Gifts that Give: How Your Christmas Shopping Can Change the World
Christmas. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
Yes, Hallmark and Hollywood have taken the sacred birth of our Savior and transformed it into a commercialism-infused, tinsel-covered exhibition. But I can’t get enough. In my circles, I’m famous (infamous) for my level of Christmas-celebrating-intensity, from baking hundreds of cookies (I hate to bake) to excessive traditions (yes, we have 7 different advent calendars, how many do you have?) to dragging my children to every holiday-themed event in the tri-state area (“It’s only 30 degrees. You will go, and you will like it.”).
While I will forever hold tight to the baking/decorating/traditioning/movie-watching/Santa-sitting/overall-magic-of-it-all, I’ve had a bit of my own Scrooge-esque-Christmastime-awakening.
Friends, are you aware of the amount of money that is thrown around at Christmas in this country? Can you say 500 BILLION DOLLARS? Would you ever guess, Mrs. “Average American”, that your family will spend around $2,000 on gifts and decorations and the like this Christmas season? Have you thought about the fact that the day after celebrating all they have to be grateful for, real-life humans get in tug-of-wars over Sesame Street toys and video games?
Something's not right here.
Half of the world lives on less than $2.50 a day. Over 70 million school-aged kids don’t go to school because of poverty. Every three seconds a child dies of a preventable cause. 21,000 people starve to death each day. Look at it this way: if Americans collectively decided to forego Christmas and all its expenses, we could end world hunger for the next eight years. Think on that too long and you’ll lose your appetite for hot cocoa and candy canes.
There is a way to make some of this Christmastime-money-throwing stick at something that really matters. And thank the Lord for that, because it nearly redeems Christmas and all of its excess.
There are organizations that are committed to employing and equipping impoverished people around the world. There are ministries that rescue women from modern-day slavery and empower them with a trade. There are companies and artisans that create beautiful products and donate 20, 50, 100 percent of their profits. There is a way for you to use your Christmas spending to help others.
I’ve spent years doing my part to save the world through shopping (it’s a hard life), and I’ve decided to share my findings with you...
Delicate Fortress Creations is like the online one-stop-shopping department store of fair trade. As much as I want you to visit and buy from every single organization on my “Gifts that Give” lists, you could probably get away with just checking them out. Now that I think of it, I probably should’ve put them at the bottom of the list so you don’t stop here. Just promise you won’t.
Delicate Fortress creates partnerships with other organizations and fair trade companies, doing the work of finding and bringing beautiful products to you all in one place. The organizations they partner with do good for those in extreme poverty, women rescued from trafficking, orphans, and some of the other most vulnerable people in the world. And the products these organizations provide are everything from jewelry to kitchen supplies to skin care. There is something for every. person. on your list.
Delicate Fortress offers jewelry and scarves and purses like every other fair trade company. What makes them different is all of the other, less typical, products they offer. Because of that, my top choices are some of things you can’t find from other fair trade companies. Make sure that as you shop, you click on the "Artisan Info" tab to read about what you're supporting. I thought this men's/women's leather card holder was adorable, but when I read that it's made with cruelty free leather (from animals that have already died!) and that it's created by artisans of the Chamar "untouchable" class in India who cannot interact (aka be employed by) other classes, I thought: Well, I guess everyone I know is getting a card holder this year. Seriously, family and friends, I hope you enjoy it.
Hope Outfitters does lots of good, lots of places, for lots of people. Through partnerships with different causes around the world, Hope raises money to benefit orphans, victims of trafficking, the homeless, the unborn, lepers, and some of the other most vulnerable, needy people in the world. And because they donate 100 PERCENT of their profits, they raise huge amounts of money for these people. Their last campaign to rescue homeless youth raised almost $200,000.
Their shirts are flattering, high-quality, and ethically-made. And their cute designs are always tied with an inspirational message. Besides the obvious “I want this for myself” choices (check out the "Alive & Free" and "His Love Never Fails" tops), they have some of my favorite tees for guys and kids that I’ve found.
My top choice: I’m planning on getting the “Tribe of Judah” lion tee for my dad, who likes and shares all my posts, but I’m pretty sure doesn’t actually read them. I’m so confident in this theory that I’m publicly announcing his Christmas present here for him and all the world to see. Your play, dad.
I love every. single. thing. Purpose makes. Their jewelry is so simple and trendy and adorable that you’ll have a hard time choosing what to buy. Besides getting all the things for yourself, there’s something for every female on your list. Their simple, geometric necklaces are perfect for the younger, hipstery gal. Their bracelets are so classic that I’m pretty sure me, my daughter, my mom, and my grandmom would all happily wear them. Their earrings are big/small/trendy/classic/something-for-everyone.
Of course, the jewelry is only a part of what this whole thing is about, though. Because Purpose has a true purpose to creating and selling jewelry. Purpose is a branch of iSanctuary, an incredible organization in India that holistically cares for women who are rescued from trafficking. iSanctuary provides everything from housing and basic needs to health care and counseling to education and employment. They are about so much more than just throwing money at women. They are about coming alongside them as they heal and reintegrate. And you can be a part of their amazing work by purchasing these dear ones' products.
My top choice(s) from Purpose are their simple geometric necklaces. It's not possible to choose one. It's just not. PURPOSE IS OFFERING FREE SHIPPING TO FOSTER THE FAMILY READERS WITH THE CODE FOSTERTHEFAMILY!
