MORE Gifts that Give: How Your Christmas Shopping Can Change the World
I caught the “better than fair trade” bug a few years ago, and it hit me hard. Now I look around at Christmas time with all its shopping and spending, and I just want to shake everyone (including, often, myself...for instance, when I fall into a Target-induced-”I-need-it-all”-trance): We can do better than this! We can use our money to help others! WE CAN SHOP AND SPEND AND DO GOOD!
All year I’ve been anxiously awaiting sharing my favorite “better than fair trade” organizations with you so that you, too, can catch the bug and do good this Christmas-shopping season. Well, I may have gotten a little carried away. I created a list of my 10 favorites. But I couldn’t stop there. So I made a list of my favorites for kids. But I couldn’t stop there. All the people must know all the organizations! So, here is my second list of my very favorite do-gooding, beautiful-product-making, world-changing, better-than-fair-trade organizations.
Get started by reading my Why you should buy “better than fair trade” diatribe, catch the vision for this very-easiest-way to do good for others, and then Christmas shop your little heart off.
I have a certain friend (who shall remain nameless) who is so cool that my friends and I have made her name an adjective (a predicate adjective?), as in: “That is so Jenna.” (...okay, her name is Jenna). Well, when I discovered Clutch and Purse, all I could think is: It’s all so Jenna. Purse and Clutch makes be-au-ti-ful products. Their line focuses on (hey, what do you know?) purses and clutches, but sells other products as well to make your life more beautiful.
Of course, the only reason they’re on this list: everything sold by Purse and Clutch has been made by at-risk women around the world whose lives have been changed through receiving a fair wage and support from Purse and Clutch.
My top choices: The Embossed Pouchette is me at a music festival, happy and free and pretending I’m 23. The Ethiopian Leather Purse is me in everyday life with four sippy cups, diapers/wipes, apple sauce pouches, a blankie, and a Boba Fett figure...but still working it, cause I’ve got my uber hip bag. I think I’ll just have to get both. You know, balance.
USE THE CODE FOSTERTHEFAMILY AT CHECKOUT AND RECEIVE FREE SHIPPING ON YOUR ENTIRE PURCHASE!
My Sister is the only organization on these lists that is based in, created in, and serve women in the US. Trafficking is something we read about in Asia and India, but the realities of trafficking here in America are devastating as well. I have a dear friend who runs an amazing ministry in Camden, NJ, caring for women who are stuck in prostitution. She talks about how while the women she serves may not have been sold into slavery the way they often are around the world, they are slaves to the people and system that control them just the same. My Sister works to benefit MN Girls Are Not For Sale, working in prevention, education, after-care services and housing, and more.
My Sister sells adorable, ethically-made shirts with a strong pro-women message. My top choice is the "Do your little bit of good" flowy tee, but I love so many of the others as well.
Coffee drinkers, lend me your ear. I am a coffee lover, a coffee aficionado, a coffee snob...and this is the only coffee I drink. Greater Bean is small-batch, hand-roasted, ethically-sourced, delicious coffee. And the miracle? At $8 a pound, it’s cheaper than your local (undrinkable, in my humble opinion) Dunkin Donuts and (ready?) HALF of the money goes straight to caring for orphans in Africa. I have a standing five pounds a month order that I don’t even have to feel guilty about because I know my habit (problem?) is supporting those is need. I can’t even count the number of “wins” that are involved in drinking this coffee. Just please go buy it now.
My top choice is the Kenya roast. It’s bold and should be drank strong and black, the way God intended coffee to be.
Eden Ministry is an organization that works to bring freedom and healing to women enslaved in the red-light districts of Asia. The work Eden does is so comprehensive - from prevention to rescue to job training - that a few sentences won’t do it justice. Please take the time to read about Eden Ministry yourself and become compelled by all they do.
When I hear the stories of girls and women trapped in sex slavery, I shudder and weep and then move on with my little life. Because what else can a middle-class mom from New Jersey do? I’m grateful there’s something I can do. I’m grateful for organizations like Eden Ministry that allow someone like me who can’t do much to partner with what they are doing.
Each piece of jewelry is beautiful. But more importantly, each piece is created with a purpose, created to support the very women whose hands crafted it. My top choice is their Speak Up necklace, which I wear on an almost daily basis.
