Saturday, November 19, 2011

Alternative Holiday Gifts to Match Your Values

Play Freerice and feed the hungry

Tired of the holiday fights over the latest dumb toy? Not sure what to get? Want your gifts to match your values? Well, here are some ideas for gifts for anyone on your list who would appreciate a gift with real values rather than just another thing.

These are gifts that help people and help the world. They sure beat another necktie or useless tchotchke that will just collect in the back of a drawer or closet.

Gaiam logo_145X80


Kiva is...

a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world. Learn more about how it works.

My personal involvement with Kiva gave me my second chance to meet Bill Clinton...I was almost on a discussion panel with him, thanks to the folks at But in the end I just got to shake his hand and talk with him.

And speaking of Bill Clinton, here's what he has to say about Kiva:

Kiva Gift certificates are a great gift. Give someone the tool to directly help someone else in the world fulfill a dream.

Plus there are other gifts which help fund the organization and raise awareness about them. (The Kiva piggy bank looks particularly cool!)


Pretty Bird Woman House was a woman's shelter that was attacked and looted and was going to have to close. The Netroots saved it with a massive outpouring of support.

Here is their story:

Jackie Brown Otter created The Pretty Bird Woman House after the brutal rape and murder of her sister, whose Lakota name means Pretty Bird Woman.

PBWH provides emergency shelter and advocacy support for women on the Standing Rock reservation who have been victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. It opened on January 5, 2005.

In the fall of 2007, the Pretty Bird Woman House was forced to move out of its original location after a number of break-ins through the exterior walls left it in such bad condition that the women could not safely remain there.

Well, the incredibly generous netroots really came through for them, and by the end of December of 2007 we had enough money to get them a new house! Pat yourselves on the back, and keep those donations flowing.

A "video" about saving the shelter:

There are some material items they need if you want to donate that way in someone else's name:

What the shelter needs: Pretty Bird Woman House will always be in need of the following items: towels and washcloths, twin and queen size sheets and blankets, toothbrushes and toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, women's hygiene items, diapers of all sizes, baby wipes, first aid kit items, and analgesics such as ibuprofen and aspirin.

The women seem to run through shampoo and diapers the fastest, so it would be helpful when you are considering material donations to prioritize those 2 items.

New or gently used clothing for women and children, as well as all kinds of toys, are always appreciated. For the women's clothing, M-XXL are the most common sizes.

There is also a continuing need for new sweat suits, underwear and bras for women who have been sexually assaulted, since they often must leave their clothes behind at the hospital as part of the evidence gathering process. In one incident, a hospital released a woman in only her hospital gown and blanket. Sheesh!

Send the items to this address:

Pretty Bird Woman House
211 N. First St
McLaughlin, SD 57642

Or you can donate money to help keep them going:

Pretty Bird Woman House
P.O. Box 596
McLaughlin, SD 57642

Phone: 605-823-7233
Fax: 605-823-7234

Pretty Bird Woman House is a 501 (c) 3 charitable organization.

Donate to Pretty Bird Woman House in someone else's name and connect them with women who really need your help.

I would also like to expand that theme a bit.


I would like to highlight another Women's shelter and health center in the Sioux Nation that could use help. The Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center was set up on the Yankton Sioux Reservation in 1988 and added a women's shelter in 1991. Here's a bit about what they do:

The Resource Center has expanded to include many programs benefitting people locally, nationally, and internationally. Some examples are the Domestic Violence Program, AIDS Prevention Program, Youth Services which include the Child Development Program and the Youth Wellness Program, Adult Learning Program, Environmental Awareness and Action Project, Cancer Prevention, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Awareness Program, Clearinghouse of Educational Materials, Food Pantry, Wicozanni Wowapi Newsletter, Diabetic Nutrition Program, Scholarships for Native American Women, Reproductive Health and Rights, "Green Thumb" Project, and Community Health Fairs.

This is another center that needs support in another part of the Sioux Nation. They support themselves by selling items to support the center. Purchases made through this site will support their efforts.

Sierra Club Logo

Next I want to highlight a wonderful Alternative Gift Site:


The gifts offered in "My Shopping List for the World" are unique. They are like no other gifts in our world today. They are gifts of peace and justice, gifts that are sustainable and that build security. These alternative gifts multiply and grow, sometimes exponentially, and offer hope and new life to people facing grave crises and need. They challenge the trivia of our modern culture. These are authentic gifts that people really use and cherish. They always fit and are never thrown away.

They have an ever changing list of amazing gifts you can give in someone's name. Here are just a few:

In the United States:

Training Women for Self-Sufficiency:

Domestic abuse and unemployment are daily realities for many women across the USA. Organizations that provide job training and social services enable them to secure sustainable, living-wage jobs, support their families and safely transition from poverty to economic self-sufficiency.

Featured here are two such organizations. LA MUJER OBRERA (The Working Woman) in El Paso, Texas, uses a women-centered curriculum that provides Mexican immigrant women with job training for the 21st century. This innovative approach to education combines community organizing with the creation of economic alternatives and bilingual workforce development. The WOMEN’S INITIATIVE NETWORK (WIN) of Wichita, Kansas, serves women escaping domestic violence. Survivors of abuse are provided with emotional support as well as educational and employment opportunities througha social services model that fosters healing, self-worth, and self-sufficiency.

