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Christmas gifts for the good in tough times

18 November 2022

Money is tighter this Christmas, but even small gifts can help life-changing projects in the UK and abroad, finds James Hastings

Business start-up money provided through WorldShare, is one way to empower women and families in India

Business start-up money provided through WorldShare, is one way to empower women and families in India

CHRISTMAS is just around the corner — and many people are wishing it would stay there.

The cost-of-living crisis has affected not only ordinary people and businesses, but also the charity industry. With money and resources tighter than ever, how are charities and good causes coping at what is normally, for many, a time when they see a surge in donations?

Dame Hilary Blume launched the Good Gifts catalogue in 2003. Christmas this year for charities, she says, is “looking bleak”.

“People are suffering real hardship; they simply don’t have enough to live. Those that do have enough are worried that things will get worse,” she explained.

“Charities are finding income severely reduced. The gift market shows not only fewer orders, but orders of lower value. Companies are anxious to use links with charities to promote the idea they are caring, as a marketing ploy. But the actual amounts going to charity are too often small. Charities have also seen, over the last few years, a loss of income with the decline in the Christmas charity card market.”

A spokesperson for the Roman Catholic relief agency CAFOD said: “It is a difficult time for everyone at the moment. But the situation is particularly severe for the most vulnerable in the world. East Africa is in the midst of the worst drought for 40 years, leaving millions of people on the brink of starvation. In Pakistan, communities have lost their homes and livelihoods due to the deadly floods.”

The development manager at A Rocha International, Sarah Young, said: “Our online Christmas catalogue is calledGifts with a Difference’ precisely because every gift purchased makes a huge difference on the ground.

“In a context where, like many other organisations, inflation and the cost-of-living crisis is squeezing our budget, giving a ‘gift with a difference’ enables us to continue our frontline projects which work to protect habitats, species, and livelihoods around the world.”

A spokesperson at WorldShare said: “As far as our income is concerned, we haven’t really seen a significant impact from the cost-of-living crisis, with our supporters continuing to be so faithful and generous in their giving.

“Where we do see the impact is with our ministry partners across the world. They are working to serve communities that already live very close to the edge, and have seen significant increases in the levels of support that people need just to survive.”

The head of communications at Embrace the Middle East, Matt Adcock, acknowledges that Embrace has seen, “like most other charities, a decrease in donations and online shopping this year”.

But, he said: “The Embrace catalogue is a great opportunity to make festive shopping count — showcasing unique gifts for friends and family which also provide vital funds for projects run by our Christian partners in the Middle East.”


A Rocha International

The conservation of tortoises in Southern Africa is one project supported through A Rocha International“THIS Christmas, give someone a gift that won’t end up in the bin but will be something that brings hope for them and the planet.”

That is the message from Sarah Young, the development manager at A Rocha International, a global family of Christian organisations engaged in scientific research, environmental education, and conservation projects in 20 countries.

A Rocha’s “Gifts with a Difference” lists more than 30 gifts, starting from just £5. Each comes with a free card to remind recipients of the difference made in their name. The money raised funds the actual projects chosen, minus a small administration and fundraising fee.

In Uganda, for instance, 122,000 hectares of forest are currently being lost every year to deforestation. A gift of £6-£20 will enable the planting of fruit trees and help restore the habitats of plants and wildlife, improve soil and water quality, and provide food for families.

Another wildlife protection project is the tortoise rehabilitation centre in South Africa. Southern Africa has the greatest diversity of land tortoises globally, of which 11 species are found nowhere else on the planet. A gift of £25-£70 will help captive-held tortoises to be rewilded and released into protected areas.

Alternatively, a gift of £25-£75 supports Syrian refugees to do practical conservation and site maintenance work at Mekse Nature Park, in Lebanon.



Embrace the Middle East

EMBRACE THE MIDDLE EAST works with local Christian partners to transform lives and restore the dignity of excluded and marginalised communities in the Middle East. The charity’s partners work to empower people out of poverty in this troubled region through a wide range of education, community development and health-care initiatives.