Women of Hope partners with disabled women in Sierra Leone who may be, quite possibly, some of the most vulnerable people in the world. The triple threat of overwhelming poverty, female-ness, and disability leave these women alone, penniless, and hopeless. Women of Hope takes a holistic approach to caring for, training, and employing these women who make the beautiful products by hand and directly profit from their oversees sisters (us) buying them.
My top choice: I have every one of their headbands. The end.
Add them to the list of companies that employ and empower former victims of sex trafficking. One of my favorite parts of their products is the signature that marks each one. The hand-written name highlights the real-life human effects your purchase is initiating. You can almost picture a dear woman's hands crafting your gift, and you can even pray for her by name.
My top choice? *sigh* I am just deeply in love with my Didi Overnight Pack. I don’t usually love inanimate things the way I love this thing. I carry it around with me for no reason at all. I’ll be walking out the door with one thing in my hand and think, “I should really use my backpack for this.” It’s really sturdy and cute and just my very favorite, most beloved thing. Sadly, they no longer sell my exact pattern, but everything Kantha is cute, so you can pick your own pattern...and know that somewhere out there I am carrying one that is even more beautiful than your own.
You know that person on your shopping list. The one who is just far too cool for a mass-made, available-to-your-average-Target-shopping-mortal gift? Well, Ransomed Cuffs and its hand-made, artisan products are for that person. This company is actually “just” a mom with a gift and a heart of gold, creating beautiful products and donating half of her products to help foster children in her community through Olive Crest. She's become a "mom on a mission," using the overflow of her mama’s heart and the spare minutes of her day to love others.
Ransomed Cuffs creates beautiful cuffs from re-purposed leather (Green? Check. Add another cause to the list.). The creative (resourceful, giving…) mama behind Ransomed Cuffs takes old belts and turns them into beautiful, wearable works of art. As her site says, she’s “motivated by love of the Great Redeemer who has done this for us: ransoming our broken lives and re-creating us into something beautiful.” Guys. This. These cuffs are pretty and edgy and all-around lovely, even before you consider the purpose behind them.
My top choice: Being able to create a custom cuff, exactly as you want it!
My top choice from Rahab’s Rope is their Mango Wood Carved Cross, which I just so happen to be receiving myself this Christmas. Other things to check out from them are their gorgeous leather journals (I want to be the kind of person who carries around a leather wrap around journal and sketches and writes beautiful things - I want it so very much - but alas, I am not. So while I’ve held these beauties in my hand and can attest to just how gorgeous they are, they were created for a different me, a different life.).
If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you know how I feel about Unlock Hope. I LIVE in their shirts, and I do it with pride. Because not only are their clothes super comfy, flattering, and inspirational, but they donate ONE HUNDRED percent of their profits to educate and care for girls in Uganda. The girls they care for are refugees, orphans, and victims of war. They bring these at-risk girls into their hostel and provide them with a home, food, education, job training, life skills, and a loving community.
My top choice from Unlock Hope - and the item of clothing I get the most comments about - is the “Act Justly” shirt. The photo below is a selfie, not to be confused with the photos of pouty, 18 year old models on the web site. Just to clarify.
"In your honor gifts” actually made it onto both lists, because it's just that important. While everyone enjoys the wrapping/unwrapping/piles-o-presents of it all, these gifts are both meaningful to the “in your honor” card-receiver and life-changing to the actual gift-receiver. The thought that this Christmas I could get another sweater from Target or a starving family in Guatemala could get a brood of chickens that sustains their family, is just too much.
The way it works: Peruse the "gift catalog", choose a gift that you think would be meaningful to the person to your list (“Sponsor uniform and tuition for a child to go to school” for the teacher in your life or “Feed a hungry baby” for the new mom), then receive an "in your honor" card that outlines your gift so you can pass it along to your giftee. These gifts are perfect for the person who has it all, the person across the country, or the person whose heart just bleeds for those in need.
My top choice for giving this type of gift is Samartian’s Purse. They fire on all cylinders as far as financial integrity, holistically and responsibly helping those in need, and also giving you the most user friendly “gift giving” experience. You can order a catalog (your kids may even get excited looking through it and request something themselves...one year my daughter begged for and “received” a goat and a lamb!) or look online, and they’ll send you a beautiful card describing the gift.