Every year when it gets to this time I start to think about what it is that I can buy for the people in my life for Xmas that has some meaning behind it!  Every thing that I purchase I put lots of thought and effort into and I also like to try and find some gifts that are not just from me to the person in my life that is important to me but can also assist in supporting people who may not be in the same fortunate place that I am in in terms of being able to even afford to buy presents and be thinking about it!

For a number of years we have been sponsoring a child through World Vision http://www.worldvision.com.au and have purchased extra things each year to help communities in developing countries have better lives; whether it be buying a goat, a well, some books for students attending school or even extra payments to support other families that need our help and then giving those extra things as gifts to people in our life.  That way hopefully they will get some satisfaction that they are receiving something that is making a difference in the lives of people who are more in need of some of the staples that we take for granted than we are.

It is always funny that for most of us that have the luxury of living in nice houses and drive nice cars and really are able to survive from week to week, that the I hear many of us (me included sometimes) complaining about what we don’t have and what we want.  Xmas time is a time of year to stop and think about just how lucky we really are and all the good things that we do have in our lives and that this truly is the lucky country.  Yes we are seeing utility bills going up and things are more expensive than ever but we usually are able to have 3 meals a day, are not living on the streets having to look through rubbish bins to get enough food to survive and we have roofs over our heads.

Reflection is an amazing thing and looking back on the past year it certainly has had its challenges attached to it but all in all it has been an amazingly great year on lots of levels and I am truly grateful for all of the wonderful things that this year has sent my way.  I am able to go to work every day to earn a good living, I have a wonderful partner and a fabulous family and extended family who are all fabulous, caring, loving people, I have a roof over my head, am able to head off on holidays 2 or 3 times a year and dine out in some amazing restaurant when the mood takes me.  This all adds up to an amazing year and the continuation of a blessed life that gives me hope for the future for those people that I love and adore.

And then there are those that are not as fortunate as I am and who for whatever reason do struggle with the hand they have been dealt.  This is not a space with which to judge as who really knows the reasons behind the misfortune of another human being – whether it be an addiction, homelessness, ill health, mental illness or a myriad of other issues that can inflect pain and suffering on people and make day to day living a tough ask.

That is why 2 new websites that are offering some great Xmas gift suggestions are something that I recommend you have a look at and support if the urge so takes you.  The lovely Liz who I work with sent an email around at work last week highlighting these 2 amazing sustainable gift sites with one being from Africa and one being a joint site that encompasses gifts from Africa and also the US.  Both offer some very different options in terms of gifts but what they have in common is the desire to help make a difference for the people that they are selling their wares for.

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The first site fashionABLE http://www.livefashionable.com is based in Africa and as the website says:

Your purchase of a fashionABLE scarf creates sustainable business in Africa.  We are committed to long-term solutions to fighting poverty, and our main focus is creating opportunities for vulnerable women.  That means that your purchase of a scarf creates jobs, so that the women are not dependent upon charity, but instead are a vital part of a developing economy.

So our strategy is two-fold.  We work with women to help them start small business cooperatives, and we partner with and require manufacturers to also employ women with fair wages & fair hiring practices.

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If you head to the website you will see some beautiful hand made scarfs and leather products and you will also be able to learn about the women involved and read the stories of how this website has assisted to begin to lift them out of poverty, empower them, give them a sense of purpose again and to make a real difference in their lives.

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The other site – The Giving Keys – http://www.thegivingkeys.com is US based and works directly with homeless people and tries to assist them to break the cycle and transition out of the situation that they find themselves in and as the site says:

The Giving Keys exists to employ those transitioning out of homelessness to make jewelry out of repurposed keys that get sold and shared around the world. Each key is unique and carries a message like HOPE, STRENGTH, DREAM or COURAGE. When the wearer of the key encounters someone else who needs the message on the key, they give it away and then send us the story of their key being paid forward.

Again on this site you can read about those employed by the Giving Keys and how much working in this environment has assisted them to get from the streets into accommodation to help create a better life.  They fashion amazing jewelry and each piece is different to any other piece and you know when you purchase from them that you are making a difference to someone else’s life.

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Of course these days with the internet there are many other sites built around giving, sharing stories and making a difference and the three in this blog post are really just the tip of the iceberg but for me are 3 really strong sites that can really make a difference and are making a difference in the lives of the people that they set out to assist.

So as we get closer to Xmas, perhaps you can stop and think about how amazing this life we lead is and that you too can make a difference in the lives of those who may not be as fortunate as you are by purchasing your gifts that will not impact you, the person who you are buying for but other people and communities that could use our assistance.