Monday, September 27, 2010

Christmas Gifts that Actually Matter (from $1 to $50)

It may be a little early to post this, but I want people to have a chance to consider these options in plenty of time for Christmas... I promise that these are the best gifts money can buy.

Try something different this year - give them a gift that they don't have, will be thankful for, and one that really will have a positive effect on the world and those residing in it.

For the first time last Christmas, I gave gifts of charitable donations on behalf of my friends and family. I found gifts that I thought best reflected the nature of the individual in whose honour I was purchasing the gifts. I can truly say that I've never felt more satisfied in giving a gift, that these were by far the best received gifts I've given, and that I had a very, very enjoyable Christmas shopping season! I didn't have to go to the chaotic mall, full of blatant cheap, plastic consumerism. I got all of my shopping done early, and I really felt that I was giving in the true nature of Christmas for a change.

OxFam Unwrapped image - "Gift of Peace" charitable gift
My gift to you is this list of suggested gifts, broken down into several sub-groups to hopefully help you choose the perfect gift for every person on your list. And I do mean every person - I can almost guarantee that there's a gift appropriate for even the hardest-to-shop-for relative here.

Last year's envelopes
I haven’t attempted to stray from the typical gender-based stereotypes (for example, gifts of blankets and milk for Mom, soccer balls and tools for Dad), but I strongly encourage you to give the gift that MOST REMINDS YOU OF THE RECIPIENT. Personalize further by including a note as to why you chose this gift – be it a particular memory, a feeling of security, valuable lessons learned, or an inside joke. You can even make, bake or buy a small gift to accompany your charitable gift so that they have something tangible to hold.

I have not included all the gifts offered by any means, and I’ve only included gifts offered through OxFam Unwrapped, UNICEF’s Gifts of Magic, and World Vision’s “Canada’s Most Meaningful Gifts”, the latter having the most options for under $50. If you can afford to give more than $50, there are many, many worthy gifts to give (a bicycle for $70, send a child to school for $75) – make sure you take the time to browse the entire catalogues online. 

Screenshot: UNICEF Canada Gifts of Magic
Screenshot: World Vision Canada Gift Catalogue
Screenshot: OxFam Unwrapped Canada

For Mothers, Grandmothers and other Nurturers:
Remember to write a loving message as to why you chose this gift for her.
World Vision Gift Catalogue image - "3 Blankets" charitable gift

For Fathers, Grandfathers and other Nurturers:
Let him know why you picked this particular gift for him - share a funny story or cherished memory.
OxFam Unwrapped image - "Tools" charitable gift

For the Young-at-Heart and fun-loving:
  • Chicken ($15) - OxFam Unwrapped (the chicken doesn't come in a box, it just looks like it does. Gets a laugh out of kids. For the SNL fan, you can customize your card by adding the words "Chick-in-a-Box".....)
  • Storybooks ($18) - UNICEF Gifts of Magic
  • Art-in-a-Box for a traumatized child ($20) - UNICEF Gifts of Magic
  • Toys ($30) - World Vision Gifts
  • Box of toys and games ($35) - UNICEF Gifts of Magic
  • Art and Music for children ($50) - World Vision Gifts
Don't forget to include a small toy or musical instrument for your fun-loving recipient to play with! Also note that UNICEF's Gifts of Magic have kids bundles that include a stuffed animal for the honourary giver.

OxFam Unwrapped image - "Chicken" charitable gift

For the healers, health-care professionals, and the ones who kiss boo-boos better:
A nice gesture might be to include a home-made coupon for a lunch date and a serving of "Jewish Penicillin", also known a Chicken Matzo Ball soup at Solly's Bagelry to return the favour of comfort and health
UNICEF Canada Gifts of Magic image - "Immunize One Child" charitable gift

For the socially and community-minded:
Thank them for their big heart by making one of your own - a crochet heart, an origami heart, or cheat and buy one like this!
World Vision Canada gift catalogue image - "Prevent Gang Violence" charitable gift

For the gardener or farmer:
The above all go very well with a gift of actual seed packets for your green-thumbed friend - check out Seeds of Change, Westcoast Seeds, and Stellar Seeds.
World Vision Canada gift catalogue image - "5 Fruit Trees" charitable gift
For the safety-conscious, accident-prone or the 'always prepared'-type:
A small, tangible gift to include for the recipient might be a pack of Band-aids, a whistle like this one, or an actual First-Aid kit like this one from MEC.
OxFam Unwrapped Canada image - "OxFam Bucket" charitable gift

