A solar light, £15-40
SOLARAID is an international charity that has set itself the
immense task of eradicating the kerosene lamp from Africa by 2020
by replacing it with affordable, durable solar-powered lights.
Some 600 million people in Africa have no access to electricity,
and many use kerosene or paraffin lamps or candles, which are dim,
dangerous, and costly to run, and which also contribute to climate
change. A solar light can make a huge difference on many fronts,
not least by allowing schoolchildren to study later into the
Rather than give its lights away, SolarAid has set up a social
enterprise, SunnyMoney, which enables enterprising locals to make a
living by selling them at affordable prices. It is a business model
that, it hopes, will be widely copied.
The lights can be used in this country, too: they are ideal for
campsites or festivals, or for reading in bed. So, buy a funky
solar light for a friend or relative in Britain for £15 to £40, and
£10 of that sum will go to keep down the cost of getting similar
lights to another three households in rural East Africa.
THE CHURCHES CONSERVATION TRUST
Beautiful Churches book,
BESIDES marketing its charity Christmas cards, the Churches
Conservation Trust is celebrating the Christmas season this year in
pewter and stainless steel. Fund-raising gifts include a picnic
flask (£15) and a tankard and hip flask (£30 each) engraved with
the recipient's name and/or logo.
Its bestseller is the 176-page book Beautiful Churches
by Matthew Byrne, which was published last year and describes 36
spectacular examples of the 340-odd historic English churches (of
all periods) that have been saved by the Trust so far.
Beautiful Churches has a foreword by the Prince of
Wales, and is generously illustrated with superb pictures by the
author, who is a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society.
EMBRACE THE MIDDLE EAST
Nativity cookie-cutter set, £18.99
THE charity formerly known as BibleLands has a catalogue full of
inexpensive handicrafts and other gifts, from which all profits
help its Christian partners in Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon,
and Syria to tackle poverty and injustice.
Its "faith-filled gifts" range from a Tree of Life trivet
hand-carved from sustainable mango wood to a tin of sugar-free
fish-shaped mints. One bestseller, at £18.99, is a 12- piece
stainless steel cookie-cutter set, complete with a gingerbread
nativity-scene recipe (and instructions) to impress your friends.
Another £3.99 will buy you a choir of angel cookie-cutters (in
three different sizes) to add to the scene. Other interesting gift
options include Kenneth Bailey's 426-page book Jesus Through
Middle Eastern Eyes (£12.99) and the cookery book The Gaza
The catalogue also offers virtual gifts, costing from £10 for a
hen to £300 for a water supply for a home in rural Egypt. Also
included is a £12 pack of six mini-gifts, from a bus ticket to get
a child to school to some nutritious peanut butter for a refugee
family. Each one is described on a small card that you can slip
into a Christmas card or cracker, or hang on the tree.
Your money will be spent in the approximate area of your
purchase. Delivery in the UK (for all gifts except the virtual
ones) is charged at a flat rate of £3.95.
ALL WE CAN
Widow's Might gift, £12
ALL WE CAN - the rebranded Methodist Relief and Development Fund
(MRDF) - is offering 15 "extraordinary gifts" for Christmas, priced
from £9 to £230.
For £12, "Widow's Might" could give a vulnerable widow in
Cameroon training in how to run a small business, so that she can
set up her own enterprise and provide for her family. For £55,
"Crop Cycles" could equip farmers in Uganda with a bicycle, to give
them a better chance of getting their produce to market before it
rots, avoiding waste and increasing their income.
All We Can is active in ten countries in Africa and Asia, and
works for sustainable long-term change to end the cycle of
suffering caused by poverty and injustice by supporting
livelihoods, improving health, and strengthening the part played by
women in society.
The money from the gifts goes to an All We Can partner
delivering the project you choose, but will be spent according to
local need, and may not, therefore, be spent "exactly as it says on
the tin". In return, the charity will send you, or a designated
person, a colourful card that illustrates your gift and explains
how it will assist someone in one of the world's poorest
Training a mother adviser, £27
PRESENT AID, Christian Aid's online gift shop, offers an
abundance of virtual presents to appeal to all ages and
Chickens, sheep, and goats are the perennial bestsellers - at
£4, £10, and £22 respectively - along with children's school
materials for £9, but this year Christian Aid is keen to promote
its maternal-health gifts; and what is more, the Government will
currently match spending on these, pound for pound, up to a total
of £5 million.
