Gifts that teach kids about charity
If you want to teach your children about helping others, why not buy presents that will help the less fortunate.
Not long ago, I found a small, plastic goat buried in a pile of toys. The little white animal brought a smile to my face as it represented so much more than just another play thing. It took me back to the year my kids, then ages 5 and 2, found identical goats in their Christmas stockings.
My mother patiently explained that the plastic animals represented real goats that she had given, in my kids’ names, to a family in a developing country. Heifer International, a non-profit organization, had purchased the goats for poor families so they could drink the milk and make cheese.
Receiving these goats during the holiday season, when my kids had been given umpteen number of presents, had a big impact. It provided our family a chance to talk about important topics like poverty and helping others in need. No doubt, my kids were too young to grasp these ideas fully, but I could see that my son was old enough to understand the idea that many people didn’t have the things he took for granted, like food and running water. Even a few years later, they would ask about the goats.
During this holiday time, when families are seriously reconsidering how they spend their money and people yearn for more meaningful rituals, giving gifts that teach kids about charity is very appealing. Here are several organizations that offer gifts that will benefit children and families in poorer parts of the world.
The prices listed below are approximate amounts.
World Wildlife Fund
During the holiday season, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) offers an initiative for animal lovers. With the Wildlife Adoptions program, kids can symbolically adopt an at-risk species like the polar bear or the narwhal. Prices vary depending on the animal; for example, with a $40 donation, you receive a snow leopard plush toy, a certificate of adoption, a tote bag and a poster. The WWF is a Canadian organization dedicated to environmental conservation. For more information on how to adopt a species, visit their website.
This U.S.-based, non-profit organization helps families in developing countries overcome poverty by providing animals that can produce food to be eaten or sold. There are several choices ranging from a flock of geese ($20) or honeybees ($30) to a water buffalo ($250). For more information, call (855) 948-6437 or check out the online catalogue at heifer.org/gift-catalog/index.html.
The United Nations Children’s Fund, known as Unicef, works on behalf of children’s rights around the world. Known for its iconic orange collection boxes at Halloween, the organization also offers a series of gifts that can be given to help young people in developing countries. Called “Survival Gifts,” the items can be selected from several categories including: education (where for approximately $21, you can provide classrooms with pencils and workbooks), water ($16 buys 2,531 water purification tablets) and health ($47, polio, tetanus and measles vaccines can be offered to more than 50 children). Particularly fun for children is the section “Play” where they can send story books ($22), soccer balls ($59) or a bicycle ($191) for young people to enjoy. Orders can be placed by phone (888) 777-0380 or online at shopunicef.ca.
Started in 1937 as Foster Parents Plan, this non-profit organization works to improve the lives of children around the world. Through its “Gifts of Hope” program, people can give money to plant a tree at a school ($12) or purchase 5 bed nets ($40) to prevent the spread of malaria. Donations can also be used to provide poor families with a sheep ($55), and baby chicks ($17). Plan has a program called "Because I am a girl", aimed at helping girls and women, often the most vulnerable and oppressed members of society. So, for example, a donation ($295) provides girls in developing countries with the support they need to get an education. For more information, call (800) 387-1418 or visit plancanada.ca/giftsofhope.
World Vision Canada
Well-known for its child sponsorship program, in which donations go towards improving the life of a child in a developing country, World Vision Canada also has an extensive catalogue of gifts that help lift people out of poverty. Families can donate money to purchase animals (roosters, hens, goats, cows, etc.), fruit trees, clothing and medical or school supplies. The online catalogue allows you to search for gifts based on the amount you wish to spend. For more information, call (866) 595-5550 or visit catalogue.worldvision.ca.
This non-profit organization offers small loans, sometimes referred to as micro-loans or micro-credit, to people who want to start up businesses. Micro-loans were pioneered by Nobel Peace prize winner Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi banker who created the Grameen Bank where very poor people could get money to create a business. Kiva loans have proven to be very successful, with almost all recipients eventually repaying their loans. Kiva allows people to give as little as $25, which is first sent to a microfinance organization in a particular country. This organization then selects an entrepreneur to receive the money, sending back a description of the person’s project, which can range from a mushroom farm in Cambodia to a dairy and cheese selling business in Bolivia. Kiva’s website, kiva.org, also includes detailed information about micro-loans and gives families a chance to discuss how this system can help combat poverty.
Plumfund is an online crowdfunding site that was launched in 2006 by married couple Sara and Josh Margulis. Unlike some crowdfunding sites, Plumfund doesn’t require users to pay any platform fees for their campaigns or projects. Many users set up accounts to help pay for medical treatments, support environmental causes, help with humanitarian crises or send relief to victims of natural disasters. Those who wish to donate can browse through the various categories on their homepage and choose a cause close to their hearts. Because there are no platform fees, all the money goes directly to the fund. For more information or to start a campaign, visit plumfund.com
Oxfam, a non-profit organization which supports ending poverty and empowering children, allows you to donate to a variety of projects and receive personalized cards in return through the Oxfam Unwrapped program. With each donation, you will receive a free card or e-card to send to loved ones. For example, with a donation of $50 to Girls in School, which gives young girls access to education, you will receive a card that reads "I Know You Love Girl Power" to give to your friends or family to encourage them to donate. Other options include donating $22 to give a child access to school books, raising a sheep for $52 and providing a family with a bicycle for $105. For more information on gift options, visit unwrapped.oxfam.ca
The Snowsuit Fund of Ottawa
Help keep a child warm this winter by donating to The Snowsuit Fund of Ottawa. The organization accepts donations of at least $45 in order to purchase snowsuits for children under the age of 15. Last year, the organization donated 17,000 snowsuits to needy children in the province. Visit snowsuitfund.com to learn more.
This article was updated October, 2018.