Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Simplify Your Christmas Gift-Giving

Finances are often tight around the holidays, but this year, things will be even tighter for many families. So now, more than ever, it might be a good idea to look at your Christmas gift giving, and say "Do I really need a new ------? Or could I give it up, and instead donate the money that would go towards it to a cause that could really use it, to help people or animals just live? Not have extra, superficial things, but the basics of life?"

So I thought I'd bring you this repeat post from November of 2007 - these are all amazing charities who do wonderful work! Our big one at our household this year will be the World Vision Catalogue - haven't decided yet what we'll end up doing - chickens or goats?

You're tired of roaming the malls trying to find the perfect gift, knowing it probably doesn't exist. Even after all the searching, you might end up getting your loved one something that will be worn out in 6 months anyway - and contribute to a pile of clutter they don't need. Ugh!

So maybe this year, you should consider something else...something that won't sit around as clutter but instead would make a huge difference in someone's life. Doesn't that sound more like what Christmas is all about?

And I won't even mention the fact that you don't have to hit the malls to do this... :)

I've chosen some wonderful charities that are personal favorites of mine - check 'em out (or choose one of your own faves) and make a donation in your loved one's name that will make the season sparkle more brightly for all involved!

Hope for Wildlife
The woman who runs this place, Hope Swinimer (get it? Hope Swinimer and Hope for Wildlife?!) is a dynamo. The woman LIVES to help wounded or abandoned/orphaned wild animals get rehabilitated. Even with this difficult and constantly heavy workload, she ALWAYS has time to answer questions from the general public regarding their own wildlife issues. We've been in contact with her more than once, regarding getting a humane trap to try and catch one of our cats that got outside (she lends them out for free!), and about a local crow whose wing was broken (can it be fixed? should we try and capture it or leave it be?). She is patient and kind, and a really great person to talk to. When I went over to my parent's house recently, I happened to glance at their list of phone numbers by the phone, and there was Hope's number! They had been in touch with her about wildlife issues too.

Her cause is admirable, and her dedication inspiring. If you want to donate to a worthy animal-related cause, please consider this one!

Learn more about all the work the Foundation does here.

Go to their Donation Page:

World Vision International Catalogue

A perennial favorite with me! They've come up with a great way to really make you feel connected to your donation. It also lets you see just how far a small amount of Western money can go in some developing nations. You can choose to buy a family a goat (to provide milk and cheese, both to eat and to sell), or a pair of rabbits (to breed them, to eat some and sell the meat), or buy a family 10 fruit trees, or buy a school safe water. All of these gifts are very reasonably priced! They also have larger gifts, like wells, that you can buy a share in - several people's donations get pooled together and can build a well for a town. It's a very cool gift idea - imagine telling your friend who has everything that you bought them a goat for Christmas! :)

Kiva - loans that change lives

A simple idea: you loan money to a person in a developing nation who has a small business that needs money to expand (generally an amount that would be considered a pittance in the West, but to them is an unattainable sum). As they pay the loan back (usually over the course of a year) you get your money back. You can choose from lots of types of businesses: there's everything from a grocery store owner in Paraguay that wants to expand his merchandise to someone wanting to sell an expanded variety of clothing in Azerbaijan. A great way to help people in developing nations support themselves!

Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) International
This organization won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999. An organization of heroes - men and women who spent years training in medicine. They could stay home and make a fortune in cushy surroundings. But instead, these brave doctors go to some of the most dangerous areas in the world to give medical aid - medicines, surgeries and everything in between - to people in most desperate need. Whether in war, or massive natural disaster, these people will work in horrid conditions to bring health and survival to the people they treat.

Donation page:

An American site that allows people to donate to various projects that public school teachers have created as great learning experiences for their students, but lack the funds to carry out. Everything from buying a projector for a science class to buying props to help illustrate proper food portion size for good health, and everything in between. Look up your favorite subject, and you'll likely find a project relating to it. Help some kids get a richer educational experience!

Blankets of Love Foundation

(snail mail donation only)
People in the grips of depression and other mental illnesses need comfort more than most. Some of these people have been abandoned by their families, and feel abandoned by society. This great charity gives them a bit of personalized comfort, in a physical form that they can touch and hold on to. Here's a quote from one of the recipients:

"One day Bob came in and gave me this special quilt and told me it was made just for me to help me get through my dark days with depression. I cried and couldn't believe someone would make something so nice for me. I bring my Blanket of Love with me each time I go back to the Hospital."
-- Sarah

To donate financially, click on her "Contact" link in the left sidebar for more info. To donate a quilt, click on her "How to Participate" link.

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