By Dian Mills
Tis the season for showering friends and family with tokens of your affection. Why not choose gifts with hearts and souls of their own? Here are a few ideas that blend beauty and function with the power to transform the lives of the artisans who craft them.
Based in St. Louis, MO, The Blessing Basket Project® is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that believes the rural poor in developing countries are quite capable of pulling themselves out of poverty. They use a finely honed financial model (Prosperity Wages®) to generate higher than fair trade wages for artisans in many African countries. Using this model, the Project works with artisans (whose progress can be followed online) until they have created three independent income streams. At that point, sustainable financial independence is theirs! Browse all of their gorgeous woven offerings, from shopping baskets to baby hats, at http://www.BlessingBasket.org
World Vision is a humanitarian organization dedicated to tackling poverty and injustice around the world. They provide emergency assistance to children and families affected by disasters and conflict, partner with communities to develop long-term solutions to poverty, and advocate for justice on behalf of the poor. One of their main sources of funding is the World Vision Gift Catalog, which features expertly hand-crafted items contributed by artisans from a variety of countries to help fund assistance where it is most urgently needed. The beautiful, hand-carved olivewood serving spoons shown above come in a gorgeous hand-sewn gift bag made of African fabric and are contributed on behalf of orphans of the Kamba tribe in Kenya. The other photo features an exquisite African soapstone trinket box. Etched and designed by local artisans in Kenya, the income from their sale helps to provide medical care for the donors’ families. Discover the perfect, one-of-a-kind gift for anybody on your list at donate.worldvision.org
All Across Africa brings best business practices to artisans through market development, training and teaching, then connects them to developed external markets. They are part of a new wave of businesses known as Benefit Corporations, which means that they consider nonfinancial interests (the people they serve and partner with, our staff’s health and the environment) and financial interests equally when making decisions. All Across Africa currently works with over 3,000 artisans in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, paying artisans up front for their goods at many times what they could sell them for in a local market. This sustainable income allows them to send their children to school, feed their families and even create savings accounts. In addition, money goes back into the communities in the form of education and training programs. Shop their beautiful, functional and diverse gift collection at http://www.allacrossafrica.org.