Tag Archives: Christmas

This Christmas Give More Without Spending More: Seven places to buy gifts that give back

I love everything about Christmas, but perhaps my favorite part is seeing the look on a loved-ones face when they open a special gift I’ve chosen just for them. Yet, every year it seems to get harder and harder to come up with creative gifts for the people on my list, while staying within budget. In the last few years I’ve begun to seek out gifts that offer more, without having to spend more. What I’ve discovered are companies that not only sell a beautiful, quality product, but give back in some way with each sale.

It’s a double-whammy-win for me when I can give Aunt Ida a beautiful, hand-woven scarf, while also helping a young girl in Uganda get an education. Or get one of my kids some cute Christmas pajamas while helping another kid who is battling cancer.

In the endless aisles of big box stores selling the same old stuff, why not think outside of the (big) box and give gifts that are unique and unexpected? Why not give gifts that offer hope, freedom, education, or a second chance? Because really, who needs another scented candle?

Here’s a list of seven great companies and non-profits that not only offer amazing products, but are making a real impact on the world.

Sseko designs

  1. Sseko Designs – Sseko is a fashion brand based in Uganda. They are probably best known for their customizable women’s ribbon sandals, but they also sell beautiful leather bags, scarves, baby sandals, and jewelry. Sseko began as a way to help Ugandan women of high potential attend university through employment and scholarship. All of the products they sell are hand-made by artisan groups in East Africa – primarily Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia – using locally sourced materials. You can purchase directly from the Sseko Designs website, or find a local consultant to buy through. The one bonus of buying through a consultant is they support specific women, so you can put a name and face of who you are helping send to college with your purchase. Pricing starts at $15 for some accessories and goes up from there.cuddle+kind
  2. Cuddle + Kind – Cuddle + Kind was started by the Woodgate family, with the mission of creating something beautiful and safe for kids that would also help feed children around the world. They partner with artisans in Peru to create handcrafted knit dolls. The purchase of each doll provides 10 meals to children around the world through their partnership with World Food Program USA (WFP). The prices of their dolls range from $48 – $72, with over 20 different designs to choose from. They also sell illustrated inspirational prints, which run about $20 each and provide 5 meals for children.Punjammies_54_990x660
  3. Sudara (formerly International Princess Project) – Sudara started in 2006 by partnering with a sewing center in India to provide jobs for women trying to escape sex trafficking and slavery. The company’s founder, Shannon Keith, had an idea to create a simple pattern for loungewear pants and teach the women how to sew this pattern – thus came the first pair of Punjammies®. In the last decade Sudara has expanded their products to include women’s and men’s loungewear, graphic tees, children’s clothing, and accessories. But their goal still remains the same: to empower women in India to live in freedom from sex-slavery via safe, sustainable living-wage employment. Prices for clothing range from $29-$79.Fashion & Compassion
  4. Fashion & Compassion – Fashion & Compassion was originally founded to help offer employment and a fresh start for U.S. victims of sex-trafficking. Over the years, they have expanded their mission to help women in Charlotte, NC who are in need of economic stability, as well as helping women in Kampala, Uganda create micro-businesses and small village banks. They do this by selling hand-crafted jewelry, home goods, and accessories made by the women in both Charlotte and Kampala. Fashion & Compassion is a non-profit, which helps keep the pricing of their products very reasonable, and means that 100% of their net proceeds goes back into the communities they serve. Prices start as low as $9.yuhme
  5. Yuhme – Started by a Swedish husband and wife team, Yuhme sells water bottles made from a special type of bio plastic produced from sugarcane (meaning they have a negative C02 footprint). They also partner with Water for Good – a U.S.-based organization providing clean drinking water solutions throughout Central Africa. Each water bottle you purchase provides 6 months of clean water for one person. Their bottles are dishwasher safe and hold 750 ml (approximately 25 oz). They have three designs to choose from, each costing about $33 USD and shipping to the United States is less than $7.soapbox soaps
  6. SoapBox Soaps – SoapBox Soaps was founded in 2010 with the idea of creating an everyday, quality product that would change the world. Today they sell a variety of personal care and bath products and for every product sold a bar of soap, or month of clean water, is donated to a person in need – both in the U.S. and around the world. The company also partners with organizations to provide clean water, vitamins, and hygiene education. Each product has a unique “Hope Code” which, if entered on their website, will show you which project your purchase is supporting. SoapBox products can be purchased online from the website or at major retailers, such as Walgreens, Walmart, and Target.stjude
  7. Jude Giftshop – You are likely very familiar with the name St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital — well-known for both their cutting-edge cancer research and treatment, as well as their promise to never make a family pay more than they can afford for treatment. But did you know that St. Jude has an online gift shop that sells products ranging from soup mixes to soup mugs, from Christmas ornaments to Christmas pajamas? They also have a great “for him” section for all of those hard-to-buy-for men on your list. More importantly, though, 100% of the profits from each purchase goes back to St. Jude. Pricing starts as low as $6.