For the foodie or cook:
Include a small gift of something tasty or fun to cook with from The Gourmet Warehouse or Ming Wo 
UNICEF Canada Gifts of Magic image - "High-Energy Biscuits" charitable gift

For the student, teacher or educator:
Might I recommend a package of Earthzone recycled pencils to accompany the card?
World Vision Canada gift catalogue image - "Early Childhood Education" charitable gift

For the Ladies:
And although these technically break the $50 limit I advertised at the beginning of this post, there are two other gifts from OxFam Unwrapped that are very important: "Women's Vocational Training" ($53) and "Promoting an End to Harmful Traditional Practices" i.e. female genital mutilation ($55)
OxFam Unwrapped Canada image - "Girls in School" charitable gift

Small Investment, Big Impact gifts for everyone to enjoy:

World Vision Canada gift catalogue image - "2 Mosquito Nets" charitable gift

Suggestions by specific job or interest:

Journalist or communications expert: Radio equipment and infrastructure ($15) - OxFam Unwrapped

Athlete: 3 soccer balls and more ($30) - World Vision Gifts
World Vision Canada gift catalogue image - "3 Soccer Balls and More" charitable gift

Chef: Wood-conserving stove ($50) - World Vision Gifts

HIV and AIDS activist: HIV and AIDS Peer Education ($45) - OxFam Unwrapped

Construction worker or DIY Handyman: Tools for construction and agriculture ($39) - OxFam Unwrapped

Plumber: Water pump repair kit ($40) - UNICEF Gifts of Magic
UNICEF Canada Gifts of Magic image - "Water Pump Repair Kit" charitable gift

Feminist: Girls in school ($50) - OxFam Unwrapped

Outdoor enthusiast: Clothing and Raingear for a Child ($30) - World Vision Gifts

Entomologist: 2 mosquito nets for protecting up to 8 children ($30) - World Vision Gifts

Microbiologist: Water purification tablets for a family for 3 months ($20) - UNICEF Gifts of Magic

Bibliophiles, librarians and burgeoning bookworms: Storybooks ($18) - UNICEF Gifts of Magic
UNICEF Canada Gifts of Magic image - "Storybooks" charitable gift

Musician: Art and Music for children ($50) - World Vision Gifts

Artist or Art Therapist: Art-in-a-Box for a traumatized child ($20) - UNICEF Gifts of Magic

Police Officer or Corrections worker: Prevention of Gang Violence ($50) - World Vision Gifts

Firefighter or Search and Rescue worker: Disaster response and prevention training and infrastructure ($50) - World Vision Gifts

Paramedic or Lifeguard:  First Aid kit ($31) - UNICEF Gifts of Magic
UNICEF Canada Gifts of Magic image - "First Aid Kit" charitable gift

Peacemaker or Mediator: Gift of Peace ($ specify amount) - OxFam Unwrapped

Pastor: Christian Literature and Training ($30) - World Vision Gifts

Proud Canadian: Canadian Assistance Fund for impoverished children and families ($25) - World Vision Gifts
World Vision Canada gift catalogue image - "Canadian Assistance Fund" charitable gift

World Vision Child Sponsor: A Gift to the Sponsored Child's community ($50) - World Vision Gifts

And finally, the Gift of Choice:
OxFam Unwrapped and the World Vision gift catalogue offer gift cards (for OxFam gift cards, check out your local Shopper's Drug Mart) that you can give to the recipient to allow them to choose the charitable gift of their liking.
Christmas is all about love for your fellow human beings - do the right thing!

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Did you know....?
  • the origins of the "Buy Nothing Christmas" began here on the West Coast of Canada with a group of Mennonites in an effort to restore meaning to Christmas, give to the poor, and to counter the gross over-consumption of the middle classes yielding to the commercial nature of this day and age.
  • in the USA, 4 million tons of waste is generated each year from Christmas shopping bags and gift wrap alone. Source here at Use Less Stuff.
  • household waste increases by 25% between (American) Thanksgiving and Christmas - that's an additional 1 million tons of garbage per week!
  • while nearly a billion people go hungry around the world, in North America an estimated 28 billion pounds (13 billion kilos) of edible food is wasted every calendar year. (World Food Programme;
  • on the positive side, OxFam notes a reduction in the number of people going hungry in 2009, and believes that the number of starving people in the world can be cut in half by 2015. Be part of the solution today - all you have to do is make a small donation (and convince your friends to do so, too!).

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