A gift of £27, for example, could help to retrain a
traditional-birth attendant in rural Kenya as a "mother adviser"
who cares for women during pregnancy, and supports them in labour.
Or get together with others in your church and, for £165, buy a
"bundle of joy", which also includes provision for a family
planning workshop, and a mobile health outreach clinic.
In reality, you will be making a donation - in this particular
case, to Christian Aid's general health-care fund - but the agency
will send your friend or relative a card, by post or email,
describing the specific gift you have chosen.
Present Aid has raised more than £16 million since it was
started in 2005. When you buy a health-care-related gift, you are
helping to fund Christian Aid's vital work on HIV, TB, malaria, and
maternal and neonatal health.
Sponsor a Knit for Peace group, £250
GOOD GIFTS is an initiative of the Charities Advisory Trust,
which works with many different agencies to offer a range of
presents to suit every budget.
Good Gifts promises that your money will be spent exactly as
specified, on things that are much needed. For £5, for example, you
can contribute 50 bowls of rice for children in your chosen
recipient's name; for £30, you can support informal drop-in centres
for street children in India that offer children not only something
to eat and drink, but learning and mentoring, and the possibility
of a permanent route off the streets.
For £250, your family or church could sponsor a "Knit for Peace"
group, which invites women from once-hostile communities to sit
together and make warm clothes, which Good Gifts then buys, and,
through local charities, distributes to people who need them. "We
encourage attendance, by paying welcome income for their welcome
output. Sounds woolly, but it works," the website says.
Good Gifts will send a card or a Christmas cracker containing a
witty description of your gift.
Cuddly toy owl, £8.50
THE CMS online shop is not easy to navigate, but its recesses
harbour a range of inexpensive handicrafts and other gifts sourced
from community-based artisan groups in countries including
Bangladesh, Ecuador, and Uganda.
The most topical gift this year has to be a T-shirt featuring
the Arabic symbol used by Islamic State (IS) to identify Christian
households in Syria and Iraq. For £12, it is an excellent way to
show solidarity with Christians in the Middle East, and give them a
little financial support.
More typical, however, is a cuddly toy owl (£4.95 or £8.50,
depending on size) made in central Tanzania by Neema Crafts - an
enterprise managed by two CMS mission partners, which trains and
employs more than 100 deaf or otherwise disabled people such as
carpenters, weavers, tailors, giving dignity, respect and hope to
people who were previously hidden away at home, or forced to beg on
Neema Crafts has eight workshops that make everything from
jewellery to picture frames; a therapy unit for disabled children;
an award-winning café; and a conference centre, as well as a guest
house run as a joint venture with the local Mothers' Union.
Delivery is free on orders over £40.
SAVE THE CHILDREN
Healthy-baby hamper, £51
"WISHLIST" by Save the Children is offering a
range of virtual gifts at Christmas for friends and family. Gifts
start from a football for £5 to a classroom for £625.
This year, £51 will buy a "healthy-baby hamper", which includes
a bowl, nappies, towels, a wrap, soap, and a snuggly hat. What is
more, every pound raised on Wishlist gifts from the 2014 catalogue
will be matched by government money, up to a limit of £5
Of course, a purchase of any item in the catalogue is in reality
a general donation to that particular aspect of the charity's work
(in the baby hamper's case, its maternal health-care budget). Put
one of its classic "camel libraries" in your shopping basket, for
example, and you are possibly contributing £190 to the cost of
giving children an education, which may be hump-borne in
Your friend or relative receives a card and a fridge magnet
illustrating your gift; and somewhere in the world the money helps
to contribute to the improvement of children's lives.
SEND A COW
'Semen straw', £5
ANIMAL and agricultural gifts abound in Send A Cow's virtual
gift catalogue. Gifts range from £5 for a shot of prime-bull semen
all the way up to £650 for the full daisy: a dairy cow, which comes
with everything needed to look after her: training in animal
husbandry, nutrition, veterinary care, shelter construction, and
But the charity does not only deal in cattle. It provides
families in Africa with all kinds of livestock, and all kinds of
training that help to transform their lives; so other gifts on its
website have titles such as "veg box", "clean latrine", and
"educate a child".
Whatever you buy, your money will not necessarily be spent on
the item you have ostensibly purchased, but will be used "in the
best way possible to get families out of poverty, for good", says
Your friend or relation will be sent a card explaining your
gift. If it's the bull semen you've gone for, they will get a free
symbolic sherbet straw as well.