These are just a few of my favorite places to shop for gifts that “give back” and I know there are many, many more. I’d love to hear about some of your favorites and add a few new ones to my list.


{Please note that the author was in no way compensated or incentivized to mention any of the above brands or organizations. She just thinks giving back to the community and creating a better world for her children is pretty awesome.}


7 gifts that give back

Living every day as the Season of Giving

This is my favorite time of year. Truly, I love everything about it — the music, the decorations, the sappy Hallmark movies, the parties, the Christmas pageants, Advent devotionals and calendars, even that stupid adorable elf on the shelf. But perhaps what I love most about Christmas is giving gifts.

I love being able to buy or make something that a dear friend or family member has been dreaming of, or perhaps something that will make their life easier, or just bring a smile to their face. I start planning what to get each person on my list two months in advance and get so excited thinking about their reaction when they finally open it on Christmas.

I tell you, with no amount of pride or ego, that I’ve always considered myself a pretty generous person. But this year I’ve been doing some soul searching, and asking myself “what does it mean to give as a follower of Jesus?”

Jesus had some very clear words for us about the relationship between giving and salvation. In fact, in three out of the four gospels this story is told:

“As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:17, 21-24)

To be honest, I have never given Jesus’s warning much thought because I never considered myself rich. But recently, my definition of “rich” has been challenged. While I am not a millionaire, the reality is that based on worldwide income averages, my family ranks in the top 1% of the world’s wealthiest families. In fact, anyone with a household income of $32,400 or more is in this top 1 percent. ¹

I know that number might seem shocking, especially if you’re living in the United States. But even if I look at only U.S. averages, my family still sits somewhere in the top 15 percent.² And if I take a really honest look, we live a comfortable life.

No, I don’t have a closet full of designer clothes, and handbags. Our house is modest,  our cars were bought used, and our furniture is cheap. I love consignment sales and clearance racks, and rarely pay full price for an item. But, if my kids need a new pair of tennis shoes, we can buy them. We go out to eat several times per week. We take a family vacation every year. You get the point.

Our basic needs are provided for and we have plenty of ‘extras’, as well. So does that make us rich? More importantly, do my belongings get in the way of my relationship with God? And, would I be willing to sell everything I have to follow Jesus, like He asked the man in Mark 10?

These are questions I’ve started asking myself lately. Maybe because it’s the season of giving. Or maybe it’s because our Bible study group has been doing the “7 Experiment” study by Jen Hatmaker. Whatever the reason, I think the Lord has been calling me into self-examination on this front for some time, challenging my definition of rich and what my family truly needs to live as followers of Him.

And as He often does, the Lord has shown me His way through some surprising and humbling encounters.

I want to tell you the story of a little 10 year old boy. He is a saver. He likes to put away his allowance and any money received for birthdays and hang on to it. He thinks carefully before spending money on anything, considering the cost of the item, how much he will have left, and whether it’s something he really, really wants (I can’t use the word needs because his parents provide for all of his needs). Recently this little boy counted up all his savings and discovered he had about $75.

He thought about all of the ways he might spend this money. He really wanted a fancy new Lego set. He also thought about saving more so he could buy an iPod touch, like his older sister has. But then he thought some more and he went to his mom and said, “I’d like to give my money to the church.”

His mom was quite surprised by his declaration and asked him why. He said, “well because I think the church can use this money to help people who need it.” So his mother explained the different ways the money that they put in the offering basket was used, including the various outreach ministries their church did, so he understood exactly where his money would be going. Then she suggested he pray about it overnight before making a final decision.

First thing the next morning the little boy told his mom that he had prayed and he was sure he wanted to give all of his money to the church. That Sunday when the offering basket was passed a little hand placed $75 worth of crumpled bills and change into it.

Honestly, I can’t even type this story without sobbing like a little baby. I am humbled by the generosity of this 10 year old boy. And I ask myself, would I be brave enough to pray to God and ask Him if I should give away every cent I owned? And if His answer was yes, would I then carry through with it and drop it in the offering basket with a smile like this boy did?

The raw, ugly, honest answer is I don’t think I could. But I sure hope one day I can be like that little boy.

There is a certain freedom that comes with letting go. Letting go of things we don't need. Letting go of our dependency and value of earthly things.


We’re making changes in our house to get there. We’re cutting back on our dependency of “stuff”. We’re paying off debt that holds much of our money hostage. We’re coming together as a family to find opportunities to give more — both financially and of our time — and not just at a comfortable level, but in a “this is hard and kind of uncomfortable” way:

If we give up eating out every week, what can we use that money for?

If we buy fewer Christmas gifts, can we afford more items for the angel tree children?

When we receive our paychecks, bonuses, allowance, birthday money, etc. are we praying for God to show us how to use the money before spending it?

Before buying that new sweater, DVD, electronic gadget, lip gloss, etc. are we stopping to ask “do I really need this? Is there a better way I can spend this money?”

It’s a process. We still have a long way to go.

But I will tell you that what I’ve seen thus far is there is a certain freedom that comes with letting go. Letting go of things we don’t need. Letting go of control of the spending decisions. Letting go of debt. And letting go of our dependency and value of earthly things.