$180 - 1 week of job readiness and life-skills training
$9 - 1 hour of job readiness and life-skills training

In Latin America:

Save a Forest and Feed a Family:

Produce like tomatoes and carrots are considered to be foods only wealthy people can afford, but a lack of access to these nutrition-rich fruits and vegetables contributes to malnourishment in children in Central America. Their meals often consist of only rice and beans. Farming families are desperate to learn ways of growing produce without resorting to slash-and-burn practices that destroy their environment.

SUSTAINABLE HARVEST INTERNATIONAL (SHI) provides these struggling families with the materials and training they need so they can grow food while protecting the environment. SHI has provided more than 2,100 families with the seeds and training needed to grow foods such as cucumbers, cabbage, and onions while generating income. Over 90% of the families working with SHI have started organic gardens next to their homes. Children are now getting the essential nutrients they need and families are able to increase their income by selling
excess produce.

$17 Supports family’s training with field trainer for 1 week
$7 Plants 10 fruit or hardwood trees on a family’s farm

In Africa:

Sustaining Lives with Solar Cooking:

In developing countries of Africa, the demand for wood as a fuel for cooking leads to the rapid loss of trees. This loss contributes to the erosion of soil and polluting of waterways. AHEAD (Adventures In Health, Education and AgriculturalDevelopment Inc.) works to reduce deforestation by teaching communities how to harness the sun for solar cooking. Solar panel and box cookers can reduce the use of wood by as much as 50% by using the sun’s energy. These devices coupled with rocket stoves and "heat retaining ovens" may further reduce the need for wood. Solar cooking helps villages reduce their reliance on wood as a fuel and in turn, reduce emissions of toxic fumes and smoke. With an average of 1,500 people per village, AHEAD is currently teaching individuals in seven villages in The Gambia and four villages in Tanzania to use solar energy topurify water and prepare meals.

$17 - 1 solar oven
$6 - Water pasteurization indicator

They currently have 35 projects you can donate to as gifts in someone's name.

And speaking of Solar Cookers, here is a project that not only saves wood, but saves lives in a war torn area.


The Solar Cooker Project of Jewish World Watch is committed to protecting refugee women and girls from rape and other forms of violence. Women and girls who have fled the genocide in Darfur, Sudan are particularly vulnerable while performing the critical task of collecting firewood for cooking. Our mission is to reduce the frequency of these heinous crimes by providing women in refugee camps with an alternative cooking option: the solar cooker.

One Woman's Story
When we met Imani in the Iridimi refugee camp in Chad, we promised to tell the world her story. After her harrowing escape from her village in Darfur where she witnessed the murder of her husband and two sisters she hid for days from the savage Janjaweed militia and survived with only water in the unforgiving sun. Imani walked over 300 miles until crossing the border into Chad, finally arriving at the Iridimi refugee camp. Without sufficient fuel to cook her meals, she had to leave the relative safety of the camp to collect firewood. At the refugee camp, she learned to use a simple sun-cooker to prepare her meals and no longer has to risk her safety. Imani told us that because she no longer has to leave the camp she now feels protected and secure.

So help the environment and help refugees survive in safety with a Solar Cooker for Darfur refugees.

And I want to end with one of my all time favorites. This organization combines so many excellent projects in the United States, Haiti and Latin America. Tree planting, solar cookers and solar heating projects throughout the region. Let me introduce you to:


Trees, Water & People is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that was founded in 1998 by Stuart Conway and Richard Fox, and is staffed by a group of dedicated conservationists who feel strongly about helping communities to protect, conserve, and manage the natural resources upon which their long-term well-being depends. Our work is guided by two core beliefs:

* That natural resources are best protected when local people play an active role in their care and management; and
* preserving local trees, wetlands, and watersheds is essential for the ongoing social, economic, and environmental health of communities everywhere.

TWP develops and manages continuing reforestation, watershed protection, renewable energy, appropriate technology, and environmental education programs in Latin America and the American West. TWP's international programs have been recognized nationally and internationally, receiving the Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy, the Rio Tinto Prize for Sustainability, and the UNEP Sasakakwa Prize, as well as awards from Kodak, The Conservation Fund, and eTown, the nationally syndicated environmental radio show. TWP's programs have been featured on National Geographic Television, CNBC, CNN, National Public Radio, and in the Christian Science Monitor.

Among their projects are

So give a valuable gift helping forests, watersheds and people. (Usually you can donate to specific projects but that function seems down right now, but general donations support all the excellent projects).

FROM A READER: A reader recommended adding this one...

The Okiciyap Food Pantry is in desperate need of donations to help relocate a donated building to house the food pantry, and is only $825 into the $20000 they need for Dec 23 according to their site meter. There was an earlier NAN diary about it that didn't get enough eyes.

Now let's face it. Many people want THINGS as gifts. And I am shopping through Think Geek and Wireless and such places to get some cool gifts for the more material people on my gift list. But for those who appreciate gifts that reflect values, the organizations I list above are excellent options.

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