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All they want for Christmas...

06 November 2015

Huw Spanner provides inspiration for your Christmas shopping with a round-up of gifts to benefit those who really need our help

World Vision

Warm at Christmas: a family gathers round an energy-saving stove supplied by World Vision

Warm at Christmas: a family gathers round an energy-saving stove supplied by World Vision


Ten climate-resilient chickens, £20

WHAT do you get if you cross a sturdy cockerel with a hen that can stand the heat of the tropics? You get tough, climate-resilient chicks that can grow big and strong, and bring joy to a hard-pressed family by producing eggs that they can either eat or sell at the market. At £20 for 10, that is excellent value by any standards.

This is just one of the nine new “interesting gifts for interesting people” that ActionAid has added to its range this year. Prices range from £10 for a feminine hygiene kit, which helps girls not to feel "fear going to school when they have their periods, and retain their dignity", to £4400 for a solar pump to provide fresh water for an entire village.

ActionAid will send your loved one a “fantastic” card (real or digital, as you prefer) that describes your nominal present. It undertakes to spend your donation only “wherever the need is greatest”, across a whole slew of projects around the world.




A better beehive, £10

THE Methodist relief and development partner All We Can is offering 17 good things this year to suit every pocket, up to £240 (which would build a small pig farm in Cameroon).

For £10, for example, you can “bee in partnership” with a poor family in central Ethiopia, by splitting the cost with them of constructing a new, improved beehive. This can produce ten times as much honey as a traditional hive — of good quality, too. In reality, your donation will simply go to the partner who is delivering the project in question: in this case, ADHENO, which helps people to get more out of their land and earn an income all year round.

Whatever you choose, All We Can will send you a colourful card to give to your friend or relation that explains your “extraordinary gift”.




Empower a Christian woman, £26

THE Barnabas Fund offers a variety of opportunities “to present a gift of love to our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering for their faith”. A new feature in this year’s catalogue is the section on empowering women.

Its Women’s Fund is used to bring security, dignity, and self-sufficiency to Christian women and girls who are living in contexts where they are vulnerable and despised. For example, a donation of £26 can help to pay for a place at a Christian rescue home in Kenya for a girl escaping abuse under a traditional religion. For £211, you can train a Christian widow in Sri Lanka to rear livestock and take them to market, so that she can provide for herself and her children.

Barnabas will send a personalised card to your loved one that tells them how your gift, made on their behalf, has "helped and encouraged the family of faith".




Counselling for a Syrian refugee child, £25

THE UN says that more than half of all Syrian refugees are under 18 years old. Many are confused and scared by what they have experienced, and most have been out of school for months, if not years.

For £25, you can help Christian Aid’s partner MSL to provide a safe space at its centre in Beirut, where such children can come to play and learn, and receive social and psychological support.

This is one of 13 new “gifts that keep giving” on offer from the agency’s Present Aid, which will channel your donation into one of seven funds (as appropriate) that cover everything from agriculture to education around the developing world.

Your friend or relation will receive a card or e-card — and, because Present Aid is ten years old this year, if you place an order worth £50-plus you will get a free commemorative tea towel.




A necklace of “vegetable ivory”, £9.99

“COME for the stuff; stay for the story” is the pitch of the online CMS shop, which sells actual rather than virtual presents. This year, for instance, it is offering a colourful new line of jewellery from Ecuador, handmade from tagua nut (sometimes known as “vegetable ivory”) by a small co-operative of women who are making ends meet with the help of the Life in Abundance Trust.

Their leader, Gladis Ortiz, is a widow who lost her job after her son disappeared in the rain forest, and she spent six months searching for him in vain. She was depressed and lacked hope when the CMS mission partner Jill Ball met her, but she has found new vitality in putting her craft skills to work, and training others to do the same.

There is plenty of other good stuff — and good stories — on the CMS website. Orders over £40 are delivered free.




A warm bed, £19

AT CHRISTMAS, especially, it is natural to think of the plight of refugees as we remember the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt. Fittingly, Embrace the Middle East is inviting you to give “a warm bed” to a Syrian family who have fled to Lebanon. Your £19, which will nominally purchase a mattress and a blanket, will go to a church partner that is working on this front.

Also new this year is the package “Care for Babies”, which, for £6, buys vitamins and medication for a baby clinic in Gaza, where many babies are malnourished and anaemic.

Your loved one will receive not only a card that explains your gift, but also a “feel-good fridge magnet” to remind them of it. Go to the website and click on “Alternative Gifts”.




