As we put pen to paper to make a list of material objects for family and friends, we’re already stressed out. Stressed about the idea of finding the “perfect gift”, joining the stampede at shopping malls, and worst of all, the credit card bill as a Holiday Gift to ourselves. One can easily decide to give and receive nothing. But that’s no fun either. So instead of letting the materialistic aspects of the Holiday overshadow its true meaning, why not gift an experience of giving? Why not gift a feeling of belongingness and connectedness? There is nothing more “perfect” than feeling proud of our generosity towards those who are less fortunate.
It’s time we put some thought into what holidays mean to us and focusing our energies on aspects that leave us feeling most fulfilled. And one such fulfilling feeling is that of Giving Back – to society, to the environment, to people less fortunate and animals that need caring.
Every person has a social/environmental value they feel strongly for. It could be animals, global warming, rainforests, poverty, education & literacy, violence against women, human trafficking, cancer, juvenile diabetes, pro/anti gay/lesbian rights – the list is huge! Instead of asking your family to give you ideas for their gifts, ask them to give you ideas for a social/environmental cause they are passionate about or a charitable organization they would like to donate to. Here are some ideas, which also happen to be my favorite organizations – in case I feature on your shopping list 😛
Fight Against Poverty & Social Injustice
Kiva is one of my personal favorites as it stretches my dollar for as long as I want it to and allows me to directly partner with the beneficiary. You lend money to an entrepreneur across the globe to become self-reliant and end poverty through microfinance institutions that partner with Kiva. The “lending” aspect of the program instills accountability among borrowers. On an exciting note, Kiva was featured in Oprah’s Ultimate Favorite Things 2010 and she also helped to launch a new deal with Groupon. Too bad it was only valid in the US! A Kiva Gift Card is definitely on my Holiday Shopping List for this year.
Oxfam Canada allows you to symbolically purchase products (such as livestock, hygiene kits, blankets, manure) for the needy and send e-cards describing the charitable gift to your recipient. Their Oxfam Unwrapped program is an online giving program that offers a selection of life-changing gifts that allows you to give something special to someone who has everything, while at the same time giving something meaningful to someone who needs it. I like how the site is organized by Interests, Recipient, Occasion, and Price. They’ve got something for the environmentalists (bicycle, solar panels, organic gardening kits), animal lovers (donkeys, beehives) and even teachers (school books, training on gender-based violence and sexual health). But bear in mind that even if you choose a specific gift, Oxfam doesn’t guarantee how your money will be allocated; it might be used in other ways if there is greater need. Nevertheless it’s all for a great cause. Oxfam Unwrapped also allows to create your own Wishlist for gifts for yourself. Check mine out here 🙂
Heifer International is focused on putting an end to world hunger while protecting the environment. Domesticated animals are given to needy families in developing countries who then share their animals’ offspring with others in their community to help create hope, dignity and self-reliance. Donate a flock of chicks, a goat, ora trio of rabbits that will help sustain their new owners. You can even set up a Gift Registry for yourself or your family this Holiday Season.
Gift a Smile for those Precious Lives
A Donation to the Sick Kids Foundation will help provide the highest priority needs of The Hospital for Sick Children. Make a donation directly to the Foundation or donate towards a Get Better Gift such as a Treasure Trove of Toys, a Safe Ride Home, a Helping Hand, Books for the Hospital Reading Room, Enabling Equipment, a Stocking Surprise. Or why not choose to give a Gift Certificate and let the recipient pick which item they’d like to support?
A Gift of Change with a World Vision Canada Gift Card is a perfect gift for those who are troubled by the effects of natural disasters on children. The recipient can use the gift card towards helping World Vision Rebuild Haiti, provide clean water, food, blankets and tents to child victims of the Floods in Pakistan. They can also choose from a wide selection of gifts from their Gift Catalogue such as chickens and cows, clean water, emergency survival kits, education, or a donation towards their Women and Girls In Crisis Fund. Like Oxfam, you can create your Holiday Wishlist with World Vision Canada. I have one here too 🙂
Plan Canada conducts programs in over 66 countries to promote child rights and eliminate poverty through education, immunization programs, safe water and sanitation projects, emergency relief, and raising awareness about sexual health.You can purchase a Gift of Hope gift card on behalf of a friend or relative who can then choose to gift a goat to help provide milk for a needy family, help plant mango trees or simply provide access to clean water.
These are just a few examples of how you can spread some Holiday Cheer among the less fortunate. As you’ve probably figured from the title of this post, there is a Part 2 to this, where I will list some more worthy organizations focused on wildlife, animal care and global warming issues. Stay tuned.
I’d love to hear from you about any other organizations that you think deserve mention. Why not leave a comment and share what’s on your Holiday Shopping List for your friends and family? 🙂