Gift Certificates start from €18, which provides one hour of nurse care for a child that needs it. The certificate is sent to you, with the teacher's name on it, for you to pass on before the end of term. Top of the class. jackandjillstore.ie


Crafting a future

The Mendicity Institution is the oldest working charity in Dublin. Established in 1818, for more than 200 years it has been helping people experiencing homelessness, isolation and marginalisation to work their way out of homelessness. Thanks to the Mendicity Workshop Programme you can buy a range of wonderful wooden window boxes from €10, as well as stools, shelves and block art, copper art, greeting cards, scented soap and candles. mendicity.org

Making good

The We Make Good design shop on Dublin’s Fade Street carries products designed by some of Ireland’s best emerging designers and made by people facing social challenges – perhaps from a disadvantaged background, or who have a disability, or spent time in prison – and who have been supported to develop valuable skills and gain employment in their craft.

It has a huge range of items that make wonderful gifts, from copper and tin table-top items to beautifully turned wooden bowls, table linen and leather goods. Irish pinecone candles designed by Lauralee Guiney were cast from pinecones collected earlier this year. They were then hand crafted by the Camphill Community, Dunshane, which supports people with intellectual disabilities. They are made from pure beeswax and cost €15. wemakegood.ie

Circular giving

Finding exactly what you're looking for in a charity shop – or chancing on a bargain – has become a million times easier thanks to Thriftify. The online platform allows you have a good old rummage in charity shops all across Ireland and Britain. The bric-a-brac section is a terrific source of buried treasure, whether it's cushions for €1, a 1977 Twinkle annual for €1.67, or hand-knitted Christmas pudding covers for €2.22. That's as well as great coats, jackets and bags for men, women and children, all properly photographed. It's sustainable fashion in action. Thriftify.ie

Animal magic

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, has great animal-themed jigsaws, 1,000-piece mammoths, perfect for Twixmas. Look after the animal in your life with Christmas stockings packed with treats for cats and dogs, for a tenner. If you've got Christmas cards to buy, check out the Irish Horse Welfare Trust, which looks after the welfare of horses and ponies. It has snug hats and hoodies for €12 and €35. Or who could resist the soft white seal pups, at €15, available online from Seal Rescue Ireland. Ispca.ie, Sealrescueireland.org

Life-changing gifts at home...

Barnardos Ireland has a terrific scheme called Gifts for Good which sends highly practical but, sadly, very much needed gifts to children all over Ireland. It includes the Gift of Sleep, a present of a duvet, pillow and a set of covers, so children can have a warm night's sleep. You buy the gift, which costs €50, and you receive a card with envelope to pass to your loved one, to let them know what you bought them. Barnardos' gift of "Warmth & Wellbeing", includes pyjamas, bedsocks and slippers to keep a child toasty costs €18. A gift of toiletries for all the family costs €28. Barnardos.ie

…and abroad

Oxfam Unwrapped has an online option that allows you to send life-changing presents, from funding for a child's education to a clutch of chicks. Again, you get to print out an e-card and personalise it, to let the recipient know what you got for them. To send a goat to someone in need costs €35. Aid agency Concern also has a full list of gift items for people in need overseas this Christmas, including avocado trees for a tenner, a bicycle for €25, and a water pump for €100.

A Women's Empowerment Gift costs €100 from Trócaire. The money goes to help set up women-led savings and loans groups to support local women to set up their own businesses. This provides them with an income to buy food and shelter, as well as safety from extreme poverty, in countries where war, climate change and economic instability is putting families at risk. unwrapped.oxfamireland.org, concern.net, trocaire.org

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell

Sandra O'Connell is a contributor to The Irish Times