It’s that time of year again. You know, the time of year when you are given a bunch of stuff that you don’t need?
Well, here at No Poor Among Them we thought we should give you guys some ways to celebrate the birth of Christ by doing what he did throughout his life: serve and lift others. So take a look, do some unconventional Christmas shopping, and please, feel free to add suggestions to our list in the comments or on Facebook. It is also important to note that I am not exactly a great example of entirely devoting Christmas to worthy gifts, or purchasing ethically-made goods, but I am trying to do better. So without further ado, here is the list.
1. Give a Goat
Through Heifer International, you can purchase goats, chicks, ducks, and yes–even heifers. These animals are given to people in need, but not without receiving adequate training and a promise of passing on the first female offspring of whatever animal they are raising. So give the gift of a goat. It will be sure to shriek for joy!
2. Give a Loan
Perhaps one of the most popular ways to give a microloan is through Kiva. Kiva partners with multiple microlending institutions and provide individuals and groups with small loans to help struggling farmers, entrepreneurs, and others who need the capital. Another great option we’ve highlighted on No Poor Among Them is Vittana. Vittana gives loans to students in various countries seeking post-secondary education. So instead of getting your sibling a sweater they will never wear, why not give someone in need a loan in their behalf?
3. Nourish Some Malnourished LDS Kids
Why not experience Christmas in a completely different culture? From December 21-29, 2013, the Liahona Children’s Foundation will host humanitarian trips called “NutriTours.” This year, the trips will be in Cambodia, northern Peru, and Southern Ecuador. In addition to working with malnourished LDS kids and their friends, you will provide service to church and community members, and see some of the local attractions.
Is a trip a little too much? No worries. A $50 donation in someone’s honor will provide one child with nutritional supplements for a year. This means better physical growth, brain development, and a greater chance to become self-sufficient later on in life. If December is too soon, no worries. The Liahona Children’s Foundation will have plenty of trips in June and July in most of the locations in which they work. Check out this recent video to see why the Foundation exists, and why it could use your support.
4. Sponsor a Child
We have highlighted a few organizations that offer sponsorships of children. Organizations such as Haitian Roots and Yehiwot Raey give kids in need what it takes to give them a chance in life. It doesn’t take much to sponsor a child’s education and other basic necessities. But there is a selfish motivation in there as well. Since these organizations are nimble enough, they put you in touch with the child you sponsor. You can write to them, and they to you. What a great gift to give to someone: a potential friendship that could last for years. Why not sponsor a child the same age as your child? Let’s face it, your kids won’t like the presents you give them anyway.
5. Donate to a Charity of Choice
Did you know that Americans spend nearly $1,000 on Christmas presents? That’s a lot of scratch! Instead of stressing out about what to give that person who has it all, why not learn a bit about how they would like to change the world and pick a charity accordingly? If you’re spending that much on Christmas, you may as well make it count. What else are you going to do with all that money, anyway?
6. Sub for Santa
Most communities have some sort of Sub for Santa program. For example, in good old Utah County, the United Way invites people to particpate in the program because it “fosters self-sufficiency as applicants discuss different ways to manage their time, money and talents.” So give locally to those who need it. Or, if you happen to find yourself on the other side of the line, apply for the program. In Utah County alone last year, 1,700 families and 5,000 children received aid. Nothing says Christmas like a gift to a stranger in need.
7. Spend Time at a Local Homeless Shelter or Food Bank
Most of us tend to separate ourselves from homeless people or people who are struggling to just put food on the table. We excuse ourselves for various reasons, but the fact is that the Savior spent most of his time with the poor, the downtrodden, and the outcasts of society. Perhaps there is something about becoming like Christ that requires us to step outside of our comfortable lives, see what others’ problems look like, and do what we can to rush to their aid. One BYU film student and his friend approached several panhandlers on Salt Lake City streets and surprised each of them with $100. The results are beautiful. Who knows how much it could mean to someone to receive your aiding hand. So check out this site to see where the nearest food bank is and lend a helping hand.
