Every year I look for unique and socially-conscious gifts that tell a story. I try to only buy items that contribute somehow to causes I care about. This way every gift is like two gifts and perhaps the recipients will be inspired to find out more about the causes I support. This year I compiled a list, which includes some longtime favorites and a few new discoveries.
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT)
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is by far my favorite organization. Between family and friends, I believe we now foster about a dozen of DSWT's orphans each year and everyone has at least a little bit of elephant swag. It is the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world and one of the pioneering conservation organizations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa. The DSWT was founded in 1977 by Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick D.B.E, in honour of the memory of her late husband, famous naturalist and founding Warden of Tsavo East National Park, David Leslie William Sheldrick MBE. Chaired by Daphne Sheldrick, the DSWT is run by Angela Sheldrick, daughter of David and Daphne, who has been managing all of the Trust’s activities for over a decade. In addition to rescuing and rearing orphaned elephants and rhinos (and the occasional random other species), the DSWT runs nine full-time Anti-Poaching and Desnaring units, four mobile veterinary units, the Sky Vets, four aerial surveillance planes, a rapid response helicopter, and a variety of community outreach and conservation initiatives. There are several ways to support DSWT and here are my current favorites.
1. This cute t-shirt through J.Crew
100% of net proceeds go to DSWT.(most sizes backordered with estimated ship date of December 14, 2015)
2. Bracelet and Pendants by artist Kathy Kamei
"Every cent from the sale" of bracelets (l) and necklaces (r) go to DSWT. Kathy Kamei's jewelry is created by hand in Bali.
3. Watercolor prints on... everything
You can get several Angela Sheldrick watercolors on a variety of products through CafePress.com, including t-shirts, mugs, baby bibs and onesies, and tote bags. This one is my favorite, but the others are equally adorable.
There are also more traditional giving option, such as a direct donation. For those in the U.S., you will want to use this link for tax deductible donations. That said, I prefer the fostering program which is not tax deductible in the U.S. but is substantially more satisfying.
World Wildlife Fund
For $55 you can gift an endangered animal adoption kit that includes a stuffed plush animal, adoption certificate, and species informational card. The stuffed animals are pretty cute and, in my experience, well made. They also have some non-conventional stuffed animal options for more unique gifts. If you are planning to buy a stuffed bear, bunny, or platypus for a kid in your life, why not also provide some knowledge?
The Lalela ProjectLalela provides after-school art and music education for at-risk youth and orphans in South Africa and former child soldiers and refugee children in Northern Uganda. They also have an after-school arts program in the South Bronx, in one of the highest at-risk communities in the United States.
Lalela has transformed some of their student artwork into gorgeous scarves, which can be purchased here. Above ("Signature") and below (Trees) are just two examples.
For more information about Lalela, check out this video.
Raven + Lily
Raven + Lily clothing, jewelry, purses, scarves, and other accessories are made by at-risk women paid fair trade wages in a variety of countries, including in the United States. Materials used are eco-friendly and follow fair trade standards. Due to the wide range of countries, the styles vary beautifully for many tastes. For example, I love this bracelet, made in Ethiopia with recycled gold and silver.
I also want these arm warmers for myself - made in Kenya with organic cotton.
Uncommon GoodsEvery item at Uncommon Goods has a story. Now, these items don't support a specific cause as much as showcase Uncommon Goods' commitment to artists and the environment. You will find things on this site that you will not find anywhere else and many are made from recycled materials.
I love these shot glasses made from Himalayan salt - beautiful and perfect for tequila!
You can also find quirky things, like these belts made out of bike treads.
(They also donate a portion of every order to your choice of one of four non-profit organizations)
Anyway, I am not finished with my shopping, so if I find more cool sites or products, I will update this post accordingly. Happy shopping!