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Libraries, loos, and livestock

02 November 2012

Schools and churches are among the buyers of alternative gifts, Steve Tomkins reports

Alternative giving: an entrepreneur in Benin, financed by microloans provided though Lend With Care

Alternative giving: an entrepreneur in Benin, financed by microloans provided though Lend With Care

CHRISTIAN AID's Present Aid catalogue is now in its eighth year, and has expanded to include 37 items. New additions for this Christmas include two pairs of crutches for a child in Bethlehem (£86), and a floating garden that provides food in flooded areas (£18).

Another new feature is a website for group giving. This allows you to bring together your church or school to buy a more expensive item, such as a brick house for someone made homeless by flooding. You can make payments online, and follow the progress of the fund.

Across the charitable sector, the money that comes in from virtual gifts has declined, as these have be-come less of a novelty. Nevertheless, Christian Aid still seeks to raise £600,000 from Present Aid this Christmas.

Also for the first time, gifts can be bought right up to Christmas Day, with cards and group gift certificates that can be printed out at home. Prices range from £7 for a wormery to £1385 for a permanent house for a dispossessed family. The money raised by Present Aid is distributed wherever it is most needed.

For an individual: Twenty rapid-diagnostic malaria kits cost £15. These kits enable people in remote areas to diagnose malaria in time to get life-saving treatment.

For a group: For £596, you can fund someone to do a teacher-training course. Training someone in the developing world as a teacher provides not only a career for that person, but also educational opportunities for children.

View the complete catalogue at www.presentaid.org; or phone 0845 3300 500 to request a catalogue.

DAME HILARY BLUME, of Good Gifts, became a pioneer of alternative giving ten years ago. She was prompted by the unneeded gifts that she and her husband received for their silver wedding and his 60th birthday, and by someone who bought education for a student in the developing world instead of a gift.

The catalogue has changed over the years to reflect demand. A distinctive principle of Good Gifts is that your money always goes to the cause that you have chosen. "There was a very jolly donkey project in Rwanda. That is complete now; we don't need any more donkeys. Other things such as education and restoring sight are ongoing."

New gifts for this year include giant gro-bags (£50), which enable people in refugee camps to grow vegetables; and knitting packs (£9-75), which offer therapy and community activity, as well as income, for women in Africa and Asia.

Groups such as schools or churches can club together to raise money for "giant gifts". Examples range from a water tank for an African school (£500) to an acre of greenbelt land (£5000).

For an individual: A Christmas hamper costs £25. Hampers for elderly people in places such as Easterhouse, in Glasgow, not only provide gifts for those who receive nothing else, but also help struggling communities by inspiring young people and local shops to get involved.

For a group: For £1000, you can fund a football factory. An African leather-ball factory employs 30 people, and produces 500 balls a week. Footballers get high-quality, easily mended, locally produced, and ecologically friendly footballs.

View the complete catalogue at www.goodgifts.org; or phone 020 7794 8000 to request a catalogue.


MRDF works towards the long-term development of poor communities in 19 countries. Its Extraordinary Gifts catalogue has been running for five years, and offers nine different presents for supporters.

Current gifts range from a watering can for a primary school in Cameroon (£8.50) to hand-washing facilities at a Ugandan school (£205). All the money raised goes directly to the projects concerned.

The more expensive gifts are mainly aimed at groups. MRDF's marketing-development officer, Ruth Kendal, says: "Group gifts are a wonderful way for churches or schools to get together and provide something more than individuals can on their own."

The money raised through Extraordinary Gifts has declined over the years. "As the novelty has worn off, we've seen less money coming in this way each year. But it is still a really important source of income," Ms Kendal says.

For an individual: For £11 you can buy seeds that thrive in drier conditions. They go to a farmers' collective in Kenya, providing enough for ten farmers, and allowing them to provide food for their families, even in a drought.

For a group: Professional coun-selling, at a cost of £101, helps people living with HIV in Togo. This gift pays a month's salary for a psychologist, providing more than 140 sessions to help people to come to terms with their diagnosis, and make wise choices for the future.

View the complete catalogue at www.mrdf.org.uk/give/extraordinary-gifts; or phone 020 7224 4814 to request a catalogue.


WISH LIST is Save the Children's alternative-giving scheme. It offers gifts that improve the lives of children in more than 120 countries.

The catalogue has 43 gifts, ranging in price from £5, which will buy a football or art kit for a child in need, to £625 for an equipped classroom for an isolated community.

New this year is the Camel Library, a group gift with a special appeal for schools, which can raise money to offer the gift of reading to children in remote areas of Africa.

"In a harsh, conflict-affected, and marginalised part of the world, the gift of a camel library can help children to develop their education and future opportunities," Save the Children says. The money raised through Wish List goes towards work with a similar theme.

For an individual: A "No child born to die survival kit" costs £21. It includes a measles vaccine, and treatments for diarrhoea and pneumonia for one child. The kit offers protection from diseases that kill millions of children every year.

