Have yourself a socially conscious Christmas: Gifts that give back

>UPDATE: Please scroll to the bottom of this post for new links to more blog posts on gifts that give back for even more options!

When our family decided to purchase gifts for one another that would also benefit someone in need, the most challenging part was finding reputable companies that were committed to supporting artisans, helping lift people out of poverty, or giving back in some other way.

The gifts we found ranged from handmade items with a hand-written note attached from the artisan, to sports apparel that donated part of the proceeds to breast cancer research. And really, if you purchase organic coffee or fair-trade chocolate, you are helping to provide a fair wage to ethical farmers, so you could just look for the fair-trade label, too.

To give you a head start in your searches for socially conscious companies this season, I’ve compiled the list of items and companies below. Some I have direct experience with; others I’ve admired from the computer screen. I hope these links will help you shop with meaning this Christmas and escape some of the frenzy of the season. Enjoy and pass along!

For the home
What started out as a fundraiser for the owner’s adoption has turned into a fashion-forward home, jewelry and accessory collection that partners with artisans all over the world to help them rise out of poverty. They also provide storefronts for qualified adoptive families, donating 10 percent of all sales they generate. Not only THAT, but they also give net proceeds toward orphan care and orphan prevention. You’ll be seeing them in other categories below, because I’m just so dang impressed with this company. Their products are all over my own Christmas list.
Offering a range of hand-woven baskets and home accessories, Rwanda Baskets works directly with weavers in Rwanda to provide the highest financial returns possible. The company also provides education to vulnerable youth, job training to impoverished people, and they host reconciliation workshops to bring together genocide victims and repentant perpetrators to work through their guilt and pain. Wow.
Sixty Feet Foundation began when an American couple discovered the existence of children’s prisons in Uganda. Children as young as toddlers are dropped off in conditions that would take your breath away. Sixty Feet supports staff on the ground in Uganda working to improve conditions and give hope to these kids. Recently they embarked on a fundraising venture to build safe, long-term homes so the children can grow up in a more stable and loving place. Every penny of the purchase of your scripture-based, electronic house rules file (you upload and print at your favorite photo printing site) goes to Sixty Feet. (Plus they’re designed by my friend Colleen and she’s super awesome!)

According to their website, Indego Africa “empowers African women to lift their families out of poverty through fair trade partnerships, international export market access, and long-term skills” by emphasizing entrepreneurship and independence. My husband got me this yoga bag for Christmas last year, and it’s lovely and strong. Indego has a wide range of products, including baskets, scarves, jewelry and coasters.

 

Jewelry
Scroll up to read about Noonday Collection — one of my favorite places to shop for a cause. I love love these earrings, and most of the other jewelry on their site. Another of my favorites is the Inca necklace: Stunning! Oh, and the Circles Forever bracelet. I’ll stop now.

31Bits started where I was just months ago: In Uganda. The company purchases paper bead products from Ugandan women on a monthly basis, providing a stable income, helping them overcome adversity and ultimately empowering them to rise out of poverty.

Started by three college friends who discovered that children in Northern Uganda were walking miles each night just to sleep in safety from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a terrorist group in the region, they use documentary film and political action to move people to action and affect change for the war-torn region. Each DVD comes with bracelets to remind you of their story, and their storefront also has jewelry and apparel.

Accessories
Krochet Kids International’s tagline is Buy a hat. Change a life. They work with women artisans in Uganda and Peru, providing education to make a living, resources to rise above the need for outside help, and mentorship for the women to plan long-term careers. Plus their hats are really cool! They also carry apparel items.

 

Hello Noonday! Here they are again, only because I couldn’t resist posting a picture of my favorite item of all on their site: These cozy arm warmers. They also have hats, bags, scarves and belts.
I love Hello Somebody’s focus on kids: They’re dedicated to lifting children out of poverty through education and opportunity. Right now they’re partnering with Africa New Life, an incredible ministry and child sponsorship program in Rwanda that provides schooling, meals and spiritual direction to street kids. When you buy a watch from Hello Somebody as part of their Hello Rwanda program, you help fund sponsorship of 100 Rwandese street boys. You can also click to donate $10 to get the boys gifts this Christmas.
A product made from natural materials that gives back natural materials, these WeWOOD watches are so unique and modern. For every watch purchased, WeWOOD partners with American Forest to plant a tree.

 

These cool, creative sandals are made by women in Uganda who are on break from University. Many of their male counterparts are able to find employment during their breaks, but with jobs difficult to find in Uganda and a cultural bias toward men, many women have no options for earning an income. Sseko has stepped in and changed that for them. Plus, the sandals are super cute and you can tie them billions of different ways. They have some sparkly ties available now for the holidays (if you live somewhere you can wear sandals for the holidays), and a cute stocking stuffer package is available now. AND, I just saw a teaser for NEW products that will be coming out on Nov. 25! So exciting (and they look gorgeous)!
This organization is committed to providing closed-toe shoes to children in need in Uganda and Zambia. They also teach the craft of shoe-making to artisans in these countries, providing a way out of poverty and a way to provide for their families. In their shop, they have these cool leather cuffs, as well as necklaces and T-shirts.
Apparel
fashionABLE helps support sustainable business for women in Africa. According to their website, fashionABLE works with women who have been exploited due to the effects of poverty.  So, when you purchase a scarf you are providing jobs, and then we send the profits back to holistically rehabilitate more women. Every scarf is named for a woman whose life has been changed, and each comes with a handwritten note telling how you’ve helped. Note: They’re having a 15% off sale with free shipping on Monday, Nov. 28!
 
