‘Tis the season for giving -- and, for some, avoiding conspicuous consumption.
There’s a way you can accomplish both.
I’m always pleased and humbled this time of year to receive the Alternative Gifts International catalog, which is filled with opportunities to give low-cost, life-enhancing gifts to those in need -- the very basis of "sustainability."
In a world sated with gizmos, gadgets, and geegaws, AGI offers the opportunity to give simply, elegantly, and effectively. It works with reputable nonprofit agencies that aid established projects around the world. Its annual gift catalog is an education in itself. Each of the gift opportunities included features background information about the problem and how even a small contribution can make a big difference. Categories include child survival, development, disaster relief, education, hunger relief, peace/justice, medical assistance, livestock, shelter, water, and women in development.
The AGI catalog is an education by itself.
For example, one AGI gift helps people in Kenya lease land and grow their own food, overcoming poverty and inadequate nutrition. OUTREACH INTERNATIONAL (OI), an American nongovernmental organization whose mission is to help the poor solve their own problems, will stand beside 220 families in two Kenyan communities and help them grow their own food. The two local communities, located 155 miles west of Nairobi, have determined that they could overcome their hunger and malnutrition needs if they could gain access to land to produce their own rice and vegetables. A donation of $40 allows one family to feed itself for one year on leased land.
There are others. One program empowers African workers with the ownership of a strong mountain bike, which can help health workers to see more patients, students to increase their study time and business owners to improve their livelihoods ($77 buys one bike).
Another program shows Tanzanians how to pasteurize their water -- a project on the cutting edge of preventing waterborne disease ($66 provides equipment and training for one family).
Still another provides solar-powered computer centers in rural Latin American villages ($55 provides access for one student to a solar-powered computer).
AGI screens recipients to choose those with notable records of cost-effective projects. It chooses projects that encourage development and empower poor people to help themselves, so results are long-term. It seeks matching funds, which leverages donations.
This time of year -- in fact, all year long -- there are so many worthy recipients like AGI. But AGI's catalog is a stark reminder that as we prepare our annual giving lists, the gifts we choose -- and the impact they have on both the social and natural environment -- can extend well into the future.