My sister is always the best gift-giver in our family. Mention some random interest, and she’ll remember, find it, and wrap it up for you to open on Christmas morning. My brother, on the other hand, as a small kid would find one shoe (just one!) that you already owned, wrap it, and give it to you as a present.
I fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, but as my conviction about God’s heart for the most vulnerable has grown, so has my desire to bring my purchasing power in line with those convictions. Early in my justice journey, there was a year that I gave donations instead of gifts—I “bought” water wells and goats on behalf of my loved ones, who then received small cards telling them about the donation. That went over tepidly. In my family and in my social circles, gift giving is a love language.
…as my conviction about God’s heart for the most vulnerable has grown, so has my desire to bring my purchasing power in line with those convictions.
So this season, I wanted to share a few of my favorite finds: cool organizations that are doing great work, where the purchase does more than buy a gift. This is a personal list, and probably reflects my mix of taste, spending levels, and things my friends like rather than being a comprehensive, vigorously vetted compilation—but I offer it in the hope that it might prove useful, and that you would add your finds as well!
My first, and favorite option in this category is Good Paper. I love businesses that have a good story, and founder Jimmy Quach’s work with Good Paper is just that, started when Jimmy began to merge the experiences he had in the slums in Manila with the business savvy of his family.
Good Paper designs fantastic, high-end cards, with craftsmanship that is amazing and time-consuming. Through doing so, they provide employment to women in southeast Asia leaving hard circumstances like exploitation and human trafficking. Often, gifts in this category are usually more about the story and less about the quality, but that’s not true for Good Paper, which made the list of Oprah’s favorite things. So that tells you two things: it’s quality, but it’s also pricey. This is a splurge item, for the fancy relatives or business associates.
Another option I love is Inakay. Last year, I shared a meal with one of the social workers who works with Inakay, and she shared stories of the plight of incarcerated women in the Philippines. Inakay social workers help facilitate connections between these women and their children and jobs. I was just amazed to hear her stories, as I imagined that they are truly the hands and feet of Jesus to these women—going out and finding lost children when the women themselves cannot. Part of their program is job training for the creation of Christmas ornaments, coasters, beaded table runners, and other goods—and these are my new favorite gifts.
For Christmas last year, I bought the staff here at ESA gifts from Thistle Farms. This Nashville-based organization works with survivors of exploitation in a holistic way—caring for mind, body and soul. Their natural products are beautiful; soaps, candles and essential oils that smell wonderful and speak of hope. And I love the way that Thistle Farms embodies a holistic approach through caring about the whole person. (Editor’s note: the lavender candles are particularly lovely!)
Finally, my friends at Word Made Flesh introduced me to the folks at Sari Bari, where women impacted by human trafficking and the commercial sex trade transform recycled saris into tote bags and other household goods. One of their tote bags quickly became my summer beach bag staple! The second life of these beautiful fabrics mirrors the second life of the women who create them, in ways that bring beautiful colors and fabrics into your everyday life while empowering women who are re-creating theirs.
I hope some of these suggestions prove inspiring and useful to you as you work through your holiday list. If you have other suggestions, please drop us a line and let us know!
Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
~ Isaiah 58:7
Nikki Toyama-Szeto is Executive Director of Christians for Social Action.