One of the ways to fund this work is to buy one of Embrace’s selection of gifts, many of which are Fairtrade, fairly traded, or eco-friendly.

An olive-oil soap gift pack, available through Embrace the Middle East, is Fairtrade, and features four 100g bars, for £19.99

Their olive-wood dish (£7.99), perfect for trinkets, keys, and jewellery, is Fairtrade, and hand-carved in Bethlehem. The charity’s olive-oil soap gift pack is handmade in Nablus by a Fairtrade co-operative of Palestinian and Israeli women. The pack features four 100g olive-oil bars, fragranced with sage, rose, olive, and lemon (£19.99). A grey handwoven tote bag, handcrafted in Cairo by the Zabbaleen community using upcycled materials, is £24.99.

Alternatively, £15 buys an olive-tree sapling for the Olive Tree Project, helping Palestinian farmers to preserve their land and livelihood. The sapling will be planted in the West Bank on fields at risk of confiscation, or to replace olive groves destroyed by Israeli settlers seeking to claim Palestinian land as their own.

The charity’s shop also includes Christmas cards and decorations, books, stationery, and alternative gifts, which range from the £6 “Making Peace” to the £300 “School for a Year” gift. Each alternative gift belongs to one of the charity’s three key project categories (education, health care, and community development). Donations are allocated to the relevant category. You will receive a card to keep or pass on as a gift.



Ripple Effect (formerly Send a Cow)

RIPPLE EFFECT brings together smallholder farmers across Africa to learn skills and increase knowledge to improve their livelihoods. The char­ity has worked with 2.5 mil­­lion peo­ple; it plans to double that by 2030.

Some gifts cost less than £10. Just £4 will supply farming families with banana seedlings and training in how to improve the quality of their soil, and thus to grow better and more abundant crops. The £9 “Feed A Child” scheme provides vital training in food nutrition to help parents to provide healthy and nutritious meals for their children; £12 buys a donkey-welfare programme for these vital farming companions.

Also check out the “Life-changing Coffee” gift at £20, and the £30 “Ripple Effect” training scheme to help three families to learn about sustainable agriculture that will enable them to learn more, grow more, and sell more.

The charity’s original alternative gift is the “Dairy Cow” gift (£650), giving families hope for a brighter future. A cow can produce more than 3000 litres of milk a year, making it a vital source of income and nutrition. The cow’s manure is also an excellent fertiliser that can be used on the land, helping crops to grow and thrive.

Your gift is spent wherever the need is greatest across the countries the charity works in, making a huge difference to the lives of families living in some of the poorest regions of rural Africa.



All We Can

ALL WE CAN is an international development and relief organisation, working through partnerships in marginalised communities around the world that are struggling with disasters, poverty, and injustice.

All We Can works with the Methodist Church in Britain, and organisations, churches, and individuals rooted in poor communities, who understand local problems and are keen to solve them. The charity works in long-term partnerships of up to 15 years, working to strengthen communities through collaboration, and to ensure that local capabilities are increased.

All We Can’s “Extraordinary Gifts” help to fund this work, and features plenty of affordable gifts, starting from the £9 “Busy Bees” gift, which could help to provide a family with the tools and materials to build a bee­hive, along with bee-keeping training.

The “Wonderful Weavers” gift (£10) could help rural women in the Zambezi Valley secure an income and support their families and the wider community. The women are provided with basket-weaving training and use naturally available resources.

“Chirpy Chicks” (£15) could support vulnerable families. “Girl Power” (£35) could empower a girl in Uganda with the skills to make reusable menstrual pads, helping to reduce school absenteeism and dropout, which are major obstacles to obtaining an education.

Churches might like to club together to buy “Wheels for Change” (£228), which could equip a child in Ethiopia with a wheelchair, so that they can be active, play with friends, and go to school. Another group purchase could be “Lighting up Lives” (£409), which provides a solar panel to a community in Malawi.

