When giving gifts for the holidays, we try to follow a couple of guidelines.
Homemade or hand-made items always outrank mass-produced. If we have to buy something that is mass-produced, we go to an independent business, not a chain, because spending our cash locally makes a difference in our communities. We try to think of others who aren’t as fortunate as us, so organizations that teach and help people to sustain themselves get our vote.
I’d like to share my list of 6 gifts that make a difference. Maybe you’ll see something that calls to you as a gift for that someone that has everything.
Heifer’s mission is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the earth. For more than 60 years, Heifer International has provided livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of those who struggle daily for reliable sources of food and income. And since 1944, we have helped 48 million people through training in livestock development and livestock gifts that multiply.
You can give the gift of honeybees, a goat, a llama, or a flock of ducks to a family or community in need. These gifts aren’t charity, they’re an investment in people and villages all over the world.
Ten Thousand Villages
The products in the Ten Thousand Villages stores are all ethically sourced, fair-trade and non-sweat-shop. The most amazing handiworks are for sale at prices that are affordable, and can help support a family with fair wages/fair worth for them.
Since 1946 Ten Thousand Villages has supported the work of literally tens of thousands of artisans in over 37 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, making us one the largest fair trade organizations in North America. Working with 130 artisan groups, we purchase fine pieces from craftspeople with whom we have longstanding, nurturing relationships… helping to bring dignity to their lives.
Ten Thousand Villages is a founding member of the International Fair Trade Association, an organization that includes over 200 members in 55 countries, including many artisan groups in developing countries. We are part of a worldwide movement that is striving to improve the livelihood of disadvantaged people in developing countries through the expansion of fair trade.
Village Earth empowers communities to sustainably access and manage the resources needed to achieve their vision for the future by working directly with communities as allies, distributing appropriate technology information, as well as providing training, consultation and networking services to individuals, communities and organizations around the globe.
One of the neatest things about Village Earth is the Appropriate Technology Library. It’s a world of sustainable information at your fingertips. 4 DVDs contain the full text and images of over 1000 books on do-it-yourself and simple sustainability projects. Purchase a copy for your back to the land friends, or just donate to the Village Earth organization.
Trees, Water, People
A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1998 by Stuart Conway and Richard Fox, TWP is staffed by dedicated conservationists working to help communities protect, conserve, and manage their natural resources.
Two beliefs are at the core of their work:
Natural resources are best protected when local people play an active role in their care and management.
Preserving local trees, wetlands, and watersheds is essential for the ongoing social, economic, and environmental health of communities everywhere.
I can really get behind that. Find out more about their Tribal Lands Renewable Energy program working with reservations communities. TWP plants windbreak and shade trees around homes, and builds and installs supplemental solar heaters for families in need. Sustainable answers for modern problems. Or buy an offset credit that helps sustain projects working to reduce CO2 emissions.
Habitat for Humanity
Habitat “seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action.” They have provided more than 1.5 million people in more than 3,000 communities with housing through volunteer labor and donations of money and materials.
Habitat builds and rehabilitates simple, decent houses with the help of the homeowner (partner) families. Habitat houses are sold to partner families at no profit and financed with affordable loans. The homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments are used to build still more Habitat houses.
Habitat is not a giveaway program. In addition to a down payment and the monthly mortgage payments, homeowners invest hundreds of hours of their own labor—sweat equity—into building their Habitat house and the houses of others.
One Laptop per Child
The concept behind One Laptop is simple: To create educational opportunities for the world’s poorest children. The answer? A rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop.
In 2002, MIT Professor Nicholas Negroponte experienced first-hand how connected laptops transformed the lives of children and their families in a remote Cambodian village. A seed was planted: If every child in the world had access to a computer, what potential could be unlocked? What problems could be solved? These questions eventually led to the foundation of One Laptop per Child, and the creation of the XO laptop.
The idea is to get this tool into the hands of children all over the world, children that desperately need educational opportunities, and let them do the rest. I like it. These machines are under $200.
America’s Second Harvest is now known as Feeding America. Watch this PSA for some insight into hunger in America. It’s a major problem. How can we send robots to Mars, yet not be able feed our people?
What organizations do you support when you buy gifts? Leave us a comment.