5 ways to make your Valentine's day really count – for others

Valentine’s Day always elicits mixed responses in Australia. Some embrace the day – ready to shower the person they love with classic gifts of roses, chocolates and teddy bears. Others reject the day’s commercialisation and boycott it entirely. Single women gather with their “gals” to mark “Galentine’s Day”. Others scoff that it’s “An American Thing” and ignore the day entirely.

But there’s more than one way everyone can take part in Valentine’s Day – and make it really count for those people who need it the most.

Give a “goat couple”

Most people have heard of giving a goat before. You know, giving the exact money a charity needs to give a goat to a family in a developing country, to help their food provision and income. But this Valentine’s Day, Oxfam is encouraging supporters to give a “goat couple” in what is possibly the most adorable Valentine’s gift ever. “These cheeky kids can help a vulnerable family turn their lives around,” say Oxfam. And if you aren’t a fan of goats (… in case such people even exist), you can also give the gift of three piglets, a couple of chickens or a stack of pineapples.

Give a pair of undies

The wonderful work of the Wayside Chapel in Sydney, working with people who are living on the streets or isolated at home, is underway again this Valentine’s. They’re insisting that “Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a clean pair of undies.” Just $20 will buy someone a clean pair of undies, along with a 15 minute hot shower and fresh towel. Including socks (+ bra for women) and toiletries (body wash, shampoo, conditioner). And if you can afford to kick in a little more, there are also options to provide a pamper pack, mental health, nursing and youth support.

During the last financial year (2019-20), Wayside Chapel provided 16,734 changes of clothing including undies, 13,967 hot showers and toiletries, 54,369 meals, and 2,429 instances of care coordination to people living on the streets, as well as those isolated at home.

And as Pastor and CEO Jon Owen explains, this year the help is appreciated more than ever.

“In the last year, many of us got a glimpse of what it was like to struggle with the loneliness of lockdown and the inconvenience of ‘going without’ some of life’s basic necessities like toilet paper. Imagine what it would be like if you didn’t have access to clean clothes, a shower or toilet, a home or shelter to self-isolate to, or support networks to fall back on? This is the reality many of our people face every day.”

“By giving someone the gift of clean undies and necessities, you give the dignity to be able to feel human again and enable people to take the first steps towards healing. It’s about providing the practical love that everyone deserves, to help them get back on their feet.” Owen insists.

Invest in the quest to save lives

“Forget the flowers, there’s nothing more romantic than a life saved” declares the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute.

“Flowers wilt and chocolates melt, but protecting your loved ones’ heart is the gift that keeps on giving.”

Given that one in five deaths in Australia are caused by heart disease, chances are that most Aussies have lost a friend or loved one to it. But if the last year has taught us anything, it’s that a sense of urgency and a massive injection of funds can lead to big breakthroughs in medical research.

Why not put the literal heart first this Valentine’s and donate to medical research?

Give children the chance to thrive

“Much like love, water is essential. And this special Valentine’s Day pack harnesses its power,” says UNICEF of its Valentine’s Day pure water gift pack ($68).

The pack includes 4,000 water purification tables, each able to transform up to five litres of dirty water into drinkable water. This helps fight waterborne diseases such as dysentery, cholera and typhoid. Plus, there’s 150 oral rehydration salts to quickly replace lost fluids in children suffering from dangerous dehydration. And each pack includes 100 bars of soap – one of the most essential items for stopping the spread of diseases.

Also in their Valentine’s range, UNICEF suggests giving “the gift of pure health” with its ‘Be my Valentine vaccine pack’. In the pack are 240 vaccines to protect children against polio, tetanus, measles and tuberculosis ($85). And there’s also a ‘Love of Learning School in a Box’, available for $270.

But here at Eternity we’ve strayed outside UNICEF’s Valentine’s gifts and found another option that has captured our hearts and might also inspire some readers who can afford to jump a price bracket or two – the “gift of nutrition”.

For $135 – which, let’s be honest, is the amount many couples will spend on gifts or a special night out at restaurant on the big day – the gift of 24 therapeutic milk sachets will go to a baby or young child who is extremely malnourished.

UNICEF explains that when babies or young children are extremely malnourished, they cannot tolerate normal food. This therapeutic milk contains the specific balance of energy, fats, protein and minerals that they need. As much a medicine as a food, it is provided in clinics and can save the lives of the most vulnerable children.

What’s not to love about the opportunity to give this gift on the day of love?

Love someone who is alone or elderly

Finally, Australia’s Red Cross has put together a “real good gift” range for Valentine’s Day with every gift representing something that people really need to help them get back on their feet.

You can give the gift of a phone call from a friendly Red Cross volunteer, to brighten the day of someone who is elderly or living alone. Or, perhaps the gift of a virtual hug and flowers from “someone who’s thinking of you” conveyed by Red Cross staff.

Check out all their Valentine’s options here.