Holiday Gifts That Give Back

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


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.

The weavers are Hutu and Tutsi, representative of both sides of the 1994 conflict who work side by side, building respectful relationships and reconciliation while weaving. Macy’s gives artisans half the wholesale price of each item sold. Not only is it fair trade, but it also gives women a fair chance at recovering from one of the deadliest conflicts in recent history. If that isn’t a gift that gives back, then I don’t know what is.

Sseko Designs

Based in Kampala, Uganda, Sseko Designs helps women overcome poverty by earning scholarship money to be used toward their college education. Sseko Designs provides employment during the nine-month gap between high school and university in which high-achieving young women are able to earn and save enough money to pay for college tuition. Fifty percent of their salary goes into a savings account each month, which is not accessible until tuition is due, ensuring that the income goes toward education.

This caveat protects the women in the program from the social pressure they often feel from their families to give away the money they earn, which can perpetuate the cycle of poverty. At the end of each term, Sseko Designs grants university scholarships that match up to 100 percent of the savings each woman has made during her nine-month session with Sseko. Sseko Designs uses fashion to provide opportunities for women to educate themselves and become leaders in their communities while lifting themselves out of poverty. That is truly a gift that continues to give back.

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is editor-at-large for The Root. She is also editor-in-chief of the Burton Wire, a blog dedicated to world news related to the African Diaspora and global culture. Follow her on Twitter.