Friday Favorites: Gifts that Give

Happy Friday! Well, it’s officially 15 days until Christmas, can you believe it? For those of you still putting together your list or looking for gifts for others, this is THE DAY to read my blog! =)

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve struggled with a wise way to spend money at Christmas. It seems like every charity out there (ones I’d never even heard of) pop up into my bubble of awareness. I think at the holidays, we are so aware of giving and of need, that more people are willing to give and more people are seeking help they need this time of the year.

So, here I am, buying fun things for the people I love. I don’t think I should feel guilty for that.

But Tom and I have a LOT of people to buy presents for, and I look around and just see all of this NEED. I want to spread the love, but sometimes, I don’t know how to afford that. I can give time, but that’s also in short supply this time of year. I do what I can.

So this post is for those of you who want to give great gifts but also want to help others. This is where those two desires collide. I’ll be honest, most of Christmas shopping was done before I thought of all of this. But I might have added some things to my own list from here. 😉

Here are some gifts you can give (or receive) this year that will be a genuinely nice gift for the the recipient while the proceeds help others.  Win-Win.

Let’s do this:

1. Falling Whistles. This is my favorite one this year. You MUST watch this (one minute) video and read the story. It had me in tears and is way better than I can explain it. Just in case you don’t watch or read the story… In it, you meet an adventurer who stumbled upon the ugly reality that is life and war in the Congo. Children are kidnapped from their homes in the dead of night and forced to fight and kill, are beaten, and are starved. If they are too small to hold a gun, they are often given whistles- just whistles- as their “weapon.”They must blow the whistles on the front lines to scare the enemy and then receive the first round of bullets. If they run, they are shot by the soldiers on their own lines. These little boys die for a war they never wanted, whistles falling from their hands.  This adventurer was stunned to hear of it and cried out for justice. Upon his return home, a friend gave him a whistle on a chain to wear around his neck in honor of these boys.

It started conversations and awareness. Now they sell the whistles as a sign of protest. “Their weapon can be our voice. Be a whistle blower.”

It’s the only jewelry on my wishlist this year. I love it because it stands for something, it looks good and comes in a variety of styles and prices, it can be worn by guys or girls, and 100% of proceeds go to help those living through a war they don’t want in the Congo.

2. 31 Bits Design. These pretty pieces are created by women in Uganda. 31 Bits buys paper beads from women there in order to help them overcome poverty and harsh situations. They turn the paper beads into beautiful pieces to sell.

Supporting this store means supporting those women, and the more they sell, the more women they can buy from in Uganda. They began with 6. Now they have 63 ladies making paper beads there.

3. TOMS Shoes. This store has done well enough to buy commercials on TV, so I’m not surprised if you know who they are. As they’ve grown in popularity, so have they grown in variety, so you will probably find some pair of shoes you like. How do they give back? For every pair of shoes you buy, a pair is given to a child in need.

Just think- TOMS are getting to be popular, and they’re way less pricey than most tennis shoes. I’m just sayin’.  And these are another gift that will work for men, women, and children. (They have also branched out to shirts, hoodies, stickers, necklaces, boots, wedges, and sneakers. Just in case the plain TOMS won’t do.)

4. Song For Food. This story is nuts. The Song for Food organization literally began with a dream. The person who started it dreamed one night of a girl named Ellie playing guitar and singing a song to support her family since her parents were out of work, and then making enough off it to support others. He tried to forget it, but he couldn’t get the song out of his head, and he had the dream night after night. So he wrote it down, and he had NO luck finding an artist to record it. Months went by, and a music producer he met online agreed to help hook him up with an artist and to help him get the recording done so that he could try to sell it with proceeds going to support food banks. Imagine their surprise when a girl with a guitar walked into the producer’s office not much later, said her name was Ellie, her dad had lost his job, and her mom’s work couldn’t support their whole family as there were 7 kids. She wanted to record but had no money. Everyone was shocked- her story WAS the dream that man had had months before. She recorded the song, and Song For Food began.

They now have 12 young artists who get to record covers for cds they’ve sold in order to raise money for food banks. (You can hear Ellie’s voice on a couple of Christmas songs you can stream from their site. She’s talented!) If you buy the Song For Food cd, 100% of profits from it go to food banks.

There you have it– four different gifts you can give or receive while also supporting others. There are also lots of other ways to help others this season- food banks always need donations, lots of organizations will accept unused or partially used gift cards, Samaritan’s Purse has Operation Christmas Child-which is also a very fun to involve kids in giving, and they also have an entire catalog of gifts you can give to children and families in need all over the world, which is a nice way to send a gift to your Compassion child‘s family, region, or country, if you have one.

There are SO many ways to give, and this is the season where that is made abundantly clear. I’m barely scraping the iceberg with gifts that people would want to receive that also give to others. Just Google around- I’m sure you’ll find some gift that suits your needs that can also allow you to give to others.

Like I said, Win-Win.

~Meghan

6 thoughts on “Friday Favorites: Gifts that Give”

  1. You can also give to World Vision. They have a catalog that you can either purchase things from or donate in honor of someone. Most of the people we buy for already have so much stuff and they really appreciate it when we give a gift in their honor.

  2. For the past two years I have found a unique cause to support and donated money in honor of our friends. I still like to give a little something to our friends, so I find or make cheap ornaments that signify the cause we donated to. For example, a couple of years ago we bought ducklings for a family in Africa – one for each friend. So I found cute little rubber-ducky keychains, turned them into ornaments and wrapped them up, along with a card describing our donation and the good that it does.

    I’m doing a similar thing this year that I will post about soon — but I won’t spoil the surprise just yet 🙂

    Thanks for sharing these great causes!

  3. Thanks so much for sharing these! One of my favorite gifts that I have ever received was from a very sweet friend who bought a goat through the Kiva Foundation (http://www.kiva.org/) in honor of her friends (i.e. her gift to each of us was a portion of a goat for a needy family in Costa Rica).

    I particularly like the Ugandan beads project you shared. This form of aid is a particular favorite of mine, as empirical research shows that this is one of the best ways to help impoverished people (nerd explanation alert). Basically, there is a kernel of truth in the adage: “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.” The most recent research suggests that, while this is true, if you teach a WOMAN to fish, you have fed her FAMILY for a lifetime. This research suggests that the best thing that we can do to help developing nations is to give micro-loans (such as Kiva foundation advocates) to women so that they can start their own businesses and then purchase the products that they make. All else held equal, supporting women in this way has a more dispersed and positive effect on the community than the supporting men in the same way. The theorized mechanism behind this empirical reality rests upon a woman’s “nurturing” quality — she will often go without food, etc. in order to provide for her children. Given sufficient food, this allows her children to thrive and frees the kids up from working at a young age to help provide for the family. This allows them to go to school (for longer periods of time, or even at all), putting them in a better position to help themselves and their own kids in the future.

    So, long story short, this is an excellent project and I so appreciate you sharing it!

    1. You’re welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Personally, I feel like my jewelry is extra special when there is a unique story and/or cause behind it. It makes me excited to wear it.

      As for supporting women meaning supporting a community- that doesn’t surprise me at all. It makes complete sense. Thanks for sharing that info!

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