This is the fourth year I’ve compiled a list of gifts that give back. There are some old favorites on this list as well as some new finds, but all of these companies are making a big impact in the world. As you are doing your holiday shopping, consider some of these options . . . the gifts will be meaningful and your dollars will be well spend.
In addition to being cute and fashion-forward, 31 Bits Jewelry is made out of 100% recycled paper, posters, and magazines by internally displaced women in Northern Uganda. Each piece of jewelry is unique and hand-crafted by a woman in the community of Gulu, Uganda.
Punjammies are sari-inspired pajamas. Each pair of Punjammies are created in an after-care facility for women who have been rescued, released or escaped from a life of forced prostitution. Holistic aftercare involves quality medical care, emotional safety, education and the tools to create a new way of life for herself.
Haitian Creations is a program of Heartline Ministries. The bags and jewelry from Haitian Creations are handmade by women in Haiti, who are a part of a sewing program that is giving these impoverished women lifelong skills. The ability to earn money gives these women the ability to be self-sufficient, to support their families, and to have the independence they need in a society where this is often difficult. Each artist's name is on a tag in the purse that she made. Soon, you will be able to look up the artist of your purse on the website and see her picture and story.
I am so in love with Krochet Kids. Not just because their hats are perfect for hiding my unwashed hair at school drop-off. And not just because my friend Sarah and her husband Blake are pioneering their program in Peru. What I love about Krochet Kids is that it’s a company that is empowering impoverished people to earn an income for themselves. Krochet Kids offers 3 year programs to women living in poverty. In this program, the women learn to krochet hats to earn an income and be able to fully support themselves for the first time in their lives. Based in Uganda and Peru, the hats are sold in the US, on their website and at most Nordstroms.
World Vision has an amazing gift catalog where you can buy a number of innovative and sustaining gifts for people living in poverty. Their website even allows you to purchase and print a card letting a loved one know you have donated in their name. You can purchase medical attention for a pregnant woman, a goat that can provide milk to a child – even a grove of fruit trees!
Hill Country Hill Tribers
Hill Country Hill Tribers works primarily with refugees from Burma, members of various Burmese hill tribes who now starting new lives in the Hill Country of Texas. Forced to leave their farms and villages, sometimes with very little warning, these artisans carried bamboo looms through the jungle to safety, dedicated to continuing the traditional art of backstrap weaving that has been passed down for generations from mother to daughter.
In Austin, these weavers are joined by other skilled artisans to make up Hill Country Hill Tribers. By crafting beautiful products in their homes and gathering together often, these artisans are weaving a community in Austin that is rooted in their past and reaching toward a new future.
Not for Sale
The Not for Sale store generates enterprise & employment to prevent human trafficking and create new futures for survivors. Every purchase you make is an action to end slavery --- because no one should be for sale. Journals, bags, and scarves that give freedom.
Rescue Gifts help refugees and others who have been impacted by war and natural disaster. Holiday shoppers can choose a gift that inspires them and dedicate it in honor of a special person in their lives. The IRC will send gift recipients a beautiful acknowledgement card with the gift giver’s personalized message. There’s a perfect gift for everyone: for a mom: A Safe Delivery ($24) can ensure critical supplies for the safe birth of a child in a crisis zone. For the foodie or friend with a green thumb: A Community Garden ($60) can provide tools and seeds to refugees who have been resettled in the United States, so that they can grow their own fresh, healthy food in an IRC community garden. For a teacher: A Year of School ($52) can supply the tuition, books and other materials for one year of a child’s schooling in a country recovering from war.
Shea Yeleen’s mission to organize and train women in the villages of Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Mali to produce high quality natural shea butter. Shea Yeleen uses this shea butter as the main component in a decadent and high quality body care line that they make available for sale to the western world. These sales then provide a fair wage to the women who own and work at the shea butter cooperatives in sub-Saharan Africa.
Noonday Collection offers a variety of items made by artisans around the world. Purchases can restore dignity to abandoned women in Ethiopia, empower communities in Ecuador, and create business opportunities for Ugandans.
International Sanctuary ends the cycle of human trafficking through providing self-sufficiency options to survivors. iSanctuary provides medical assistance, education, skills training, life skills, leadership opportunities, employment and financial stability to survivors of human trafficking.
Plant With a Purpose
Plant With Purpose is a nonprofit organization that reverses deforestation and poverty by transforming the lives of the rural poor. Their Gifts of Hope (think: breeding bunnies, family gardens, and fuel-efficient cookstoves) can be purchased through their site, and will deeply impact the lives of farming families around the world.
Every year, thousands of refugees flee oppression around the world and are resettled in America. To help them avoid the trap of poverty and support their families, Open Arms employs women refugee survivors at a living wage, using repurposed materials to create ethical fashion. Giving back to both people AND the planet is as simple as purchasing their apparel, accessories and gifts! Enjoy knowing you’re making a difference, just by being a conscious consumer.
The GO Exchange
Fount of Mercy works in Uganda towards orphan care and orphan prevention. Their vocational development program, which partnered this year with The GO Exchange and produced a line of beautiful, hand-batiked cotton scarfs. These scarves, along with all of GO's products, represent more than a pretty scarf...they mean that 12 Ugandans are receiving fair wages, adequately providing for the children in their homes, and that they hold artistic jobs with dignity. In addition, The GO Exchange gives 100% of their profits to orphan care in Ugandan, Haiti, and India.
This list is by no means comprehensive, but hopefully it can give you some ideas for gifts that also help others. Also, as you are doing your shopping at regular stores, I urge you to take a few minutes to register with Pure Charity. It’s a charitable organization that can help you earn rewards for everyday shopping – at places like Target, Walmart, Best Buy, and even the Apple Store.
If you know of some other organizations that empower impoverished communities, please share in the comment section!