It’s the thought that counts 

Have yourself an altruistic Christmas

This Christmas, more than any other, may be the best year to give someone a gift that keeps on giving.

By donating money to help an endangered animal or protect a vulnerable ecosystem or even help save a child, altruistic presents can make up a significant part of your Christmas shopping list this year.

Here are a few ideas – some close to home and others a little further afield.

The Humane Society of Canada offers the Wildlife Guardian Program, allowing people to donate money to help protect an endangered animal of their choice. For a $25 donation, you can choose between the whale, dolphin, tiger, elephant, bear, lion, lemur and sea turtle.

The society will send a card with a hand written note, a certificate of appreciation, a photo of the animal, a stuffed toy as well as a fact sheet detailing the threats facing that particular animal. Information will also be included to explain how the monetary donation is being used to protect the species.

For more information, log on to www.humanesociety.com

To protect endangered species a little closer to home, there's always the chance to adopt a Vancouver Island marmot.

This endangered species is one of the rarest mammals in the world, with a population of less than 100; perhaps only 36 in the wild.

The cost of adoption for one year is $120 and that money is funnelled into field research and supports captive breeding, which is essential for the marmot's survival.

When you adopt a marmot you will get a personalized adoption certificate, a full-colour poster of the marmot as well as a special year-end report about individual marmots.

For more information log on to www.islandnet.com/~marmot/

If helping an animal isn't the perfect gift for your friend or relative, you can donate your money to protect a natural ecosystem.

The Land Conservancy of B.C. is a land trust that tries to secure and protect areas for natural communities to survive. TLC attempts to acquire protective control of lands and waters through conservation covenants, long-term leases and Title to Land.

Through programs like Adopt an Acre, TLC has managed to buy 6,000 acres and currently holds leases on 76,000 acres.

If you buy an acre with your $35 donation you will receive an adoption certificate about the specific property that is being protected, as well as a map or a picture and a fridge magnet. The adopter can also arrange to visit the acre they have adopted.

Some of the properties that are up for adoption are South Winchelsea Island, Reynolds Ranch and Sooke Hills.

TLC is also offering the Whistler covenants for adoption.

This covenant protects a wildlife corridor for black bears and other mammals as well as conserving a stand of old growth conifers at the north end of Blueberry Trail, in the Barnfield Farm area.

For more information visit www.conservancy.bc.ca

Another Christmas standard that benefits others is buying Christmas cards from UNICEF. This organization helps children in the early years of life, specifically protecting those kids in the midst of war and natural disaster.

The net proceeds from the Christmas card program are used to fund UNICEF programs around the world. That means about 50 per cent of the purchase price goes straight into UNICEF programs.

For more information about the cards visit www.unicef.ca

Another way to help a child overseas is to sponsor one through an agency like the Salvation Army in its Overseas Child Sponsorship program.

It costs $240 to sponsor a child for one year. This gift goes towards providing food, medical care and shelter.

After pledging the money, the donor will receive a photo of the child they are sponsoring as well as a biography. The organization also encourages the donor to send cards and letters over the course of the year.

In short, there are many options out there to have an altruistic Christmas. Some friends may even prefer a donation to their favourite charity as part of their Christmas present this year. It may not be something tangible or something that is easy to wrap but it may have more long-term impact than a regular Christmas gift.

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