Give a Mean­ing­ful Gift this Christmas

This is a guest post by Melanie Johnston. Originally from Tennessee, a vegan into tennis and journalism, Melanie is now with the Air Force studying linguistics. She has a lot of dreams, but first on her checklist are to travel, be an advocate for the poor, and learn a language really really well.

The Chore of Christmas

In today’s so­ci­ety it seems as if Christ­mas is sim­ply to get gifts. The newest, the best, the thing with the most gadgets.

Even if you’re not that self-centered, giv­ing gifts can some­times feel like a point­less chore. Sure, it’s nice to give gifts to your fam­ily, but is it nec­es­sary to buy some­thing for Un­cle John or Great-Aunt Jane that they don’t even want or need?

Most likely it will be thrown out af­ter a while or stashed in a box un­der­neath an­other box in the depths of an at­tic or basement.

What if, in­stead of stress­ing out over giv­ing each other stuff we don’t even need, we all agreed to give to those who will re­ally ben­e­fit from it? With the in­ter­net to­day, it is eas­ier to sup­port causes and make small do­na­tions. Here are some ways that you can give this Christ­mas season.

Giving Meaningful Gifts

TOMS shoes have be­come quite popular—when you buy a pair, a pair is do­nated to a child in need. They come in dif­fer­ent styles, col­ors, and are for those of all ages.

Some­thing sim­i­lar to TOMS is the Epic Move­ment. Epic sells watches; through each one bought, a wa­ter fil­ter is dis­trib­uted to vil­lage in a de­vel­op­ing coun­try. Time­pieces are avail­able in var­ied col­ors and have de­tach­able bands that also come in a va­ri­ety of colors.

A more un­usual idea is Heifer In­ter­na­tional, where you can buy a cow for a fam­ily. Or a llama, wa­ter buffalo—even chick­ens and ducks—and other an­i­mals that help a fam­ily sus­tain them­selves through­out the year. For ex­am­ple, a goat costs $120, which might seem too much, but for $10 you can buy a share of a goat, that will the­o­ret­i­cally go into a pot for a goat that, once it re­ceives enough money, will be sent a family.

Of course, there are lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions that could al­ways ben­e­fit from your help, as well— items for the thrift store, or food for a food pantry, for ex­am­ple.

In any event, find­ing tan­gi­ble ways to help oth­ers can be a way to brighten your hol­i­day with­out go­ing through the mo­tions of buy­ing un­wanted gifts.

This post was originally posted December 2011 at The Eagles Nest

In addition, here are some other gifts that give back:

Each day there are new special deals at The Hunger Site Store– This store is unique as there is a HUGE variety of fair trade products, including a larger selection of less-expensive gifts. In addition, each purchase provides at least 25 cups of food, distributed through Mercy Corp, Millennium Promise, and Feeding America.

Charity Gift Market always has free shipping, and it sells fair-trade and social good products, mostly made by workers who are able to raise out from extreme poverty by these small social businesses that employ them. Many of these workers are also survivors of human rights abuses from war, rape or modern slavery. You can shop by charity, cause, or product.

The above two are examples of stores where you actually get to have a tangible gift that can be placed under a Christmas tree. You can get something handmade, from an Etsy shop or craft fair that supports a cause, like at the Adorn with Love Shop mentioned in this post.

But if you don’t mind giving a donation in honor of someone’s name, the following are great options:

Similar to Heifer International, World Vision, Samartian’s Purse, and Oxfam International all are some great organizations which also have gift catalogs. From these you can buy birds, bees, fruit trees, and seeds. Or you can purchase soccer balls, building tools, educational or religious materials, and other animals or useful things which will be donated around the world in your name, or more accurately, the name of whom you donated in honor of for this Christmas.

If you really care about ending human trafficking or other justice issues, International Justice Mission released a gift catalog this year, Gifts of Freedom– where you can pay for a day of recovery, counseling sessions, the cost for lawyers to fight on behalf of the oppressed, or you can even fund a rescue mission to free slaves.

If a friend or family member have a particular cause or charity they love, almost all organizations have gifts you can buy from their store or the ability to donate to them in honor of someone else.

But, if you are at lost for which cause to donate to, let them choose themselves with a gift card to Global Giving, a store which gives to your choice of organizations and causes.. Another place your recipient gets to choose themselves whom their donation goes to is, a home of micro-loans to the poor which change people’s lives. I’ve been given gifts from both of these websites, and I have a ton of fun choosing what/who I want to give my “gift” to.

 In other words, use this Christmas to change the world!

If you have any other great ideas, please be sure to put them in the comment section! The more ideas, the better!

Related Posts:

Action: Operation Christmas Child Box

War Effect 101: Buying Back the Bombs & Redeeming the Future

Art of Advocacy: Supporting the Causes of Others to be World Changers

Free2Work: An Advocate’s Buying Resource