With finals approaching and the craziness of the holiday season beginning, it is imperative not to forget about the importance of giving. This year, count your blessing and turn your christmas list into something that makes a difference in the lives of those in need. Here are a few simple ways to make a global difference during the holidays:
1. Buy One, Give One
In need of a winter hat, some new glasses, or a pair of fresh kicks? There are various organizations that follow the “buy one, give one” philosophy, allowing shoppers to make an impact with each purchase. Since the philosophy took off in 2011 with Tom’s “One-for-One” shoe campaign, companies have joined the bandwagon by targeting their markets to shop towards a cause. Here are few you might not know about:
Warby Parker offers up stylish, quality eyewear – glasses and sunglasses – at a reasonable price. The best part: for every pair purchased, they donate one pair to someone in need, through their partner, VisionSpring. Harley Chase, Marist Senior was seen rocking Warby Parker frames on campus.“Give one, get one brands are a great idea to spread awareness, and I appreciate that these companies acknowledge their social corporate responsibility,” says Chase.
Smile Squared is a buy one, give one company that highlights the often overlooked importance of items we might deem mundane, like a toothbrush. Smile Squared offers a high-quality, biodegradable toothbrush to a child in need for every brush sold.
Love Your Melon is an apparel brand run by college students across the country with the mission to give a hat to every child battling cancer in America. For every hat sold, another hat is donated in person to hospitals nationally by Love Your Melon college ambassadors dressed as superheroes. There are even Love Your Melon ambassadors on campus at Marist. Lily Hickey, a Marist Senior joined the program with 20 friends to spread awareness about the company it’s mission. “Cancer has affected far too many people in my life, as well as the lives of countless others. Jumping at the opportunity to start something in the Marist Community that could make a difference for those facing cancer was no question” says Hickey. You can select “Marist College” at checkout to support their group.
2. Give a Microloan
I’m sorry, what? That’s right. Think less about your student loans for a second and more about the spare change in your pocket right now – it has the potential to reach someone in need and make a significant personal, community and economic impact. Microfinance companies have popped up around the world to help give money directly to people who not only need it most, but also have the least amount of access to loans. Microcredit is an extension of very small loans called microloans, which give money to impoverished borrowers who typically lack collateral, steady employment and a verifiable credit history.
It is simpler than it sounds: the operation is designed not only to support entrepreneurship and alleviate poverty, but also in many cases to empower women and uplift entire communities and economies at the same time.
Organizations like Kiva and Zidisha are just two of many microfinance companies that allow you to scroll through specific people in need of loans, like “Yusuf, in Nigeria, in need of help to buy food and clothing, eliminating the pressure to sell maize for low prices” (KIVA) or “Jasmin, in the Philippines, who needs help to buy new supplies for her sewing machine.” (KIVA). Kiva also sells Kiva Cards which are essentially gift cards you can give to friends and family to empower them to help those in need. With the card, you choose a borrower, make a loan, get repaid, and repeat. It is the only gift that lets you truly keep on giving.
3. Start a campaign
When your friends and family, significant other or parents start bugging you about what is on your Christmas list, don’t go searching the web for cool gadgets on Amazon that you definitely don’t need. Instead, think about what you might already have that others might need. Start a campaign to raise money for a cause you feel passionate about – from wildlife preservation to world hunger. You can use GoFundMe to create a page and an easy link to send to all your loved ones. If you have a specific charity in mind, you can even make a page that sends money directly to the cause. There, they can donate money in lieu of buying you a horrific sweater you’d never wear or a necklace you’d have to pretend to love. This past September, a boy used his birthday to raise $1,290 on GoFundMe for bullet-proof vests for the local police dogs. Learn about his story here. Some charities even give you an option to start a campaign directly through their website, like charity:water and St. Jude.
4. Skip Secret Santa
The Secret Santa tradition is often shared amongst friends, families, and even in the workplace. The finite moment of unveiling who you must purchase a gift for can be dreadful: What do they like? What do they need? How much do I spend? The entire ritual can add unnecessary stress to the already hectic holidays. “If you get someone you don’t know then you have to resort to guessing their taste or getting something generic,” says Erin Marcinkiewicz, a nursing student who found herself in 3 different Secret Santa groups last winter.
Here’s an alternative to the painstaking task of secretly buying someone a bottle of wine or set of lotion or bubble bath they will likely re-gift next year: pool together the money each person would have spent on a gift and vote on a charity to send it to. There are countless local, national and global organizations in need. UNICEF has a section on their site that highlights inspired gifts.This allows you to look for specific gifts (within different price ranges) needed for various causes around the world. Once you choose the gift and personalize a card, UNICEF says that “Each lifesaving gift is sent to where children need it most, GUARANTEED.” (inspiredgifts.unicefusa.org). Lisa Richards, a secretary at a small dental office in Morristown, New Jersey opted out of Secret Santa last winter and together with her coworkers, purchased a UNICEF inspired gift called School in a Box for about $200. One of those kits meets the needs of 1 teacher and 40 students to carry on classes for 3 months in a conflict-affected country. “I would trade every Christmas gift I get if it means making that much of an impact.” says Richards.