50 pineapple plant starter kits, £25

THE Good Gifts catalogue was first launched 12 years ago as “a refreshing alternative to conventional unwanted presents”. More unusually, Good Gifts offers a guarantee that “we do precisely what it says on the tin: your money buys the gift described.”

Thus, £25 for “50 pineapple-plant starter kits” will deliver precisely that — no more, no less — to small-scale farmers in Africa. A similar sum to “de-worm 500 children” will bring relief to the stomachs of a whole schoolful. At the other end of the financial scale, you could ask your church to club together to raise £2400 to “set up a school science lab” in Afghanistan, so that girls can get the education they need to become engineers, doctors, or pharmacists.

Good Gifts will send you a card, an e-card, or a Christmas cracker containing a light-hearted description of your gift.




A goat, £35

CHRISTMAS isn’t Christmas without somebody getting a goat, and so this year the Leprosy Mission has added one to its range of “gifts for life”. To be specific, it Is a nanny goat; so a family affected by leprosy can get a small income by selling her milk at market.

You will receive a card to send to your friend or relation, so that they know what you have done on their behalf. Your money will not necessarily be spent on a goat, but will be allocated to a goat-rearing project, wherever it is needed most, to benefit someone who is living with the triple burden of disease, disability, and discrimination.

If you are entitled to gift aid, the Mission can claim another £8.75 from the taxman.




A “bug buster”, £12

SEND a Cow has beefed up its range of alternative gifts this year: there is everything from a £9 “lollipop” for cows, full of essential minerals and other nutrients, to a £3000 motorbike to carry its field staff over rough terrain to reach families that need assistance.

And then there is the “bug buster”. Send a Cow is teaching farmers in Kenya the “push-pull” technique to get rid of the moths whose larvae can devastate their maize. Two crops are planted either side of the maize: one repels the pests while the other— napier grass— entices them away. Napier grass also provides excellent fodder for cows and goats. And, as farmers pass on the knowledge they gain, it builds a sustainable future.

For a £12 contribution to this work, Send a Cow will send you a card that you can give to a friend or relation that explains what you are helping to achieve in their name. The “bug buster” card can be coloured in, the website says, which makes it “perfect for kids”.

For every gift you buy before the end of the year, the UK government will match the price, making your money go twice as far.




A wax LED moon light, £35

NEW from Traidcraft’s cornucopia of gifts this year is a nine-piece nativity scene in hand-painted terracotta from Peru for £22, which is “a unique and fun way for you to display the true meaning of Christmas”.

Another novelty (in both senses of the word) is a “wax moon light”— a faux candle crafted to give a warm stained-glass effect on a cold winter’s night. As the light is provided by a battery-powered LED bulb, the wax won’t burn or melt, and it will last and last.The light is made by the fair-trade enterprise Swazi Candles, which employs more than 200 people in Swaziland. A short video on the website tells the story of Bongi Dlamini, the youngest of its candle sculptors.

Delivery is free on all orders over £40.




“Bog builder”, £80

WATERAID works to improve access to clean water and sanitation around the world, and it has recently launched a new website, “Shop for Life”.

Among the nine “carefully curated” packages on offer this Christmas is the bluntly named “Bog Builder”, which includes the materials to construct a lavatory for a family without one. If you can’t stretch to the requisite £80, a mere £20 for “a bog in a bag” will at least buy the necessary cement.

For your loved one, this could be just a stocking-filler, but for some of the 1.3 billion people living today without decent sanitation it could be a life saver.




A reusable shopping bag, £6.99 plus p&p

NOW THAT plastic bags cost, if not an arm and a leg exactly, five whole pence, it is timely that the Woodland Trust has added to its range of Christmas gifts a splendid reusable shopping bag made of juco (an eco-friendly mix of jute and cotton). Made exclusively for the trust, it features a stunning print of a red squirrel.

Another new bag is decorated with a design of snowflakes, holly, and deer.




An energy-saving stove, £17

WORLD VISION refers to its stock as “must-have gifts”, because, unlike most of the briefly desirable stocking fillers that will change hands this Christmas, these things really are essentials. They range from a toothbrush and toothpaste for £5 to drilling a borehole for a village water pump for £2000.

These items fall somewhere between the actual and the notional. If, for example, you choose an energy-saving stove, your £17 may in effect be replacing funds that World Vision has already laid out to buy just such a stove for somebody’s home. So, while your loved one is getting one kind of warm glow when they hear of your donation in his or her name, somewhere in the world a family will be enjoying the other kind.

There are some inspiring video “success stories” on the website.


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