#17 – Help out a stranger with a random act of kindness

I included this item on The List because I felt that my 40 before 40 should not all be about me. When I wrote The List and included this challenge, I expected that in the following four years an opportunity to help would present itself to me; a ‘knight in shining armour’ moment, if you like.  But – as I reflected in my recent Progress Update post, with just six months to go until my 40th nothing has really come up except very small things which were the kinds of things I would expect to help with in any case just to be polite and neighbourly.

In response to that Progress Update post, a friend suggested that I look into helping someone at my local Women’s Refuge – as she pointed out, giving £10 away would make very little difference to me but to a woman living in a refuge, receiving an extra £10 would mean far more than that.

Understandably, it is very difficult to find out information about Women’s Refuges.  By their very nature refuges need to remain unseen and unknown; to protect the women and children sheltering there.  They offer a hugely valuable service, providing not only a safe haven to women and children at serious risk of violence or other abuse, but also the necessary help, support and advice to build a life away from their abuser.  Refuges provide not only emergency assistance in crisis but also longer term interventions to genuinely change lives.

Due to the need for confidentiality it isn’t possible to find out where refuges are and make donations directly to them, so I couldn’t do exactly what my friend had suggested and literally give a £10 note to a woman from the refuge.  Rather than making a financial contribution online to a general charity helping women in this situation I was particularly keen to help a refuge in my local area.  I was therefore pleased to be able to find a local branch of a charity, the Soroptimists, which works with my local refuge.  Through them, I was able to arrange to donate a selection of goods, so I arranged a shopping trip.

I had been informed that the refuge needed store cupboard food (tins, packets and dried goods) and also basic toiletries and sanitary products.  I chose to spend what I would normally spend on a monthly shop for me on buying items to donate to the refuge.  I donated the following basics:

  • Toothbrushes and toothpastes
  • Deodorants
  • Sanitary towels and tampons
  • New underwear (in a selection of sizes)
  • Dried pasta and rice
  • Tins of fruit, vegetables, soup, tuna and tinned ready meals

I also bought a selection of Christmas treats because I felt that as well as the essentials, everyone deserves some Christmas cheer, so I added biscuits, chocolates, mince pies, Christmas cake, gingerbread and Christmas puddings to my trolley.

Essentials and treats donated to the women's refuge

A boot-ful of essentials and treats to donate to the women’s refuge

I enjoyed the time I spent shopping for others.  It felt good to be choosing things which I knew would make a difference, and especially selecting some nice things so that as well as the essentials there were also some treats.  And in some ways, the fact that I will never know the recipients seems fitting – it’s not about me, this task was about helping someone I don’t know.  Amongst the materialism and commercialism that Christmas has become it seemed appropriate to do something in the spirit of genuine giving, where there is absolutely no expectation of receiving in return.  I hope that I have made a small difference to someone’s Christmas.


It is possible to donate to refuges and outreach services through the national charity Refuge, who assist victims of domestic abuse, whether male or female: – http://www.refuge.org.uk/who-we-are/

The Soroptimists are an international organisation working to improve the lives of women and girls all over the world: http://sigbi.org/what-we-do/



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