Holiday Gifts That Give Back
Toy and coat drives are great, but these six groups offer other charitable options.
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.
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.
SoleRebels provides jobs to the community, pays wages that are four times the minimum wage and three times the industry standard, uses sustainable materials that lower the company's carbon footprint and incorporates artisanal practices and designs, thereby preserving Ethiopian culture. Did I mention the Artisan Education fund, which funds the education of participating artisans' children and/or the children of close relatives? Artisans can access the fund twice a year. SoleRebels is building hope and communities one foot at a time.