Dec 102006
Authors: Drew Haugen

Tired of buying and receiving the same old gifts during the winter holiday season?

The generosity of the season, usually tightly packaged and partially assembled in cardboard, plastic, and colorful, but non-recyclable, paper, does not always come in the form of clever kitchen utensils, flashy electronics or that special spandex outfit.

So, I offer for your consideration a few gift ideas of my own for this winter’s shopping season in, hopefully, a break from the standard holiday gift giving.

Diverting some of your gift funds towards non-profit humanitarian aid organizations can make for a gift with a profound impact during the holiday season.

OxfamAmerica offers several gift options on their Web site ( For example, $75 can buy a cow for an impoverished family abroad, providing them with milk and, indeed, an “entire economic support system.”

Pretty sweet, eh?

Gifts from OxfamAmerica can be as simple as “Can of Worms” or “2 Months Irrigation for a Farmer” or as complex as “Build a Stable” or “Staff a Workers’ Rights Center.”

OxfamAmerica gifts start out at $18, and all gift donations include a customizable gift card with a message from you to be sent to your friend or family member by OxfamAmerica.

Looking for holiday cards to send to acquaintances, friends and family members? Maybe some stationary or small gifts? The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) may be your answer.

The UNICEF Web site ( offers cards, stationery and other small gifts, most of which feature artwork drawn by children around the world. Proceeds from these sales benefit UNICEF, and most of the cards are printed on recycled paper stock.

UNICEF greeting cards are also available at Hallmark Gold Crown, Pier 1 Imports, Pier 1 Kids, IKEA and Bloomingdale’s stores.

Maybe you’ve got some cash burning a hole in your pocket for someone, but a gift or card really isn’t his or her style.

Kiva may be your solution. Kiva, an international lending organization, allows anyone with Internet access and $25 to become an “international financier.”

Kiva ( partners with existing microfinance organizations around the world to let you lend money to small business owners and entrepreneurs to help alleviate poverty and achieve economic independence.

Loans are usually for small projects, such as starting a food cooperative or enlarging the stock of a drug store.

The loan minimum is $25, and Kiva allows you to receive e-mail journals and updates on your sponsored entrepreneur’s or business’s progress. Loan repayment is usually six to 12 months, and gift certificates are available on the organization’s Web site.

Plenty of aid organizations also sell shirts, wristbands and other items whose proceeds support their causes.

Probably the most famous is the ONE campaign to fight AIDS and global poverty (, whose shirts, wristbands and other “merch” is modeled by celebrities on their Web site. If Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz and Jamie Foxx are down with humanitarian aid, shouldn’t you be?

I have named only a few organizations and gift ideas for this holiday season, but my message is simple: Get humanitarian! Not to say that “regular” gifts are not okay, most of the time they are wonderful (thanks for the candy and shaving kit Grandma!).

Make sure to check the credibility of the organization you select to receive your donation or gift; I almost got worked over by “Milli Vanilli Shirts for Topless Africans” last year.

This shopping season, head for the UNICEF rack at Hallmark, consider some of my other gift ideas or search the plethora of other options out there to support international humanitarian aid and poverty relief; it may just be the wholesome and fulfilling form of holiday giving you’ve been yearning for.

Drew Haugen is a senior international studies major. His column appears every Monday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to

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