I am one of those competitive gift-givers who finds satisfaction in knowing that my creative and thoughtfully packaged presents look better than the other ones under the tree — which, although thrilling, creates a conundrum, because I’m also a proponent of giving symbolic gifts. There’s only so much DIY you can inflict on an envelope.
The good news: I’ve realized that I can have it both ways. I matched a few of my favorite Mercy Corps gifts with some low-to-no-cost handmade or reused goodies, which both fulfilled my need to win at packaging and feel good knowing that the gifts I’m giving are doing more than looking pretty — they’re helping families survive in some of the world’s toughest places.
Here's what I've come up with:
Vegetable Garden with Herb Box
Mercy Corps Gift Price: $40
In places where fresh produce is hard to find or afford, Mercy Corps provides families with seeds, tools and know-how to plant their own household gardens, producing enough food for meals — and extra to sell for much-needed income. I paired the Vegetable Garden with the pieces to assemble a little indoor herb garden — something just about anyone, green thumb or no, can appreciate and find space for. Wooden planter boxes are available at IKEA for $5. If you’re lucky, you’ll find something similar for couch change at your local thrift store.
Sewing Machine with Fabric Remnants
Mercy Corps Gift Price: $69
Through micro-lending and small business mentoring, Mercy Corps helps future seamstresses turn their creative ideas into income. I can’t imagine a more meaningful gift for the sewing fanatics in my life, and couldn’t resist pairing the Mercy Corps donation with a couple of cute remnants that I found in the sale bin at my favorite fabric store. Sewing enthusiasts are notorious fabric hoarders, and they’ll welcome the inspiration sparked from a gifted yard or two.
Cookstove with Canned Goods
Mercy Corps Gift Price: $25
In places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, women are at severe risk of assault when they leave their protected camps to gather firewood for cooking. By providing women with fuel-efficient cookstoves, Mercy Corps helps reduce that risk — and protect the environment. You can pair just about any homemade goodie with the Cookstove. I opted for canned goods since I always seem to have an arsenal of pickles and jam each winter. There’s something really satisfying about gifting an item you put so much elbow grease into. And it doesn’t hurt if it’s delicious, too.
Teach a Woman to Read w/ Used Books
Mercy Corps Gift Price: $50
Extras: Free! Clean off your shelves
Mercy Corps teaches women in isolated and extremely poor communities to read and count, enabling them to defend their rights, take control of household finances, or even run a small business. I jump at the chance to share a book I love with a friend. Bundle the Teach a Woman to Read gift with some of your favorite paperbacks, and you’ve got an inspirational and useful gift for the bibliophile in your life.