Not long ago on a drive in the car, I was explaining to my kids that many people in the world have never even ridden in a car, let alone owned one. That blew their young minds. I told them a few other things about “poor countries” (kids don’t speak PC). A little bit later, my six-year-old asked if we live in a poor country. Obviously, they still didn’t have a grasp on the wide disparities between the life we enjoy and hardships that many suffer.
When my husband and I were first married we lived in Guatemala for about four months. We taught employment and entrepreneurship workshops throughout the country and trained others there to continue teaching when we were gone. I knew our kids had seen pictures of the rural areas we lived and visited, but apparently they hadn’t put it all together.
That conversation in the car really got me thinking about all we take for granted. We have so much, but we rarely realize it because it’s our natural tendency to compare ourselves with those who have more. I wanted my kids not only to notice and be grateful for the plenty that we have, but also experience the joy of giving and sharing. While we’ve done food drives and donated to local causes, I thought this year we would do something a little different.
I was inspired recently by the unconventional gift catalog from CARE.org. CARE is a global humanitarian organization that fights poverty by empowering girls and women. The gift catalog is full of gifts that represent the many things CARE is doing to make a difference. I enjoyed looking through the creative symbolic charitable gifts you can give. I loved being able to envision my donation as a fruit tree seedling or as a chalkboard in a rural classroom. It really made even a small monetary contribution feel like it mattered and made an impact.
We talked about our family giving one of these unconventional gifts this Christmas. We decided on a pair of ducks. We have enjoyed raising the ducks we got for Easter, and have especially enjoyed having tasty ducks eggs. This is a donation that our kids can really relate to. In fact the kids were so excited that they wanted to use the money they had saved from recycling cans for our next gift.
Share the Good by Honoring Someone with Your Gift
Giving a charitable gift feels good. When we do good, we feel good! You can share that good feeling with someone on your gift-giving list. Through CARE’s Gifts of Lasting Change online catalog, you can give a gift in behalf of someone you love. You’ll be able to print out a card or send a special email to let them know of the gift you gave to honor them.
Choosing the Perfect Gift
Start by thinking about the person you want to honor through your gift. Why is that person special to you? How has that person inspired you? What passions does that person have?
While you have that person in mind, take a look at the holiday giving catalog and see if there’s a gift that speaks to you. You can search by interest, occupation, relationship or other categories to find a great fit to honor your recipient.
Here are some examples to get your wheels turning.
3 Packs of Drought-Resistant Seeds
A CARE Package of drought-resistant seeds is like making it rain for a poor family that depends on subsistence agriculture. With rainy seasons becoming more unpredictable and crops failing as a result, families need hearty seeds that will withstand long dry spells to produce nutritious food.
Train two Mothers’ Groups on Pregnancy Care and Birth Preparedness
Childbirth can be a frightening and even life-threatening experience, particularly for poor women in rural areas who haven’t had adequate prenatal care or learned how to prepare for delivery. To help make pregnancy and childbirth safer, both for mothers and their babies, CARE trains women on pregnancy nutrition, how to identify signs of potentially dangerous complications, and birth preparedness.
A Set of Library Books for a Refugee Camp
Among the millions forced from their homes to live in refugee camps are hundreds of thousands of children who can no longer attend school. CARE works to equip refugee camps (e.g., in Jordan) with libraries so kids can read and study, so that when the war ends they resume their education more easily and build a better future for themselves and their families.
Good nutrition starts at home. With a family garden, CARE teaches poor families how to diversify their families’ diet with small-scale vegetable gardens that also allow them to experiment with new crops. This CARE Package grows over time!
There’s a reason farm animals are called livestock. A cow is a valuable investment that pays dividends for years in the form of protein-rich milk, cheese and yogurt. It’s a source of income and and a store of wealth. A gift of a cow can change a family’s life.
These are just a few examples. As you look through the catalog, you’ll see that there are gifts for every budget. In fact, with higher-priced gifts, you can use the drop-down menu to choose to pay for half or a quarter of the amount.
Whether instead of, or in addition to, a physical gift wrapped in holiday paper, a Gift of Lasting Change is the perfect way to share the holiday spirit and give a little of our abundance to someone in the world living in poverty.
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This made my heart happy! What a wonderful idea.
Thank you for all of the wonderful ideas. What a beautiful way to give!
We do this every year. I don’t know that it’s always appreciated; we have some very grabby adults in the family. But at the same time they can’t say anything bad about giving a goat to someone in Africa; whereas, they could complain about any other gift we gave them. My favourite is to give gifts of childhood vaccination to my sister in law who is rabidly and vocally anti-vaccination, because I think her views are idiotic and because she can’t do a darn thing about my gift without looking like a terrible person – “What, you want kids in India to die of polio?” I never said I was nice.
Sara Newton says
What a great idea Stephanie! This year we chose to give to the hospital where our little friend has been receiving cancer treatments because that is something we have talked about with the kids over the last year and it resonates well with them. It was fun to have our girls pick out gifts for other kids with cancer and think about what they would like to receive if it was them in the hospital. Giving in a way that resonates perfectly with our family situation is such a great way to have our kids get into the Spirit of giving!
[email protected] says
Great idea. A few years ago my brother got each of us an “unconventional gift.” He selected one item that fit with each of us. For example, I am a teacher, so my brother purchased a year’s education for a girl in rural India in my name. For my grandfather, a farmer, he purchased a goat for a family in Africa. It was definitely an unforgettable Christmas!
What a great opportunity for you and your family to give to others! I purchased a similar gift for my mother many years ago through Heifer and it was a great feeling.
One word of caution is about the drought resistance seeds. These are GMO’s and the farmer will not be allowed to keep his seeds from the produce but will have to buy these drought resistant seeds again every year. It’s a horrible cycle that farmers in poorer nations are trying to fight against (see Haiti’s example). An animal or educational material will help the community more than these seeds.
Beautiful idea Stephanie.
I give my daughter, son in law and grandchildren a family present that goes somewhere around the world. One year was a mini fish farm in Asia. This year is going to be fruit and books for children in South Africa.
We lend through Lend with Care, which is part of Care.org.
I’m sure your children will live to think of “their” ducks growing up in another part of the world.