For a group: A Camel Library gift costs £150. Camel libraries in Ethiopia take books to children who cannot get to school because of their nomadic lifestyle. Led by a herder and librarian, the camel carries trunks of books around the desert, making regular visits to poor and isolated communities.

View the complete catalogue at shop.savethechildren.org.uk/wishlist; or phone 020 7012 6400 to request a catalogue.


EMBRACE THE MIDDLE EAST is the new name for BibleLands, the charity that has been tackling poverty and injustice in the Middle East since 1854. It is currently supporting projects in Israel-Palestine, Lebanon, and Egypt.

Its alternative-gifts catalogue, in its fifth year of operation, now offers nine gifts, and is bucking the downward trend across the charitable sector; last year, it brought in more money than ever, at £45,825.

Gift possibilities range from a week of school meals (£5) to a group gift of training for a widow to set up her own small business (£60). All donations are used for the exact purpose specified in the catalogue.

For an individual: Warm clothes, for £9, will help children in Palestine and Lebanon whose families cannot afford heating in the winter.

For a group: Training for widows costs £60. The Fruits of Labour scheme allowed 24-year-old Amira to start her own fruit-and-vegetable stall, to provide for her three children; £60 will allow another woman in a similar position to attend the seminars.

View the complete catalogue at www.embracechristmas.org; or phone 01227 811646 to request a catalogue.


MUST HAVE GIFTS, World Vision's virtual-gifts scheme, offers 50 different presents, at prices ranging from £5 for 100 water-purification tablets to a group gift of £1600 to give a clinic in South Sudan a roof.

"World Vision Must Have Gifts are real items that are specifically requested by the communities we partner with," its head of supporter relations, Andrew Stott, says. "When someone buys a gift, the donation helps to repay the funds we've used to buy that gift."

New to the catalogue this year are a guinea pig and its food for £12 - for a family to breed as a small-business venture - and bedding for a family that has lost its home in a natural disaster, for £18.

Must Have Gifts has been going for ten years, and brought in more than £2 million at its height, seven years ago. This year's target is £350,000, in line with reduced investment in the product, and a smaller core-group of supporters.

For an individual: A gift of maize seed, for £9, will help Ugandan families returning to their devastated homes after war to get back on their feet again by growing crops.

For a group: Playground equipment costs £790. Because war destroyed their villages, many Sudanese children are living in makeshift camps with nowhere safe to play. Simple playground equipment brings them a little happiness, as they rebuild their lives.

View the complete catalogue at www.musthavegifts.org; or phone 0845 600 6446 to request a catalogue.


LEND WITH CARE offers an alternative form of alternative giving. Instead of buying a specific gift in the name of a friend or relative, you buy him or her a voucher to make a loan to an entrepreneur in the developing world.

Lend With Care is a two-year-old joint initiative of Care International and the Co-operative. It allows UK investors to loan anything from £15 upwards to entrepreneurs in six countries, including Cambodia, Bosnia, and Ecuador. The 30 schemes available include family businesses, such as an iced-drinks shop, and photographic equipment for a reporter in Togo. The amounts that entrepreneurs are seeking vary from £585 to £2700, but individual investors do not have to cover the whole amount, simply make a contribution.

When the loan is repaid, the donor can choose to take back the money, invest it in another loan, or give it to Care International.

For an individual: Motorcycle repairs costs £15. Contribute to a 12-month loan that allows Kokou, in Togo, to buy supplies for his motorcycle-repair business.

For a group: Support a pork butcher for £574.68. Give the whole remaining amount needed for an eight-month loan that will give Marcia, in Ecuador, capital for the pork-butcher's business she inherited from her father.

View the complete catalogue at www.lendwithcare.org; or phone 020 7091 6000.


WATERAID works to improve access to safe water, hygiene, and sanitation for poor communities in 27 countries. The most popular gifts from their Sh2op For Life include hand pumps, village latrines, and taps for village water-points.

Sh2op For Life offers presents for a wide range of budgets: for £10, you can get enough cement for builders to make two latrines; for £4328, your church or school can build a gravity-flow scheme - a low-maintenance system that pipes clean water from hill springs down to villages near by.

You can also buy campaigning gifts, such as placards and petitions, that support WaterAid's advocacy work.

For churches and schools that are raising money for a large donation, the Sh2op For Life has a section devoted to Organisation Gifts. These pay for substantial projects such as a borehole, or a sanitation-advice shop, which allow groups to "spread that feel-good factor to members, customers, and colleagues", WaterAid says.

For an individual: Train a pump attendant for £20. This three-day scheme trains men and women to maintain and repair the village water-pump.

For a group: Cap a spring for £2500. This gift provides the structure to protect a newly tapped spring from contamination.

View the complete catalogue at www.shop.wateraid.org; or phone 0300 123 2251 to request a catalogue.


