‘Tis the season to go shopping.  While the holidays are being slammed for becoming more and more commercialized, there is a way for you to make those gifts and dollars really mean something not just to the gift recipient, but to the producers and sellers as well.  I’m not talking about making Mike Duke a richer man.  I’m talking about Fair Trade gifts and charity on-line shopping sites.  There is no shortages of innovative and wonderful programs meant to help people, improve the environment, save animals or all three – not to mention a great excuse to avoid the overcrowded stores!  And there are a bunch of different ways to do it.  Of course there is a simple direct donation to the charity of your choice but here are some other, and perhaps more palatable  options:

Exotic, Unique, and Worthwhile Sources for Gifts:

Capiz Sunburst Tree Topper made in the Philippines sold at Ten Thousand Villages

Ten Thousand Villages: Ten Thousand Villages is an exceptional source for unique handmade gifts, jewelry, home decor, art and sculpture, textiles, serve-ware and personal accessories representing the diverse cultures of artisans in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.  One of the world’s largest fair trade organizations and a founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), the company strives to improve the livelihood of tens of thousands of disadvantaged artisans in 38 countries. Product sales help pay for food, education, health care and housing for artisans who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed.  If you’d prefer to shop the old-fashioned way rather than the cyber way, there are stores scattered about the country.  The store in Austin is at 1317 South Congress. I can find endless amounts of goodies to lust after at Ten Thousand Villages, but here are my gift-giving favorites: Mekong Sunset Chopstick Bowl, Windblown Tree of Life Chime, and for a more elegant studio apartment alternative to the plastic Christmas tree: The Egg Ornament Tree

Nkuku was founded after a year travelling and working in Africa and India, meeting artisans, and witnessing their astounding skills but challenging living standards and restricted opportunities.  Their hope to promote and develop the traditional skills of these artisans. Nkuku is socially responsible and is built on the principles of fair trade and equal opportunity.
They have a ways to go on expanding their selection but there are some good options.  Recycled Sari Journals, Preeti and Mohini Bangles, and Chwaka Cotton Bags caught my eye.

From the same people who brought you the “click a day” donation sites, you can choose to help people (the hunger site store, the global girlfriend store, the literacy site store, the breast cancer site or the child health site), the planet (the rainforest site or the ecology fund), or animals (the animal rescue site) through specialized stores benefiting each cause at the Greatergood.com is committed to making the world a better place by using simple online ways to protect the health and well-being of people, animals and the planet. There is a charity royalty of from 5-30% paid on every item purchased from any of the GreaterGood Network’s online stores or you can donate directly through GreaterGood.org™  If it’s selection you want, selection they have and the prices are a bit more affordable than the average item at Ten Thousand Villages.  My potential gift favorites:  Monster Bowling, Peacock Panache Hooded Jacket and Strong Beliefs Pendant Necklace.

Silver Bangle made in Indonesia available at Gaiam Global Marketplace

Although more well known for their yoga equipment, Gaiam’s fair trade marketplace offers artisan- and hand-crafted jewelry, art, home décor, furniture and scarves, and help provide invaluable support to impoverished workers around the world. A lot of their products remind me of my time working in Thailand which was a shopaholic’s paradise.  Of the things I’d have a hard time giving away instead of keeping for myself: Double Tree of Life Wall Scuplture, Market Basket, and the Essence of Thailand Facial Set

Global Exchange is an international human rights organization dedicated to promoting environmental, political and social justice. Since our founding in 1988, we have increased the US public’s global awareness while building partnerships worldwide. Through programs such as Reality Tours, Public Education, Human Rights, and Fair Trade, Global Exchange works for human rights and social and economic justice through grassroots citizen empowerment.  They offer a wide variety of socially conscious gifts including a great selection of jewelry, coffee and the fail-proof gift of chocolate.  I think the Wire and Bead Cuff Bracelet, Recycled Innertube Nature Bag, and the Snack Lover’s Gift Basket would be instant hits for presents.  If you’re needing to spruce up your own tree, the Recycled Magazine Ornament Set might be something you buy for yourself.

For the fashionista in your life, consider buying something from Hand in Hand, a partnership between Kate Spade and Women for Women International.  kate spade new york supports Women for Women International by employing women in war-torn countries, utilizing their traditional handcrafts in special collections, designed by the team in new york.  At kate spade new york, they provide training, fair wages and dependable income in parts of the world where these opportunities are not the norm.  Because what woman couldn’t use a matching Siberian Tiger Mitten, Pom Pom Hat and Pull-Through Scarf Set?  A tamer choice would be the beautiful hand in hand bangle.

Somaly Mam Foundation's survivor made Freedom Scarves

One of my personal heroes is Somaly Mam, who co-founded The Somaly Mam Foundation.  They have recently launched the Empowerment Store which supports survivors of modern-day slavery.  Somaly Mam, a sexual slavery survivor, and  the foundation work to eradicate human trafficking, liberate its victims, and empower survivors so they can create and sustain lives of dignity. The foundation supports survivor rescue, shelter and rehabilitation programs globally with a special focus on Southeast Asia, where the trafficking of women and girls, some as young as five, is a widespread practice. The Somaly Mam Foundation also runs awareness and advocacy campaigns in North America and around the world that shed light on the crime of human trafficking and focus on getting the public and governments involved in the fight to abolish modern day slavery.  While the store only has a select items, it’s got some beautiful choices for the women in your life including the Silk Empowerment Necklace and Freedom Scarves.  Each one is unique like the survivor who made them.

What to get the person who has everything?  If your wallet is fatter than the average American and you’ve got a bit more – make that a lot more – to splurge on, bid on  a truly unique and memorable gift at Charity Buzz.  There you can choose from celebrity experiences, luxury spa treatments, exotic vacations, and one-of-a-kind jewelry.  We’re talking a U2 and You Behind-the-Scenes Tour given by Edge which include being flown first-class to city of your choice to catch U2’s show from VIP seats.  Actually, this site also makes for a great time-killer and fodder for daydreams.  Each item up for bid benefits a different charity, specified by the donor.

If you’re still looking for something different, try the suggestions in: Give the Gift of Charity This Holiday Season: Charitable Donations Instead of Presents.

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