Bicycle-chain cufflinks, £10
TEARFUND is winding up its "Created" line of hand-crafted
ethical gifts after 40 years of trading (formerly as Tearcraft), as
so many mainstream retailers now carry fairly traded products. It
is not too late, however, to buy some of its most popular lines,
such as the snazzy £10 cufflinks made out of recycled
bicycle-chain, made in India by Noah's Ark. For the bike-mad, there
is also a matching photo frame (£12) and clock (£17.50).
For the woman or man who has everything, including a conscience
and a sense of humour, Tearfund's most successful virtual gift is
"toilet-twinning". For £60, you can commission a new latrine in
Afghanistan, Zambia, or elsewhere, and Tearfund will send your
friend or relation a certificate that includes a photo of it, and
its GPS co- ordinates, to hang in his or her own lavatory.
Six Swazi mini Christmas candles,
TRAIDCRAFT is still fighting poverty through trade, and this
year's catalogue is rich in good things, from the cute to the
For £50, a ten-piece nativity set, hand-carved in Indonesia from
alstonia wood, is elegant and charming; but the £98 olive-wood
scene carved in Bethlehem has an obvious cachet - and then there's
the soapstone set from Kenya. . .
A £12 set of six small decorated candles from Swaziland
illuminates the impact that Traidcraft has had. "I have worked here
for 16 years," one candlemaker says, "and, with the money I have
earned, I have my own house, and I can afford to send my children
A case of six 500ml bottles of Palestinian organic extra virgin
olive oil is particularly good value at £52.50, and delivery is
free on orders over £50. And why not throw in some delicious dates
from the same fair-trade supplier, Zaytoun, at £4 for 250g?
The gift of prayer, £25
THE Anglican charity Us. -formerly known as USPG - is offering a
range of eight "life-giving" gifts for Christmas. The gifts start
at £12 to train a leader, and go up to £50 for "mosquito nets and
more": a holistic approach to tackling the scourge of malaria,
which typically involves the local church in teaching people about
sanitation and health.
All Us. gifts are virtual presents, and you will receive a card
and a "voucher" to pass on to the recipient - except for one, that
is, called "the gift of prayer".
Us. points out that prayer has been the foundation of its work
for more than 300 years, and it is inviting people to support it in
producing prayer and Bible-study resources for Christians
worldwide. In return for your £25, you will receive a copy of its
new 96-page prayer book We are Us: Praying with the world
Church, which is full of prayers and pictures from around the
world, which you can either keep for yourself or give to a friend
A winter coat for a child in Syria,
WORLD VISION's range of alternative presents is boldly named
"Must Have Gifts", although the twist is that they are not
essentials for Western consumers, but for people in real need.
Every one of their Must Have Gifts "is a real item that has been
specifically requested by the communities we work with to create a
brighter future for their children. We work with them to identify
the gifts they need and promise to provide them at the right time,
using available funds. When you buy a gift, the purchase repays the
funds we use, so that more children can be helped in our ongoing
work with their communities," the charity says.
New lines this year range from a toothbrush and toothpaste for
£5 and a girl's bike for £125 up to a lavatory block for a school
for £1900, all to benefit children in Zimbabwe. A pair of rabbits,
for £9, can provide a great business opportunity for a family in
Kenya, who can sell the abundant offspring at market. And, of
course, you can always buy a goat for £45.
THE WOODLAND TRUST
200-piece jigsaw, £11.99
THE leading woodland conservation charity in Britain is offering
its supporters a number of ways to put a smile on a someone's face
For £15, you can dedicate a tree to him or her in any one of 53
woods across the country - "some strapping young woods barely above
head height, some majestically old and gnarly", as the website puts
it. The Trust will send the person to whom it is dedicated a card,
with a personal message from you.
If you want to give something more tangible, for £11.99 there is
a delightful 200-piece jigsaw of a great oak, designed exclusively
for the Trust by the artist and illustrator Amanda Loverseed. It
features a number of native species; so it is educational as well
as absorbing (perfect for a rainy day, although you may want to
tackle it on Christmas Day, whatever the weather).
And, for £24.99, the Hogitat is a cosy home for a hedgehog,
designed to protect one of our best-loved creatures from predators,
harsh weather, and garden tools.