When our children were young, we all grew tired of the holiday frenzy. So we changed the way we celebrated.
We gave up gifts altogether. We volunteered. When our daughter joined the Peace Corps, we sent books to the impoverished school where she was teaching. We never looked back and the holidays are better than ever.
Giving to charity at the holidays can be fulfilling, but where to start? Children, especially, love to visualize what their contribution will actually do. Heck, so do adults, so we've focused on charities that make giving easy and concrete.
Photo Courtesy of Oxfam
“Sheepish” about giving another useless gift? Oxfam America offers unexpected ways to surprise your loved ones and make a difference in the fight against poverty. Pick from more than 50 gifts: a sheep, a can of worms, planting 100 trees, a bicycle, or a goat. Here’s how it works: You choose the gift. Your loved one receives a card. Your gift helps someone in need.
Photo Courtesy of Heifer International
Self suffiency is this charity's mantra. Honor loved ones on your gift list with a flock of chickens from Heifer International for $20 – a gift that creates sustainable benefits for a poor family in Guatemala or Haiti. A hive of honey bees for $30 would start a small business in Honduras. Or your whole family could go in on a dairy cow for $500 and that would mean a miracle for a woman in Africa left to care for an extended family of AIDS orphans.
Photo Courtesy of Nothing But Nets
Malaria kills nearly one million children each year in Africa alone. But there is a simple solution...a bed net that has been coated with insecticide. People who use the nets decrease the rate of malaria dramatically. A bed net costs only about $10. Donate $10 or any multiple of $10 and provide a simple, effective tool to help save people from a terrible disease.
Photo Courtesy of Soles4Souls
We all take our shoes for granted. We have many pairs in our closets gathering dust. Soles4Shoes has a mission
of helping people by providing them shoes in those areas of the world where there is no shoe store, much less the money to buy shoes. You can donate money to this charity, organize a shoe drive, or send your own shoes to it. Feed your soul with some soles!
Photo Courtesy of WWF
For global warming and environmental issues, we like the World Wildlife Fund. The website has a feature that is fun for kids and parents called "WildFinder" which maps the world's animals. It is a searchable database of 26,000 species worldwide. You can search by place or species and learn about birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Donating is fun too with symbolic animal adoptions, a WWF Endangered Species-of-the-Month Club, and handcrafted items that support sustainable livelihoods.
Photo Courtesy of Champs Kids
CHAMPS kids is an educational program to raise awareness of the global landmine crisis. Groups of kids raise funds and sponsor mine-detection dogs. They name their dog and actually make a difference in the lives of people all around the world. This project may require you to work with your child's teacher, or scout troop, but it is a perfect way for kids to work together on something very specific.
Photo Courtesy of NURU
NURU means light in Kiswahili. Your family can help a poor family in Nuria, Kenya climb out of extreme poverty for $29 a month. Join the I Am Nuru Campaign and provide healthcare, clean water, and economic assistance to a family.
Photo courtesy of Pencils of Promise
Sure to appeal to young people, Pencils of Promise, or PoP, brings education to kids around the world. This nonprofit builds schools, trains teachers, and mentors students. In addition to this primary mission, PoP also wants to inspire people to join its movement and spread the word about the need for education in many countries. You can donate, buy a t-shirt or a backpack, or help spread the word. Giving just $25 educates one child for one year.
Photo courtesy of the American Red Cross
You won't find a better known or more iconic American charity than the Red Cross. It is there whenever bad things happen to good people. But the Red Cross also provides vaccinations, comfort to people in the military, and lessons in swimming, CPR, and babysitting. Pick a "gift" that will keep on giving throughout the year.