Saturday, 10 December 2016

Giving Gifts that Give Back

So, this year, in the silly season, I have set myself a challenge - to buy gifts for people that also give back to the seller in some way, and to avoid the trappings of expensive shops and their expensive, flashy, must-have gifts.   We walked through a large shopping mall last weekend and I felt quite sick seeing how much commercialism has taken over our Christmas season.   I wonder have we lost the point of it all?   It confirmed for me that I had made the right decision, spending the last couple of months in op-shops and online instead.  

I've had opportunity to look in a LOT of op-shops in the last month or so (over 20 different op-shops) and I've found some rather unique gifts.   And I'm happy to report that God has sent some really interesting choices along the way for me to look at.  It's also been good to think about each purchase and its potential recipient, rather than just buying something for the sake of buying a gift.  

Shopping in these places is like being in a treasure trove - it's amazing what you find, in good condition, at reasonable prices.  If your gift recipients are not offended at near-new items, it's a great choice for Christmas shopping.    Sometimes you can find new items as well and children, in particular, do not mind receiving pre-loved treasures.    These op-shops run various charitable services, and they include Lifeline, Vinnies, Red Cross, Lions, Salvos and many other, more localized charities. 

I'm also trying to buy from small businesses, run by one or two people or families.   Many mums at home run small businesses to supplement their family's income and they could do with the support of other mums and families.   

And I've also opted to buy from charities.    Charities can be large or small, well-recognised or just quietly getting on with helping people.   One of my favourite charities is Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, which is the charity arm of Catherine Hamlin's amazing ministry to the women of Ethiopia who have suffered fistula injuries in childbirth.  Their Australian branch can be found here.   Catherine's organisation also trains midwives to prevent fistula injuries.   The gifts in the Hamlin Store are made by the ladies who have come to their hospital and clinics for treatment, and the money goes back to them.  There is also an opportunity to buy  presents for these women and to receive a gift card thanking you for those gifts.   I bought some items from them just this last week and they came within a few days.  

I'm also making a few gifts, as I usually do at this time of the year, and making them specifically to suit the person receiving them.    This year I'm sewing, painting and laminating, cooking, and collecting various items and presenting them in simple plastic containers with a bit of curling ribbon and fabric.  I'll show you some photos in the next blog post, when I have them finished.  

Of course, I can't show you all the gifts that I'm finding and buying and making, because that would spoil the surprise for those receiving them!    Perhaps after Christmas, I will show you many of the treasures I've found.     For now though, I'll give you a peek at what I've found for those who don't read blogs!

So, with all that in mind, can I challenge you to look beyond the big stores and the 'easy' gift ideas, and buy gifts that give back to those selling them, both now and beyond the silly season?    You'll save money, have fun in the treasure troves, and be helping someone other than the big money-making corporations. 

Below, I have outlined some of my choices and bargains for this year.    I will show you more after Christmas, when the blog readers have received their gifts.  

I have also included suggestions from others for buying gifts that give back, beyond this crazy season of buying, buying, buying.  

Wholefood Simply - Bianca has come from a place of chronic illness requiring radical dietary changes and so has come up with new ways of making and enjoying old treats.   She is a wife and mum and she has many recipe books out, filled with great recipes, amazing anecdotes and tips.   Her website is well worth a look.  

It's Not Ok - This is an organisation set up to rescue young girls from sexual slavery in Asia.    Please read about it, and see if their gifts would suit someone in your circle.  Their gifts are hand-made by those that have been rescued and are reasonably priced.   Or you can donate or even sponsor a girl that has been rescued.  

Created to Be Books I've bought a selection of these books for my daughters and my granddaughters.    These are written by a Mum who wants to encourage and instill Godly character traits in her young children, written for both boys and girls.   We have a couple of her books and will be buying more.    They are available by clicking the icon for Australian orders at the link above.   If you follow this link, it will tell you more about the books and why they were written.

Jamberry Nail Products  -   This is a small business run by, Jo,  a friend of mine.   She is selling Jamberry Nail products, for those of you who like to pretty up your nails.  Jo says that her nails are nice and strong with these products and they looked great last time I saw her.  Even her toenails were decorated!     You don't have to join up to anything to buy from her and she has a huge range of nails and nail kits to choose from.   

Who Gives a Crap Toilet Paper   Yep, that's right - toilet paper - no worse than socks and undies as a viable gift.    This is toilet paper that is apparently very soft and 50% of their profits are used to help build toilets in the developing world.   Now, there's a worthy cause.    We take toilets for granted, but for 40% of the world's population, toilets are not standard fare.  This group also sell tissues.    You can find out more here about their product, their purpose and their store - just scroll all the way down to find out more.    And you can save 8.37% on your first order!!  

Tegu Magnetic Wooden Blocks -  These look great!  You can watch the video about them here.   I think it could be a future investment for us.    They're not cheap, but they would last for years and span over several seasons of a child's development and last into your grandchildren season.      My girls love wooden blocks, but they do tend to fall apart, whereas these blocks stick together with the aid of strong magnets.   The possibilities are endless.   And they give back by helping people in Nicaragua have meaningful employment.  The manufacturers also give back by replanting more trees than they use.    They are available in Australia from

Food Wraps - these look like a great alternative to plastic containers and bags for food storage.    These Gingham and Wax wraps are made with simple materials and ingredients by Nina in the beautiful Blue Mountains.   If you're keen to use something other than plastic to wrap and store food, then please look at these.    

Destiny Rescue Jewellery and Accessories - have a look at these lovely products, including jewellery and aprons, made by girls who have been rescued from sexual slavery.     Please read about their organisation and consider buying something.   We can't imagine our daughters being caught up in this kind of exploitation.   Even one gift can make a difference in their lives. 

These Weighted Blankets look so soft and warm.   And Sam offers to weight your favourite toy as well.  What a great gift for a grandchild!   

These Smart Calendars look like a great, family-friendly way to manage time and activities for all the family.  These are made by Amanda, a busy Mum, who saw a need and has come up with a great idea.     Well worth checking out. 

Breastfeeding Covers and Baby Shower Gifts at Nandewar Nursery    Ebonnie Whan makes breastfeeding covers and Baby shower gifts in our local town.   What a great idea, obviously inspired by her own need and her love of sewing.    Even if you aren't anywhere near Narrabri in north-western NSW, why not look around your local area or on Facebook and see what local crafty people are making that you could give as gifts.  

Point Production and Design, Teacher resources - This lady, Naomi Williamson, has a lot of experience and qualifications in the education field and specialises in writing and developing quality resources to save teachers time.    Well worth checking out.  

And lastly, this is a large directory of small businesses, run by Australian homeschooling/unschooling families, and put together by Beverley Paine from The Educating Parent.   The family businesses start from page 58.   Well worth a look - a huge variety of resources and services here, plus lots of info on homeschooling and unschooling in all states and territories in Australia.   

Okay, so these are just some of the sources that I have used or have been suggested to me by others.  

There are so many more options, including looking locally for your small businesses, going to your local markets, art/craft galleries, Facebook groups, etc.  

Every time we buy something cheap (or even expensive) from a $2 shop or some larger firm, who are we really helping?   And obviously, there's a place for buying things from these places, but we can actually help real people and bless people we love, when we look beyond the easy, crazy gifts, and dig for treasure.  

So, if you haven't finished your Christmas shopping (and most of us haven't) then please look through the options, or dig out others, and think about giving gifts that give back this season.   There is still time to dig a bit deeper than the big stores and find some real treasures.  

"...remembering the words the Lord Jesus Himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"   Acts 20:35

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