I hope one day I can be as willing as that little boy to give over everything I have to God and live my life like every day was the season of giving.





Gift well this Christmas


Have you been staring at your Christmas shopping list thinking “I don’t know what to buy Aunt Ida…she is so hard to shop for!” Or, “what in the world do I get Grandpa Joe, he has everything!!” Or maybe you’re just thinking, “if I give my husband one more tie he might divorce me.” In the endless aisles of big box stores selling the same ol’ stuff, why not think outside of the (big) box and give gifts that are unique, quality, and maybe even hand-made (by somebody else, so don’t panic)? Why not give gifts that give hope and freedom and education and lifeblood? Because really, who needs another coffee mug?

So here it is, my list of five great companies and organizations that not only offer amazing products, but are having a real impact on the world.

1. Khaled Hosseini Foundation – If the name sounds familiar it’s because Khaled Hosseini is the exceptional NY Times Bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Hosseini was born in Afghanistan and is passionate about fighting to resolve the refugee crisis in his country of birth. So he established the Khaled Hosseini Foundation to provide humanitarian support by building shelters for refugee families, and providing economic opportunities, education, and healthcare for women and children of Afghanistan.

Burkha clutchHosseini’s foundation partners with Zardozi — Markets for Afghan Artisans, an Afghan non-governmental, non-profit organization that employs Afghan women artisans living in refugee camps who make jewelry, purses and bookmarks.  These unique hand-crafted items are gorgeous and the profit from all sales is put back into Zardozi so they can continue to employ these women — many of whom have never before been allowed to earn their own income. To see these beautiful products and shop online, visit their site here: http://www.khaledhosseinifoundation.org/tkhf-products.php

Sevenly t-shirt2. Sevenly – A company that is changing the world, one t-shirt at a time, Sevenly was founded in 2011 by four people who had a vision to bring together great art, the basic t-shirt and funding for the world’s most important causes. Every week Sevenly partners with a different charity to create one-of-a-kind “cause art” that celebrates the unique work done by each charity. They print the art on high-quality t-shirts and sell them on their site, giving $7 of every purchase back to the organization. To date they have raised nearly 4 million dollars. And these are not your average t-shirts! They are truly stunning works of art. Check out their current t-shirt designs and scratch a few folks off your Christmas list (and maybe sneak in a few for yourself): http://www.sevenly.org

3. International Princess Project –  It is estimated that there are more than 3 million girls and women enslaved in India’s sex trade. Most are either kidnapped or sold into slavery as children by their own family (the average age of girls entering the sex trade is 11). After an eye-opening trip to India, founder Shannon Keith rallied some friends and the International Princess Project was born to help put an end to sex trafficking in India. I first heard about IPP and their flagship product, Punjammies™, three years ago and immediately bought several as Christmas gifts (aaaannnnddd might have put them on my Christmas list).

punjammiesThe primary focus of IPP is to offer women being rescued out of slavery a new trade, well-paid work, housing, and a support system so they don’t end up back in the sex trade due to social stigma or poverty. Their top product is the Punjammie™, pajama pants made out of beautiful fabrics inspired by the colorful saris worn by most Indian women. They are not only fun and unique, but very comfortable, too! To shop Punjammies™ or learn more about IPP, visit their website: http://shop.intlprincess.org  (while you’re there, pick me up a pair of the Bhavani full-length pants in an xxl).

4. Feeding America – Trying to do Christmas on a budget this year? How about Christmas gifts for $1 — and I’m not talking cheap cr@p bought from the dollar store! Did Feeding Americayou know that $1 can provide ten meals?! TEN MEALS! You can’t even get one happy meal for $1! But the folks at Feeding America know how to make a dollar stretch and they work with food banks across the U.S. to get food to over 46.5 million people, including 12 million children every year. All you have to do is go on their website, choose the amount (seriously starting at $1) and you can even have an eCard sent to the person whom you are giving in honor of.  With gifting this easy you can get one for every neighbor on the block!

For more information, visit the Feeding America website here: http://www.feedingamerica.org

5. Noonday Collection – If you’ve been reading my blog for a while or are friends with me you know how passionate I am about this company and the work they are doing. So passionate, I used to be an ambassador (fancy term for sales rep/storyteller). If you haven’t heard of them, Noonday works with artisan groups in economically vulnerable communities throughout 10 different countries to create economic empowerment through living wages and fair trade. They also offer no-interest business loans, education scholarships, and emergency disaster relief.

Noonday sells a variety of hand-made, unique products from jewelry to scarves to purses. And when I say the products are unique, I’m talking necklaces and bracelets made out of up-cycled artillery shells and an evening bag made out of VHS and cassette tape! You can learn more about Noonday or shop here: www.noondaycollection.com

Noonday Collection

These are just a few of my favorite places to shop for gifts that “give back” and I know I’m just barely scratching the surface. So I’d LOVE to hear about some of your favorites and add a few new ones to my list.