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Gift Giving Alternatives: Holiday Giving Goes Global

Finding alternatives to traditional gift giving with a focus on helping others is easier now than ever. To research how specific agencies use donations, check out Charity Navigator.org or Give.org.

From Heifer International, the cost of a DVD will purchase a flock of ducks for a needy family, providing protein from the eggs, money from the sale of eggs and ducks, plus better crops as the ducks weed and fertilize the fields. Or donate $50 to Church World Service to provide literacy classes for two women, changing their lives and their families’ lives forever by giving them information on such topics as nutrition, hygiene and HIV/AIDS.

Select gifts online or from a catalog and a gift card goes to the recipient describing how the donation is used.

“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more!” – from How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

Agencies With A Global Focus

The following is information regarding agencies that serve needy people around the world. Research carefully to determine whether these or other agencies fit your needs. This article is meant to be informative, but not a specific recommendation for any agency. Many communities offer alternative gift fairs where some of the items are displayed and literature is available on a variety of programs. Check local listings. Choose to contribute to programs here in the US or around the world.

  • Alternative Gifts International offers multiple options. Give seeds to women farmers in Sudan for $22 or $17 will help build a home in Nicaragua. The mission of AGI is to send life-giving gifts to the needy, partner with people in crisis, protect the earth and cultivate an equitable and peaceful global community.
  • Church World Service is the relief, development and refugee assistance ministry of 35 Protestant, Orthodox, and Anglican denominations in the United States. It works with partners around the world “to give a hand up—not a hand out.” CWS offers such life-saving gifts as an oral rehydration therapy (ORT) for $10 or mosquito nets from $50-$100.
  • Heifer International focuses on relieving hunger, poverty, and environmental damage through gifts of food, training and income-producing farm animals. Each family “passes on the gift” by giving one or more of its animal’s offspring to another family in need. A $500 donation will purchase a heifer or $50 goes to a portion of the purchase. The animal provides milk for children and income for the family. A $30 donation provides a package of bees, the box and hive and beekeeper training. Beehives require little space and are inexpensive to maintain, says Heifer’s website. When placed advantageously, bees can double fruit and vegetable yields through pollination.
  • Seva serves people around the world who are struggling for health, cultural survival and sustainable communities. Restore sight to a blind person with $50 to sponsor cataract surgery. Or a $100 donation can support a grassroots Native American diabetes program. Seva’s website says one in six Native Americans struggles with diabetes.

Fair Trade Options

Ten Thousand Villages promotes products from handicraft and agricultural organizations based in low-income countries. It provides a fair price to the artisan, improving life for that person and that community. Shoppers can purchase an assortment of items from a $6 ornament to a pendant necklace from Nepal for $98.

Women and Children

Countless agencies assist women and children, but some are specifically focused on those efforts.

  • CARE works to empower women and girls in the fight against poverty through education. Funds send children back to school or provide training for business and health issues. Contribute by purchasing a calendar or donate to microfinancing a woman who will better herself, her family and her community with a small business.
  • The Global Fund for Women donates to agencies promoting equality for women worldwide. According to their website, Photojournalist, Paola Gianturco, is donating 100 percent of the royalties from her book, Women Who Light the Dark, to support the Global Fund for Women’s international grant making. She tells the stories of social entrepreneurs from 15 countries, including Global Fund grantee groups. Find it at bookstores and online.
  • The Global Fund for Children offers small grants to community-based organizations working with some of the world’s most vulnerable children and youth. Also sponsoring a media program of books, documentary photography and film, GFC strives to highlight children’s issues and celebrate a global society. Books can be purchased on their website—many for $6.95 each.

For more about the needs of women around the globe, check out Half the Sky, a book by New York Times columnist, Nicholas D. Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn. They describe the plight of women and some relatively inexpensive ways their lives could be changed–or saved. The term “half the sky” is based on a Chinese saying that women “hold up half the sky.”

Time to Shop

These suggestions for gift giving with a global impact could be a meaningful option this holiday season. Research carefully to find alternative gift giving solutions to fit specific needs. Look for similar gift giving opportunities locally.