Holiday Gifts That Give Back

Toy and coat drives are great, but these six groups offer other charitable options.

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The Woman's Industrial Exchange

Established in Baltimore shortly after the Civil War, the Woman's Industrial Exchange emerged as part of a nationwide exchange movement to help women in need discreetly earn a living. The organization has changed hands over the nearly century and a half that it has been in existence, becoming a boardinghouse and tearoom. The one thing that has remained constant is the exchange room, where initially women and now men can sell handmade and handcrafted wares to support themselves. It offers free gift wrapping and ships anywhere in the U.S.

Esperanza en Acción

You've heard the phrase "fair trade"? How about comercio justo? Esperanza en Acción was founded in 2002 to encourage fair trade by helping artisans in Nicaragua find fair markets for their work. Esperanza en Acción works with artisans living in poverty, whether they are organized in cooperatives or collectives or work in their homes with their families.

Esperanza also provides social- and economic-justice education both in Nicaragua and through its Economic Justice Education Center and Fair Trade shop. The artisans make beautiful handmade pottery, pine-needle baskets, bamboo baskets, stone carvings, paintings, weavings, jewelry, cards, animal whistles and more.

SoleRebels 

Founded by Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, SoleRebels is the world's only certified World Fair Trade Organization footwear company. Alemu looks at creating footwear as a means of creating hope, borrowing from the traditional "selate" and "barabasso" shoes -- for which the soles are made from recycled tires -- that have long been a tradition in Ethiopia.

Macy's: Rwanda Path to Peace and Heart of Haiti

Macy's offers an extraordinary collection of handcrafted art that helps make change and hope possible in Rwanda and Haiti. The Heart of Haiti initiative has provided some of the first sustainable work since the January 2010 earthquake, enabling Haitians to make a living and support their families with dignity and purpose. Thousands of Rwandan weavers throughout the country make crafts in order to reduce poverty through job creation, improve incomes, access global markets and develop job skills that will help women pull themselves and their families out of poverty.

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