I'd like to challenge you this Christmas season to think outside the box when it comes to shopping for the loved ones on your list. There are a number of ways to do that.
1) Support missions that employ people and raise money for the mission. What missions are close to your heart? No ideas? Here are some that are close to mine:
www.embracinghopeethiopia.com employs women to make beautiful necklaces out of magazines. We spent some time with the founders, Jerry and Christy Shannon, while we were in Ethiopia. It's an exciting time in the life of the ministry. The women really role the beads all day long and string them. They are very creative. The ministry helps moms keep their children so the children do not become orphans.
www.livefashionable.com makes gorgeous scarves. We toured the facility a couple times and talked to some of the women who make the scarves in Ethiopia. It's all hand made on looms in a large room inside the FashionABLE compound. The women are now employed after once being on the street or in a life of prostitution. They support each other and have Bible studies together.
www.krochetkids.org has the cutest hats! Their mission is: "To create sustainable economic development programs that support holistic growth of individuals and communities within developing nations. To inspire the knowledge of a generation about their ability to bring change to a world that is in need."
www.justlovecoffee.com offers fair trade coffee (totally delish!) and you can also help families going through the adoption process.
www.solerebelsfootwear.com is an awesome company that makes shoes out of totally recycled materials like tires. They employ women to get them out of poverty to make the shoes. Their first retail store just opened in Ethiopia and we purchased some shoes there. Just to let you know- their flip flops are the most comfortable I have ever worn, and I've worn a lot!
www.divinechocolateusa.com is fair trade chocolate. Chocolate! Need I say more? The cool thing is that the farmers own almost half of the company.
www.wiphan.org is "a Zambian-based Christian ministry that provides biblical teaching, skills training and education to widows and orphans in Zambia, Africa who have been devastated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Wiphan's Skills Training programs offer widows the opportunity to learn jewelry making, hospitality or typing. This essential training provides the means for these ladies to earn income to feed their families." *Take a look at the bags the women make in the Store section of the website. Each one is different- no two are alike.
2) Use sites that, with some research, you can go to and order things that have been made with fair trade. No sweat shops, no child labor. Sites like....
www.planetonegifts.com has a huge range of products. My favorite is The Bath and Body section which "offers a number of natural, Fair Trade spa products, body soaps, gift baskets and other delightfully fragrant and soothing natural toiletries." (wording comes from their website)
www.fairindigo.com, a great site for fair trade clothing
Try sites like www.thefind.com and enter "fair trade toys"
or www.shopwithmeaning.org, which "connects consumers with brands supporting social causes".
3) Don't know what to get the person that has everything? Maybe they don't need another thing. Visit the World Vision gift catalog at www.worldvision.org and give a gift in honor of someone. For example, give the soccer fan on your list a pretty card with their name on it letting them know you donated two soccer balls to kids in need. World Vision prints the cards and you donate the money. Two soccer balls to kids in Africa or Mexico would be $16. Teacher on your list? Donate money to send a woman to school in her honor. Farmer? How about seeds for someone who's unemployed to start their own garden? There is a wide range of gifts available.
Google it! Get some info!
According to www.businesspundit.com, some of the largest companies that participate in slave labor are..
KYE (a Chinese supplier), who has customers including Microsoft, XBox, and Nokia
Does this mean I am going to stop letting Alan wear his Aeropostale shirts after doing this research? Not right now. It's a personal decision. I'm not saying you have to go cold turkey. What I am doing is making myself do more research in the future before I purchase something. I can't afford to redo our entire wardrobes at the moment, and chances are you can't either.
But being aware is a good thing.
Research is a good thing.
Taking the focus off yourself and putting it on someone else is a good thing.
Have fun this shopping season. But if you get to the store and the cool toy on aisle 12 is sold out, use that opportunity to find a creative way to not only help yourself or your kids, but someone else's kids. Someone who, without you, may not have a Christmas at all.