The “Extraordinary Gifts” range was launched in 2013. Over the years, the amount raised has increased, with the total usually between £50 and £100,000. All gifts are provided as examples of the difference donations are making, but donations go where the need is greatest.

Gifts must be ordered by 13 December 2022, to guarantee card delivery to your address of choice in time for Christmas.



Mary’s Meals

A gift of a Mary’s Meals apron helps support the charity’s efforts to feed more than two million children every school dayMARY’S MEALS feeds more than two million children in 20 of the world’s poorest countries every school day. The promise of a good meal means that, instead of working or begging for food, these children can gain an education, and hope for the future.

The charity is dedicated to spending at least 93 per cent of all funds received on its charitable activities. You can help with this work by buying from a range of real and digital Christmas gifts, and supporting projects which run throughout the year.

Prices start at just £1.50 for a mug-shaped cookie cutter, with £3 for heart- and mug-shaped pin badges. Christmas-tree decorations are available for £5 and a Mary’s Meal apron for £13.

Alternatively, among its digital gifts, a £31.80 gift card will feed two children every school day for a whole year, while £50 will provide 250 hungry children around the world with the mug or plate that they need for their daily serving of Mary’s Meals.

If the budget can stretch, a cooking pot and stove set (£215) will enable Mary’s Meals to provide good nutritious food for hundreds of children.



Good Gifts

THE Good Gifts Catalogue was born nearly 20 years ago, as a refreshing alternative to conventional unwanted presents.

The charity was guided by two commitments: first, that every Good Gift was always wanted. And, second, when you buy a Good Gift, your money buys the actual gift.

Good Gifts partners with scores of charities, all carefully vetted, guaranteeing that the money is spent on the gift.

A gift of £14 will help to clean the oceans of discarded plastic. The same amount will provide warm clothes and a teddy for children in a UK women’s refuge, who have had to leave everything behind. “Simple Operations” (£30) can restore the sight of children in the developing world suffering from cataract, trachoma and other blinding conditions.

“Girl Power” (£45) is a programme with proven success, which “hot-houses” girls from disadvantaged homes, and raises their attainments and aspirations. Support for their academic achievement, coupled with mentoring by successful women who become role models, raises their ambitions. Projects in India, Sub-Saharan Africa, Palestine, and Israel all need support so that women can have a career, become economically independent, support their families, realise their potential, and build their communities.



Tree Aid

TREE AID works with people in the drylands of Africa. Led by local people, projects are tackling poverty and the effects of the climate crisis by growing trees, improving incomes, and restoring and protecting land.

Projects make sure that trees thrive so that they can provide food and incomes today, and protect the environment for tomorrow.

Amongst the charity’s “Gifts That Grow” there is a range of trees you can help to buy, all for just £10.

For example, frankincense trees provide a vital source of income in northern Ethiopia. The resin is valued around the world for its use in incense and essential oils. Alternatively, the mango tree produces nutritious fruit, bursting with essential vitamins. Mangoes can be dried and stored, eaten and sold all year round.

Tree AidUbonja Jabaa with mango trees planted in Kpachani, Yendi, in Ghana, provided through Tree Aid

Tree training skills (£35) bring communities together to learn sustainable tree- and land-management techniques. This training improves their skills so they can look after trees better, and produce more crops for their families to eat and sell.

There are many other schemes available, led by people with local knowledge and expertise, equipping them with the tools and skills that they need to grow trees, protect their land, and start viable businesses. Donations go wherever the need is deemed greatest.



The Children’s Society

UNDERSTANDING the needs of young people, and supporting them through their most serious life challenges, is at the heart of the Children’s Society.

The charity works with young people who have suffered years of abuse, who have run away from home, or who are struggling with mental-health issues. It looks out for young carers, those who are at risk of being groomed by criminal groups, and helps refugees who have no one else to turn to in this country.

One of the “Give Hope” gifts available through the Children’s Society provides books to help fuel young people’s imaginations

The “Give Hope Store” offers a range of gifts that will raise vital funds and help young people. All the money that is given funds Give Hope products, although gifts are tailored to provide the right support where needed.

