Gifts that Give: "Better Than Fair Trade" Gifts For Children
Maybe you read my post, 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, 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.
As I shop for my children, I’m looking to buy “gifts that give” for them, as well. This is partially because my dollar is powerful and “speaks” and can do good, but it's also because I want my children to begin to understand that their dollars are powerful and “speak” and can do good. I want them to know that the way we spend our money matters, that the best way to view money is through the lens of generosity and compassion, that there are people behind products.
Yes, there will be Elsa and Pokemon for all. But there will also be gifts that have meaning attached, ones that we use to teach our kids how blessed and fortunate they are, how others live and struggle around the world, how we can use our money to do good for them. Here is a collection of my favorite “gifts that give” for kids.
I’m writing this post immediately after buying one of these. Or more than one. A few. Okay, six. I bought six. These are adorable and colorful and perfect for any little on your list. I would pick one of these up at the store even without the label of “doing good.” And these (and everything else from Dsenyo!) really DO GOOD.
Dsenyo isn’t “just” fair trade. On top of paying at-risk women a very fair wage (3-4 times the minimum wage), they offer training in business and different trades and give advances that function like small business loans. Their business model makes my heart sing. These Little Friends animals are made by Malawian women who are part of an HIV support group. That almost makes me want to go buy one (or six) more.
Dsenyo has generously offered Foster the Family readers 20% OFF these and any of their other beautiful products (check out the kids’ aprons and headbands for your littles or the gorgeous purses and jewelry for you) if you USE THE CODE: FOSTERTHEFAMILY WHEN YOU ORDER!
T’s with a message from Hope Outfitters & The Parative Project
I have a t-shirt fetish. I rotate between t-shirt+yoga pants for “day wear” and t-shirt+ripped jeans+flannel for “night.” I figure if I’m wearing something, it might as well benefit someone in need and share some advocating, inspirational message. My 8 year old mini-me has asked me approximately 400 times for an “orphan shirt” like mommy. She knows the majority of my clothes are helping orphans and others in need, and she wants in. I love this.
Hope Outfitters donates 100 PERCENT of its profits to different causes that benefit orphans, victims of trafficking, the homeless, the unborn, lepers, and some of the other most vulnerable, needy people in the world. Their shirts are cute and high-quality and inspirational. And, of course, while I’m highlighting shirts for your kids, you’re going to want to check out the adult styles as well.
The Parative Project employs women in India who have been rescued from trafficking. While you’ll want all the grown up stuff for yourself, don’t miss their adorable “You Are Loved” shirt for your kiddos. I love this message on so many levels (“God loves you! I love you!”), but I especially love this as a foster mom. I can’t buy all the baby&kid clothes that are covered in the “mommy” & “daddy” phrases. THIS is the message I want my fosters to wear: you know what, we may not be able to give a perfectly clear label to who you are to us or who we are to you, but it doesn’t matter because YOU. ARE. LOVED. I think every parent should buy this for their kids, but FOSTER PARENTS, this one is most definitely for you.
The Parative Project so wants you to buy their products (aka support the women who make their products) that they're offering a 10% discount with the code FOSTERTHEFAMILY!
When my best friend came back from doing missions in India, I drooled over the pictures of her in her sari and her description of how comfy and amazing it was to wear. It's so beautiful, and it feels like air. Can't I just wear one forever? And the answer to that is no. No, I cannot, because I'm a white girl from Jersey, and that would just be weird.
The good people who created Punjammies bring us both the comfiness and the dazzling patterns I was coveting through their line of pajama pants. Sudara (the company that creates Pumjammies) employs women who have been rescued from trafficking in India, but they don't just employ them. They have a holistic program of counseling, education, housing, and child care that make them more than just a company and make these pants far better than just fair trade. They have these gorgeous jams for you, too, of course, but my daughter starting drooling when I showed her these. If you and your girl are the type who like to match (we are), you can get the same pants in girls and women's sizes. These are perfect for the girl to teen on your list.
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. As a five year old boy, my son will be all about this set of balls. There’s a crocheted ball from India, a cloth ball from Indonesia, a knitted hacky sack created by Houston refugees, and a "trash" soccer ball made in Kenya with plastic bags. And for the mom who’s looking for it, there’s a lesson about what your child has compared to many children around the world.
Rice Bowls is just such a great organization. They have one of the most fun, creative fundraising ideas I’ve come across, but that’s a different post. For now, you should know they feed children in orphanages around the world, and your purchase of a coloring book will feed a child for a month.
I gotta be honest, I really don’t get this trend of adults coloring. Maybe it’s that by the end of my five-kid-juggling day, my body is so tired I can barely lift the remote, let alone sit and color. But my eight year old girl (and maybe your 35 year old self) will love this. It’s really high quality paper with beautiful patterns and some gorgeous, happy photos of the orphaned children that Rice Bowls feeds.
I am a religious follower of Robeez shoes for my littles. I went through about 10 pairs of shoes with my first daughter before I learned the Robeez-antidote to the seemingly unsolvable problems of her a) not being able to stand (let alone walk) in regular, stiff-soled shoes and b) her joy at removing/throwing/losing newly purchased shoes.
So, you can imagine my joy when I discovered Sole Hope’s Robeez-esque baby shoes. They have the same design and high-quality materials as my beloved Robeez, but they are made by shoemakers in Uganda (fair trade) and benefit the good work Sole Hope does (better than fair trade). My baby is now six months old and entering shoe age. Merry Christmas to him (me).
Books that Benefit
We can all agree that books open up the world to our kiddos. I love books that are silly and nonsensical and imaginative. But I also really love books that open my kids’ eyes to the realities of the experiences and struggles of others. And I love, love books that do that while also directly benefitting those “others.”
Beatrice's Goat is the true story of a girl and her family who receive the gift of a goat from Heifer International. Spoiler alert: the goat changes her life, her family’s lives, and the rest of her village! The story will educate and inspire your child, and your purchase of the book will benefit Heifer International. After reading this book, my daughter and a group of her friends had a bake sale to purchase a goat themselves. *happy sigh* (Best for ages 5-10)
Take a Walk in My Shoes was put out by Sole Hope to bring awareness to and benefit the great work they do (read my love letter to Sole Hope here). The book follows a little boy who is affected by jiggers and treated by Sole Hope. It’s hopeful and sweet, while also revealing the sad reality many children in Africa deal with. (Best for ages 3-7)
There are many other books that will open your children’s eyes to the reality of people around the world (though they don't necessarily benefit a specific organization): UNICEF's A Life Like Mine, One Hen, Hope for Haiti, Murphy’s Three Homes, and Nasreen's Secret School: A True Story From Afghanistan to name a few.
Your shopping this holiday season doesn’t have to be the rabid-money-spending, plastic-junk-collecting, large-corporation-supporting debacle it’s become. This year it can be different. This year your Christmas shopping can do good for others, and it can teach your children to do good for others.
FOR MORE “BETTER THAN FAIR TRADE SHOPPING IDEAS”, CHECK OUT: