Paul's note: Emmanuel and Meg invited Lisette and I to join them for a Thanksgiving meal this evening, and for the excellent company and delicious food I am grateful. Meg was also kind enough to send me a guest post about a very special organization, and I felt that today was the perfect time to share it. Meg writes:
With Black Friday only a day away, I thought I'd share a gift idea that I think is pretty amazing. It's called Heifer International. Ignore any mental image you may now be entertaining of a bovine beauty pageant - this is actually a unique opportunity to make a meaningful and lasting gift with your hard earned gift-giving dollars. I'm not suggesting it's the gift for everyone, but it beautifully solves the problem of what to get those "hard to shop for" people on your list.
Heifer International is devoting to ending poverty by providing poor families with a gift of sustainable livestock. For instance, a family might receive a pair of breeding llamas or ducks, as well as the training necessary to successfully raise and breed them. This "teach a man to fish" philosophy not only ends that family's poverty and hunger, but also helps their whole community, since all Heifer recipients promise to give some of their animal's offspring to a neighbor in need. Recipients become donors themselves, expanding the power of your original gift perhaps even exponentially. Now that's cool!
And for the folks on your list, instead of another material gift they can't use, your friends, family, business associates or vendors receive a card explaining that, in their name, you've given the gift of self reliance to a struggling family. If you feel that you really need to give them an object to "hold,” tie the card to a bottle of wine or a candy cane. Can't afford a whole cow? No worries: you can buy a "share" for each friend. You can also give tree seedlings to create an orchard or bees to create honey. Since it's charitable, it's even tax deductible.
When I think about all the gift baskets my company used to send out and receive from vendors that wound up being left out in the break room by their recipients, or all the useless dust-collecting "doodads" I've tossed each January, I can't help but wonder what might have happened if all that money had been spent on something that could've really made a difference. It just makes you think.
Bonus link: The New Yorker just ran an excellent article discussing how micro-loans are changing the economy in Africa.