These gifts are cool, compassionate, and exotic without being exploitive.
A goat (or two). Looking for a bargain? Check out Save the Children's Buy-One-Get-One-Free promotion: a goat, that splendid source of food and income! Spend $40 in the name of a loved one to purchase one goat for a poor Ethiopian family and wealthier Ethiopians will contribute a second. The gift comes with a card to tell your honoree what he or she has contributed. If the honoree is a child, throw in an additional $25 and get a cute plushie goat. (www.savethechildren.org/gifts or 1-800-728-3843)
Rag rug hassock and pillow. These colorful items from fair-trade retailer Ten Thousand Villages are a win-win-win: They dress up your home, reuse fabric scraps, and get their makers away from the garbage dump. The artisans are zabbaleen - garbage collectors in Arabic - who scavenge in the Cairo dump for material they can resell. Through the group Association for the Protection of the Environment, zabbaleen women and girls instead get new remnants from local textile mills to make hassocks ($98) and pillows ($38). (www.tenthousand villages.com)
Akawelle necklace. These necklaces (from $75 to $130) featuring a circle and a leaf with the word LIFE on it come from a seemingly endless supply of spent bullet casings left during the civil war in Liberia. Their designer is Lovetta Conto, 18, a refugee from the war. Proceeds support the Strongheart Fellowship, which helps "exceptional young people from extremely challenging circumstances." Living at Strongheart House in Liberia affords the fellows, including Conto, a place to heal, learn, and grow. (www.akawelle.com)
Maternity ward. Among the presents that the United States Fund for UNICEF offers is a category called "Inspired Gifts." The midwifery kit, at $1,739.38, has enough basic drugs, medical supplies, and sterilization and resuscitation equipment for a health facility to perform about 50 routine deliveries. Any purchased item will be shipped to one of the 150-plus countries where the U.N. children's agency works. Oh, baby, now there's a gift that keeps on growing. (http://inspiredgifts.
TOMS Shoes. TOMS launched in 2006 after its founder witnessed children in Argentina more susceptible to soilborne diseases because they had no shoes. This footwear is based on a traditional lightweight Argentine shoe, which TOMS manufactures in a variety of styles including gray flannel for men ($54) and pink
glitter tiny TOMS ($34).
Here's the real feat: Buy a pair, and TOMS donates a
new pair to a child in need around the world. (www.toms.com)