8. Make Family Christmas Parties Meaningful
Please show by a raise of hands how many people enjoy extended family Christmas gatherings. Those large family gatherings can be awkward, right? Think how much better it could be if you unite with that cousin, whose name escapes you, to tie a quilt for a homeless shelter or assemble a humanitarian kit for friends of the show Color My World, to provide to those in need after natural disasters? Think of what a dynamic relationship you could foster with family members when your relationship is built on service.
9. Give the Gift that Keeps on Giving
We recently highlighted Give Daily here at No Poor Among Them. Give Daily is a crowd-funding platform to which you can give just $1 per day to a different cause every day all year long. The great folks over at Give Daily go through a careful vetting process so you can rest assure that your donation is going to only the most effective organizations out there. You will also receive text message updates to see the good your donation is doing. Why not give a dollar a day in honor of someone on your list? How often have you given someone a gift that they will remember every day all year-round?
10. Give the Gift of Good Food
I know what you’re thinking: “This list is all well and good, but the people on my list won’t have any of this. I need a gift.”
Alright, well if you must, then why not make it a thoughtful gift. A gift that can not only satisfy the expectations of those on your list, but do so in a responsible way. CSAs (community supported agriculture) can give the person on your list the gift of locally grown, delicious produce. These food items are often purchased in shares and are picked up on a weekly basis. Did you know the carrots you buy at the grocery store traveled between 1500-2500 miles to get on your plate? Have you ever had a carrot that was picked the day before at a farm five miles away? It’s amazing! So buy that picky person on your list some great food. Not only will it thrill them, it will help his or her local farmer to make a go of producing and selling food the right way!
11. Give/Sell Some Jewelry
I know what you’re thinking. This is not another one of those pyramid schemes we Mormons tend to love. Hosting a Musana Market at your home gives you the opportunity to sell some hand-crafted jewelry by incredibly talented women artisans in Lugazi, Uganda. You can be sure that this jewelry will not only lift those who wear it, but those who make it. All your sales will help empower Ugandan women. you can also purchase a wide variety of jewelry online. And if you do host a Musana Market, Musana may just give you a little something for you to wear.
12. Support Cocoa Growers Who Get Paid a Living Wage
You’re not going to like this, but knowledge is power. It is likely that most, if not all of the chocolate you consume can be traced back to cocoa that is harvested by child labor and even human trafficking. How can something so good have such a dark side to it? Well, it doesn’t have to. There are quite a few options available for chocolate produced by people who earn a living wage. Some even own the farms they work on. Now, it’s not cheap. But doing the right thing seldom is. Here is a list of companies you can take a look at for some quality chocolate that is ethically produced.
13. Give the Gift of Quality Clothing
Many of you may remember several months ago when a Bangladesh garment factory collapsed, killing over 1,100 people. Too many garment workers work in lousy conditions, for long hours, and little pay. It is a byproduct of the inexpensive clothing we buy. But just as there is an answer to chocolate, there is an answer to clothing. And while some of these clothing companies offer quite expensive clothing, remember it is also well-made, which means it should last longer. Think of what it would mean to the receiver of your gift that you not only care about them, but the people who made their gift.
14. Think of the Children!
For those of you with kids, it is important to teach them the reason for the season. I don’t know of a better way to do this than to provide ways for your kids to get involved in helping those who are truly in need, because that is what Jesus Christ’s entire life was about. It is hard to inform an innocent child of the injustices in the world. But it is remarkable to see them want to help a child who is hungry, or who can’t afford to go to school, or who doesn’t have a home or a family. There are great organizations already discussed in this post, and are also discussed in this blog, in general, which can serve as a guide for you to help your kids be a part of your turning your nose at commercial Christmas.
I hope this list can at least spark your imagination to turn Christmas into a season of caring for others in need, rather than a season of rampant consumerism. Have other ideas of how to make Christmas more meaningful? Please share in the comments or on this thread on Facebook!