((Pics of two small Maltese dogs Max and Suzy)) Christine Snyman from Johannesburg thought she had bought these two cute Maltese puppies online. But she later found she had been scammed and these images had been copied from the internet. Reporters Jan Cronje and Shen WuTan Picture: SUPPLIED

Cape Town – We live in a country with a very large divide between rich and poor, and it’s at this time of year that these economic differences become even more stark.
Luckily, as a nation we’re a charitable bunch. But with an estimated 120 000 organisations and initiatives needing assistance, helping those in need can be difficult with so many options to choose from.
To make your decision a little easier, here are a few causes that you can get involved with this festive season.
They need your sweat, tears, but mostly your blood
This is the most dangerous time of year to be on the road in South Africa, and with so many accidents there is a dire need for blood donations. With stats on South African Blood Services saying that 1% of locals are active donors, it’s time to change this. Log onto www.sanbs.org.za to find out where the closest venue is this festive season.
Adopt, or help some pups
Being around puppies and kittens is loads of fun, but, animal shelters rely heavily on donations and help from volunteers. Bathing, cleaning, giving care, or housing so many animals takes money and time. This summer why not get a little extra fresh air and help out at a kennel or cattery. The SPCA operates nationwide. You can also help out by adopting a pet. But remember, a pet is for life and not just for Christmas.
Help out when gifting
We’re all heading to the shops this December. Most of these shoppers (including you) will be getting gifts, and will need to get them wrapped. This year, avoid the hassle, save time, and get someone else to do it, all while donating money to charity. This year Shoprite and Checkers will be allowing every South African the opportunity to donate to charity. Simply head to your nearest store and find the wrapping station. It’s that easy to make a difference.
Wear your cause
While on your hunt for gifts this season, bear in mind, nothing is more precious than giving hope. Relate Bracelets is a 100% not-for- profit social enterprise which makes and sells handmade beaded bracelets in support of more than 90 local causes. So all you have to do is choose who you want to help, and remember you’re allowed to support more than one cause.
A beacon of hope at night
There is no exact number of how many homeless people wander the streets of South Africa. But we can guess that the number is high. With a massive part of the population roofless there is a major need for volunteers to help out at temporary night shelters. The Haven Night Shelter group is a perfect example of an organisation to give your time to, or if you’ve got some employment opportunities why not hire an unemployed individual and give them hope for the new year.
This article was first published in IOL on December 12, 2016.