Gifts include giving a book or audiobook to help fuel a young person’s imagination (£10), or tickets to a show or cinema (£15). A “Music Mindfulness” gift (£16) could give a child access to a music-streaming subscription, a music lesson, or a ticket to a concert or gig.

For children living in poverty, or in unsafe housing, it can be difficult to keep clean and healthy. The “Hygiene and Health Kit” gift option (£25) helps a child to access the basics, from dentist and optician appointments to haircuts and soap. A gift of £50 can provide a counselling session, while the “Tools for Life” gift (£38) helps to buy items such as clothes or furniture for a young person’s first home.




CAFOD’s extensive network, grounded in its relationships with local organisations around the world, means it helps some of the most difficult to reach, and some of the most vulnerable people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

If you can give this Christmas, CAFOD’s virtual “World Gifts” are a great way to help the lives of families and communities living in poverty.

Gifts include planting a vegetable garden for £5, or the £10 “Super Soup Kitchen” gift, which could provide warm meals and shelter to refugees who have fled their homes due to conflict. The £20 “Therapy Through Play” gift seeks to enable therapy through the gift of music, art, and dance classes, giving children the space to deal with traumatic experiences and have a place to relax, make friends, learn something new, and have fun.

“Water for a Family” (£33), highlights CAFOD’s work helping families to enjoy a steady supply of clean, safe water for drinking and cooking. Using a water pump also means that families can wash in clean water, keeping everyone safe from infection.

“Restore the Rainforest” (£719) seeks to support the lives of indigenous communities: those trying to defend their rainforest homes from the threat of logging and mining companies.

Each “World Gift” is a real example of CAFOD’s work. When a gift is bought, the donation goes into one of five funds (Emergencies, Water, Education, Health, and Farming), which is used to support the area of CAFOD’s work that the gift represents.




WORLDSHARE empowers local Christian partners as they share God’s love in practical ways with some of the world’s most vulnerable communities, working to transform lives and bring hope.

This year, the charity is promoting two Christmas gifts from among its range of “Freedom Gifts”.

Business start-up loans for women (£55): the charity’s ministry partner in India, JKPS, has been providing small loans to women in India since 2016, through its microfinance programme. This gift could provide one woman with a start-up loan, allowing her to kick-start a business and, in time, become financially independent.

Lunches for a malnourished child (£15): in Guatemala, almost 50 per cent of children under five suffer from stunted growth because of poor nutrition. A WorldShare ministry partner, Potter’s House, runs nutrition programmes for children based at its community centres. With improved diet comes better focus at school, and the opportunity to build a brighter future. This gift could provide a malnourished child with a week of nutritious lunches.

All money paid is allocated to the actual gift rather than general income.



Railway Children

RAILWAY CHILDREN fights for vulnerable children who run away, or are forced to leave homes, where they suffer poverty, violence, abuse, and neglect. They find themselves on the streets because there is nowhere else to go, and nobody to turn to. With projects in the UK, India, and East Africa, the charity works to reach these children before a potential abuser can.

Packs of Christmas cards (£5) feature a variety of designs, including paintings by David Charlesworth. Alternatively, the charity has a range of “Happy Future” gifts on offer. A “Help to Get Home” gift (£12) helps the charity to reunite a child in India with their family.

Railway Children is promoting its “Help To Get Home” gift. It works in India to reunite street children with their families

“Dear Diary” (£20) provides well-being journals to help young people in the UK to process their trauma and feelings, and “Heart to Heart” (£25) provides an hour of one-to-one support for a child at risk in the UK.

“Month of Meals” (£27) pays to feed a child at a shelter in India three meals a day for a month, while “Sow the Seeds” (£28) means that a hungry family in Tanzania will have seeds and tools to grow their own food.

All donations will help to transform the lives of children in Tanzania, India and the UK — wherever the need is deemed greatest.


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