 

One Mango Tree is a fair trade organization dedicated to providing business opportunities for the women of war-torn northern Uganda. They have this sweet party dress, as well as skirts, tunics, jewelry, awesome hats!, clutches and shoulder bags. They offer fundraising opportunities for adoptive families, too, which makes me love them even more.

 

Kids

These sweet barrettes, headbands and hairbows are created and sold by a fellow Ugandan adoptive mama. They brought home their son last year, and they’re going through the process again to bring his two best friends home to be his sisters and their daughters.
These very sweet hand-sewn monsters, butterbean babies and stringbean kids help raise funds for another Ugandan adoption. I love the fabrics!
Have you seen this guy? Beyond his instant self-publishing success, Dallas Clayton is also hilARious and The Awesome Book really is very awesome. It’s all about dreaming big in a world that’s forgotten how to dream. A great message for kids and adults alike. For every book purchased, the author gives one away. This one is definitely going into my kids’ stockings this year.
There are a few items for kids and babies in this shop, and their inventory changes once in a while, so check back. I loved this miniature raffia animal bunting to hang somewhere in a baby’s room. They also have some baby layette and kids’ t-shirts, as well as accessories and items for the home.
 
I’m so happy that fashionABLE came out with a kids’ line of scarves this year. My daughter looked at this photo and said, “she looks like me!” Yes, honey. Yes she does. Read more about fashionABLE under Apparel above.
Edibles/Drinkables

Coffee for a cause

There are several nonprofit coffee companies that provide fair wages and ensure that ethical practices are used in coffee production. Because I typically get my fair-trade coffee locally, I can’t speak to the quality of these beans, but I’ve heard good things about all three.
Three Avocados Coffee uses 100% of net proceeds to provide clean water in Uganda. Check out their “Our Story” tab — it’s a beautiful story of how they were inspired to help.

Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee provides fair wages and partners with farmers in Rwanda, Haiti, Thailand and other countries.

Just Love Coffee provides adoptive families a storefront for fundraising, and they also donate 5 percent of net proceeds to Charity:Water.

 

 
This high-quality vanilla extract is made by another family going through the adoption process in Uganda. Can you smell it cooking in your Christmas cookies already?
Giving in honor
You may have that person in your life it’s impossible to buy for, or one who insists they really, really don’t need any more stuff. If so, giving a gift to someone else in their honor can be a nice gesture — and it can mean a whole lot more than cologne or socks.
Most of the companies and organizations linked above have direct donation links. If one of the stories moved you, consider making a gift in honor of someone you love. If you want even more ideas, I’m here for you:
This ministry hits close to home. Reading “The Vision” tab on this site brings me to tears every time. The odds these women are facing are staggering. This ministry provides a safe place for pregnant women in crisis to land, then gives them counseling, training and the tools they need to make a living and a life for themselves and their babies.
If you don’t think a monthly sponsorship program is in the budget right now, try their “Power of Three.” They’re asking people to give just $3 every month. Three dollars, on the third of each month, to remember that three girls are raped every 45 minutes. (And there are the tears again.)
Mercy House Kenya also has a shop with bags, jewelry, artwork and apparel.

World Vision is doing some pretty great stuff all over the world, and they have a gift catalog with all kinds of options for helping someone in need with a tangible gift. You can provide a business loan to a woman entrepreneur, purchase a share of a well for clean water, buy a goat for milk and income, provide a new mother and baby kit, and many more beautiful and life-changing options.

 

Through Heifer, you can buy a llama, sheep, goat, pig, a flock of geese or a trio of rabbits, and you don’t even have to clean up after them. The gift of animals to those in poverty can be a game-changer, offering families the chance to provide for themselves and earn a living. Peruse their gift catalog and give a gift in honor of someone you love.

 

Give back with the rest of your shopping

Maybe you already had your heart set on a certain gift for someone, and it’s not on this blog post. That’s OK — you can still give a portion of that purchase to a worthy cause!

If you’re like me and do most of your Christmas shopping online, check out iGive. That link will take you to the page that supports “Friends of New Hope,” which is an orphanage and school in Busia, Uganda. You can also find a cause in the list close to your heart, register for free, restart your browser and then shop away! Be aware that it’s a pretty small percentage of your purchase that gets there, but every nonprofit knows that every gift counts.

 

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Thanks for perusing my list of worthy causes for 2011. It was fun to compile everything and realize I’ve probably got everyone on my list covered with what I’ve got here. Many of these sites have more than what I’ve highlighted here, too, so be sure to click through and check them out.

If you found this valuable, please share! Send the link to your friends and spread the word — and let’s make this Christmas season more about love and less about stuff.

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update 11/26:

Some other blogs I follow have been posting similar lists. We’re featuring a few of the same companies, but there are more options on each of these posts. Check them out for even more options for making Christmas mean more this year.

Gifts that give back 2011 at Rage Against the Minivan

shop with purpose at moments with love

  • Stacey

    >Great list, Kim! Thank you for sharing! I'm loving the jewelry from Noonday!

  • SarahT

    >Thank you so much! This is so helpful and I will be buying lots today!

  • The Encouraging Home

    >Great ideas! Thanks for the list and for linking up to A Christ-Centered Christmas.

  • Rachel

    >beadforlife.com is also pretty great. :)