When I learned about Dsenyo, I immediately got shopping online and spent waaay too much money. I sometimes do this with other sites (Oh, Target, why do you such power over my heart?), but it’s different with Dsenyo. Because with Dsenyo, vulnerable women in Africa and Brazil are paid 3-4 times the minimum wage (Fair trade! Check!) and receive the benefits of business loans/training/support (“Better Than Fair Trade”! Check!) to make what I bought. Their business model makes my heart happy and my mind less guilty.
My top choice: I would say that I’m “hoping” to get this for Christmas. But the reality is that I know I’m getting this for Christmas. Because, yes, that’s a picture of me (guiltily) holding it. Because, yes, sweetie, I broke our one pre-Christmas rule and bought myself something. Because...well...look at it. But don’t worry, I’ve already put it under your side of the bed for you to wrap up for me, and I promise to act surprised on Christmas morning.
This clutch is: hand-stitched and hand-stamped by dear souls in Zambia, leather-accented so adorable that even this vegan could overlook it, and transported into your hands and heart at 20% OFF WITH THE CODE FOSTERTHEFAMILY. Use the code on anything in the store including their other bags, purses, and adorable kids’ products (check out my love letter to their kids’ products here).
Made By Survivors
Looking around Made by Survivors' web site broke me. Take a look at these numbers:
- Human beings are bought and sold for amounts ranging from $80-$5000
- 22% of child slaves in India will never make it to adulthood
- 29 million people are enslaved in today’s world
- One million children are trafficked every year for sexual exploitation
- 100 million girls are trapped in child marriages
- 200,000 children are exploited in child labor
- Average age of victims at the time of trafficking: 11-14
My non-math-minded-self glosses over numbers, so let me just focus on this. Twenty nine million souls (same number as every person in Texas) have been sold and purchased, like human products, for the price of a nice dinner out or a TV or a car. It's unthinkable.
Made By Survivors is not a business. It's a group of Good Samaritans working hard to change the lives of formerly enslaved women and children. Read about the good they do, then check out the beautiful products that you can proudly wear/use/display and know they were made by survivors.
When you shop (and I hope you do), make sure to USE THE CODE FOSTERTHEFAMILY TO SAVE 20% ON YOUR ORDER!
My top choices: I have a number of Made by Survivors products on my Christmas wish list. I hard a hard time choosing which one of the beautiful Photos (pieces of art) I wanted, so I added three. They are taken by women who have been trained as photographers and 100% of the proceeds goes to training more women to do the same. I'm also asking for the Blockprinted Duffel Bag. Yes, I've taken a vow of bag-buying-abstinence since I have purses and tote bags from every other organization in the world, but I figure a duffel bag is more accurately defined as luggage than a purse and is surely fair game. Finally, their "Free" necklace is just the kind of conversation starter I love to wear. Buying the necklace does good, and wearing it speaks up for the women it does good for. I can almost taste the first time someone asks me about it.
MudLOVE has a line of super cool bracelets and mugs that are the greatest Christmas/I-think-I’ll-get-a-little-something-for-myself gifts, and (drum roll) each product provides one week of clean water to someone in need! MudLOVE partners with Water for Good to bring water to millions of people, and you get a handsome little bracelet/mug. This is what I call a classic win-win. For my birthday, my husband special ordered me a bracelet with two hearts and the word “foster” on it (Ordered = followed the link and very. specific. directions. I sent him to ensure I got exactly what I wanted). I also wish-listed one of their super hip mugs and DIDN’T GET IT (what is wrong with people?).
My top choice: Um, obviously, the much-wished-for-and-anticipated mug that I never received (Write it down honey: Evening. Hike. Stein.). I mean, I can’t recommend it based on personal experience, but I recommend it nevertheless (with longing in my heart). I also love their bands and plan on buying one for my daughter this Christmas (don’t tell her).
Have you met my friend, Kantha, yet? Let me introduce you to my friend, Kantha. Kantha is a type of hand-stitched embroidery that uses old saris (Green! Check another cause off the list!) to create beautiful new products. You can buy Kantha on Amazon, made by Lord knows who, in Lord knows what conditions, for Lord knows what miniscule amount of money. Or you can buy it (for a similar price) through a wonderful company like Buy the Change.
Like all the organizations on this list, Buy the Change does “better than” fair trade. They not only provide fair wages to the women they employ - victims of trafficking, widows, women who are in one way or another “at-risk” - they also affect broader change by providing needed resources and equipment to their communities.
I am obsessed with Kantha. I carry a Kantha backpack, I have a Kantha journal, I wrap myself each night in the beautiful, floral-covered, safe warmth of my Kantha quilt. *Sigh* You should love Kantha, too, and you can get your own Kantha throws and quilts and baby blankets and purses and scarves from Buy the Change.
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, East Coast Benefactory 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 50% of every purchase to Sole Hope (I need a whole post to tell you about Sole Hope). 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.
Check out ECB's uber hip, I-want-this-now-status leather mason jar holders and wooden signs. My top choice and top item on my own Christmas wish list is a custom sign (it will say "foster love"...don't you just love it?).
Mercy House is the organization that got me hooked on this idea of buying products that support people in need. As a mom, I am all about the beautiful work they do, housing, training, and empowering young, single moms who have been discarded by everyone around them.
My top choices (you don’t expect me to choose just one, do you?) are: First, the “Stackabilities” bracelets. The bracelets are made of used up, discarded paper that is turned into beautiful beads (ugh, do you see the full circle-ness here?). One by itself is cute, but some style guru in Kenya must’ve realized that stacked together they’re 5x as great. I also love, love the “Micah 6:8” Poster which is, incidentally, the first thing you lay eyes on as you enter my home.
"In Your Honor Gifts"
Last, but certainly not least (maybe this should've been first?) are “in your honor gifts.” 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.