holiday gifts
According to the National Retail Federation, Americans are projected to spend over $600 billion on holiday gifts during the 2014 season alone. A staggering statistic when compared to the fact that an estimated $40 billion would be necessary to provide clean water and sanitation, reproductive health for women and basic education, health and nutrition to every person living in a developing country worldwide.

Fortunately, many nonprofits, online marketplaces and charitable organizations are doing something to help redirect some of the money that Americans spend each holiday season to those who need it most. If you’re in the market for a gift that does double-duty this year, check out the following stores and nonprofit organizations for ample meaningful gift ideas:

1. Heifer International:

Give the gift of an animal in your friend or family’s name and help provide a family in a developing country with both food and a reliable source of income. Heifer International

2. Books for Africa:

Honor a friend or family with a book donation through Books for Africa (BFA), a non-profit dedicated to increasing literacy rates and children’s access to books in Africa. For donations of $50 or more, BFA will send a hand-written thank-you note to your honoree. $50 provides 100 books for a classroom. Books for Africa

3. Oxfam America Unwrapped:

Browse an endless array of gifts online—from goats and honeybees, to books and school meal programs for kids—and give to a family or child in need on behalf of a friend or family member. In return, a free, personalized card will be sent to the ‘gift-giver,’ along with a photo of the gift and information about how specifically it makes a difference in the lives of people living in poverty. Oxfam America Unwrapped

4. JADEtribe:

100 percent natural and ethical, JADEtribe’s bags, clothing and accessories truly embody the phrase “fashion with a conscience.” Each piece is handcrafted by women in South East Asia, and proceeds from JADEtribe purchases directly improve the lives of the female artisans who contribute to the company’s extensive selection. JADEtribe

5. Global Goods Partners:

Artisans living in third-world countries have an opportunity to sell their beautiful handmade goods on this online marketplace. Purchase a gift from this site, and a high percentage of sales will go directly back to the artisan who made it. Global Goods Partners

6. Ten Thousand Villages:

A fair-trade retailer since 1946, Ten Thousand Villages has stores across the United States, and an extensive collection of jewelry, clothing, kitchen and household items, and home décor, among many other gift ideas. The store partners with artisans around the world, in Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, Cambodia and Peru, among dozens of other countries. Its mission: sustain livelihoods, empower women, preserve cultural arts, and build global relationships. Ten Thousand Villages for online purchases or to find a store near you.

7. The Little Market:

Lauren Conrad’s e-commerce site, which is filled with vibrant, handmade goods, was created to serve as a platform for female artisans living in third-world countries worldwide to reach a wider audience. The proceeds for items such as jewelry, clothing, bags and ceramics go directly back to the women who made them. The Little Market

8. Bead for Life:

Bead for Life was founded to empower women in Uganda by helping them start their own bead-making businesses. The Beading Program provides women in impoverished countries with a steady source of income, derived from handcrafted beaded jewelry. Invite friends and family to shop for the cause by hosting a Beading Party from your home; a customized inventory of jewelry will be sent directly to your doorstep beforehand. Or order beads online. Bead for Life

Whether you’re giving a life-changing gift of an animal to a family in need, or wrapping a selection of handmade bags, scarves and jewelry that will help support the livelihood and businesses of female artisans worldwide, choosing a gift from the above list automatically makes you an ally in the fight against global poverty. Why not send a feel-good present or two this year, when it’s guaranteed to touch the friend or family member you’re choosing to honor, and to alter the lives of the person, family or community on its receiving end?

– Elizabeth Nutt

Sources: The Borgen Project, Info Wars
Photo: Nugget Market

In the fall of 2008, Kimberly Hartman decided to temporarily leave behind a 16-year-long career in fashion in pursuit of an opportunity to pause, reflect and gain some perspective: an extended solo trip to India and South East Asia. What she discovered on her journey inspired JADEtribe, the iconic handbag collection that has altered not only Hartman’s career path, but also her global impact.

The fashion and design guru landed in Laos, a far cry from the cosmopolitan cities she’d been theretofore residing in. Laos, one of the poorest countries in East Asia—and one of the few countries that remains communist—has made significant gains with poverty alleviation within the past two decades, bringing the poverty rates from 39 percent down to 26 percent with the help of foreign aid. The country is heavily mountainous and landlocked, and though less than 5 percent of the land is suitable for agricultural production, the economy remains agrarian.

While exploring a weaving market in a remote village in Laos, Hartman found what she was looking for: inspiration. She became at once enamored by the colors created with natural, organic dyes, and by the awe-inspiring textiles that were woven from them. Fabrics and prints that were unlike any others she had seen before caught Hartman’s well-trained eye. Here, in Laos, where women work more than men—taking on an average of 70 percent of the farming and household duties—and receive less education were beautiful creations that essentially went unnoticed. Hartman was inspired.

She has since employed the weaving village to create exclusive colors and patterns that laid the groundwork for her entirely unique collection of JADEtribe handbags.

And it was more than just a brave career move for Hartman, who had established a name for herself in New York City managing some of the industry’s top brands. It was the perfect marriage of two things about which Hartman has always been deeply passionate: fashion and humanitarianism.

Through the creation of JADEtribe, Hartman has discovered a way to launch a brand that directly gives back to the people of a country in which 41 percent of the population is malnourished. By commissioning villagers, leather artisans and female sewers to create her handbags—and paying a fair price—Hartman has created immense opportunity for growth in jobs and an increased quality of life for a population of a least-developed country.

One hundred percent natural and ethical, JADEtribe bags truly represent fashion with a conscience. Seen on celebrities and in boutiques and trade shows across the globe, JADEtribe is a shining example of how one person’s passion and desire to make a difference truly can transform lives. Hartman’s JADEtribe bags are available on her website,

– Elizabeth Nutt

Sources: UNDP, JADEtribe, World Vision, UN, The Borgen Project
Photo: BoutiqueBlu