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Gifts That Give

With the economy taking a hit, and a feeling of ‘change’ in the air, perhaps this holiday season, we should put gifts that give back at the top of our wish lists. There are plenty of ‘philanthropic’ presents out there that will allow people to reap the rewards long after December 25 has passed.
Show you care by what you wear. Invisible children bracelets are trendy black reed bracelets with copper wire brackets that both guys and girls can wear. There are 5 different color brackets - each representing the story of a different Ugandan child affected by the country’s civil war - and each bracelet comes with a DVD telling that child’s story. The bracelets are woven by women in Uganda to generate jobs and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Invisible Children Foundation to help bring education, mentorship, safety, and stability to the children affected by the war in Uganda. www.store.invisiblechildren.com (Bracelets are $20 each and come in red, blue, green, white and black.)
Step it up. Put a kick in your step and help kick AIDS by purchasing shoes from the Converse PRODUCT(RED) line. There are 100 different PRODUCT(RED) shoes to choose from, or you can custom design your own. Fifteen percent of the proceeds go to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. www.converse.com/#100 ArtistsRed (Prices vary.)
Bottle it up. Keep your beverages in a stainless steel bottle such as those from Swigg. They look sleek, and you can reuse them without creating waste or worrying about recycling. The different sizes, colors, and patterns put boring plastic water bottles to shame, especially since, according to earth911.org, 38 billion water bottles end up in landfills each year. www.mysigg.com (Prices vary- sold at local Whole Foods stores.)
Help them help you. Do your online shopping at a nonprofit cyber boutique like BuildaNest.com that sells clothes, accessories and home goods made by women in third world countries. Not only are you purchasing original art when you shop here, but also you are also supporting women in need, as Nest provides them with micro-credit loans to support their small businesses.
Cage it. Have a soft spot for the four legged? Make Fido’s day by donating a cage ($100 for a cat cage and $200 for a dog cage) to the local S.P.C.A. animal shelter. You can choose to have your name, the gift recipient’s name, or your pet’s name engraved on a plaque that will be mounted on the cage for a year. The S.P.C.A. will even send you a picture of your cage. If the dogs have an especially big place in your heart, you can donate a complete heartworm treatment for only $250. www.spca.org
Adopt! Organizations like PlanUSA allow you to provide support for a child in any one of several countries around the globe. Your monthly payments of $24 help provide your child and their local community with improved health care, food, education and more. Once you adopt a child, you will get their picture, a packet of information on their community, and the opportunity to correspond with them. Sponsoring a child gives you a face to put with the struggles experienced in developing countries as well as a direct way to help. www.PlanUSA.org.
Have a cow, or chicks, or a pig. Splurge on a water buffalo. Heifer International allows you to give farm animals to those in need around the world - in the name of your friends and family. These animals can make a big difference in the lives of the recipients. They can provide income and help families develop financial independence. An amazing success story of Heifer’s animal giving is that of Beatrice Biira of Uganda. Beatrice is a graduate of Connecticut College, all because her family received a goat, which had babies, which produced milk, which helped Beatrice’s family generate an income, which allowed them to send her to school. She excelled in school in Uganda and was then able to pursue a college education. Heifer International lets you custom design cards so the recipients of the gift get a ‘proof of purchase.’ www.heifer.org (Prices vary based on animal selected.)
Whether it be a fashionable bracelet, support for a child from the Dominican Republic, a stainless steel water bottle or a flock of geese, giving a present with a purpose will allow you to receive as much satisfaction as the person getting the gift.

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