SEND A COW supports farmers in seven African countries. It has expanded its operations since its inception in 1985. Its gift catalogue has grown from about five items to 33, and although its heyday was in 2005, it still provides a good source of income for the charity.

Send a Cow has added a new product for the group-gift market this year - a £2000 farmyard. This gift comes with livestock, tools, and training.

Although the price of presents starts at £5, Send a Cow's most expensive gift is a farmers' market, whereby African farmers can train in business, marketing, and finance skills, all for £5000. The actual gifts given to African communities vary, according to their needs.

For an individual: A banana tree costs £12. Once farmers are trained in composting and soil regeneration, they can grow bananas both for their own family's nutrition and to sell locally.

For a group: For £750, you can send a cow to Kenya, Rwanda, or Uganda. It will provide a family with more than 3000 litres of milk a year. A cow provides milk for family nutrition, and a steady source of income - plus manure for plants.

View the complete catalogue at www.sendacowgifts.org.uk; or phone 01225 874222 to request a catalogue.


SINCE 2009, Tearfund has been offering an innovative approach to virtual giving for individuals and groups: toilet-twinning.

You pay to twin your recipient's toilet with a new one, in a place where water and sanitation are scarce. Recipients receive a certificate in return, along with GPS co-ordinates to look up the new toilet on the internet.

Toilets can be twinned with those in Burundi, Bangladesh, Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sierra Leone. The money raised goes towards providing greater access to clean water. Tearfund twinned its 10,000th toilet in September.

An individual toilet-twinning costs £80, but there is a cheaper gift this year: a toilet roll, with pictures and co-ordinates of new latrines. A school or church can twin its toilets with a school toilet block.

For an individual: For £8, give someone the gift of a toilet roll, decorated with details of twinned toilets in the developing world, and help to give someone else the gift of a clean, safe latrine.

For a group: For £240, twin your school or church toilets with a school toilet block in the developing world.

View the complete catalogue at www.toilettwinning.org; or phone 0300 321 3217.


THE Woodland Trust works to protect woodland, and plant native trees, throughout the UK. Its gift catalogue offers dedications of trees and woods, starting at £15 for a single tree and rising to £3000 for a one-acre grove, marked by a bench with a plaque.

Tree dedications are available in 50 woods. Woodland dedications are available in more than 700 locations in the UK.

The Woodland Trust offers group funds, which allow you to set up an online donation site, so that a group of people can club together to buy a dedication to mark an occasion such as a wedding, a birth, or the loss of a friend or relative.

For an individual: A gift of a tree costs £15. Select a location from a range of 50 young and mature woods, and personalise a certificate to be sent to the recipient.

For a group: An acre of woodland costs £2000. Select a location to be dedicated, mark it with a personalised plaque on a post, and personalise a certificate to be sent to the recipient.

View the complete catalogue at www.woodlandtrust.org.uk; or phone 0845 293 5837.




St Mark's, Elm Tree, Primary School

ST MARK's C of E Primary School, Elm Tree, in Stockton-on-Tees, adopts a charity every year. In 2010, the children chose Good Gifts, and, in particular, the donkey-drawn library that tours former war zones in Africa.

"Reading was one of things we were promoting in the school," the head teacher, Valerie Hall, says. "And, as a church school, we want to support what's happening in other countries."

The idea of a donkey library caught the children's imaginations, and they measured their fund-raising with a "donkeyometer". They raised money by putting on a cake sale, selling vegetables from the school allotment at harvest festival, and paying to take part in a dressing-up day. They eventually raised £470 - enough to stock 11 libraries.


St John the Evangelist, Kingston Park, Newcastle

FOR the past six years, the congregation of St John the Evangelist, in Kingston Park, Newcastle, instead of Christmas cards, have exchanged Christmas greetings via a virtual Christmas tree on the wall of the foyer, to raise money for Christian Aid. Up to 50 churchgoers write their messages on paper baubles, and make donations as they put them up.

"It's a much more sensible way of exchanging Christmas greetings, and supports a good cause at the same time," the Vicar, the Revd Roger Mills, says.

Last year, the church raised £200-£300, which it spent on items from the Present Aid catalogue, including a wormery, farm animals, and educational items.


St Paul's, Skelmersdale, Lancashire

ST PAUL's, Skelmersdale, in Lancashire, raised money to twin its new lavatories with latrines in Burundi, as part of Tearfund's toilet-twinning scheme for World Toilet Day last November.

A spare (disconnected) lavatory was used to collect donations, which amounted to £640. This paid to twin its facilities with two toilet blocks and two individual latrines.

"Toilet-twinning is such a practical way to change lives for the better," the Priest-in-Charge, the Revd Christopher Spittle, says. "The certificates, which are displayed with pride in each loo, are a great reminder that we mustn't take for granted the blessing of good sanitation. It counters disease, enables women to go to the loo in safety, and girls to attend school."







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