I have always wanted to be organised with my holiday gift planning, but up to now I’ve mostly been unsuccessful. If it wasn’t work commitments or an inertia compounded by the crowds, it was plain old procrastination and laziness. For these and other reasons, I have often only completed these tasks by the seat of my pants.
But still I got by, as I had a strategy. I would pick a different retail establishment every year, one from which I could find something for (almost) everyone on my list, even better if it offered gift-wrapping.
This modus operando efficiently filled the stockings every year, but as far as meaningful gift-giving went, it wasn’t necessarily fulfilling.
And so this year I’ve decided that I’m not going to just check off the list and tick the boxes. I want to make a real difference in my gift giving, to make Christmas and holiday presents a whole lot more meaningful not just for my recipients, but for myself as well.
The idea is to gift presents to loved ones from brands, companies and establishments that benefit worthy social causes, and the needy, among other initiatives that don’t involve shopping. And I hope to inspire you with it. Knowing that I’ve put shopping for Christmas gifts to good social use makes me happy, and that just adds to the joy I already derive from giving to, and doing for others.
My picks this year cover a plethora of merchandise categories because different people may prefer different things. Add to that the fact that it’s never easy buying things for people who have everything, so here goes…
I pick the The Mindful Company for its ‘What’s Important’ series of reminder bracelets for men and women, a beautifully designed collection created in collaboration with the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH).
Bracelet charms like a house, a book, ice-cream on a cone, a cloud and a branch of leaves, each representing family, knowledge, appreciation for the small things in life, dreams and growth respectively, were crystallised from the courageous personal stories of the youth beneficiaries from SAMH’s YouthReach programme. The series aims to raise awareness and understanding for mental wellness and $10 from the sale of every bracelet goes into raising funds in support of mental health programmes for youth.
Hipsters With Heart
I’m an animal advocate, and so are the people who run The Unique Company that e-tails well-made eco-friendly, fair-trade and ethically sourced cotton totes with powerful messages like: Ride Bicycles, Not Elephants, 10 per cent of proceeds for which support the Save Elephant Foundation, an organisation that provides care and assistance to captive elephants; Babies Belong with Their Mothers and Ditch Dairy, Go Vegan, sales for which benefit ethical farming. In amidst hip grocery bags and indie-style trinkets, The Unique Company also sells a small but sweet collection of elephant plushies in grey, blue and pink that are both napping bean bags and giant stuff toys for babies and toddlers.
Feed The Hungry
You can feed marginalised children when you buy your Christmas cakes from The Ugly Cake Shop for foodie friends and family members. Buy an Ugly Cake and you would be helping to feed undernourished kids in Timor Leste, as part of the proceeds from sales goes into a nutrition fund for a school in Timor Leste.
A bonus for your kindness is the fact that the Ugly Cake Shop’s confectionary are made with natural ingredients, therefore less sweet, don’t contain artificial flavouring or colours, and can be customised without eggs, dairy or nuts. Gluten-free cakes are also in the pipeline.
Beloved brands like The Body Shop, Kiehl’s, M.A.C, Aveda and Benefit are but the tip of the ice-berg, as far as do-gooder beauty brands go.
For a start, begin here if you want to support HIV/AIDS awareness, education and research, push for the availability of clean water globally, back women’s rights, be a part of social and environmental change, and a stop hate movement.
Read with A Purpose
Better World Books is a gift shop after my own heart. Your bookworm recipients will be pleased to know that their reading habit can make the world a better place. Each purchase from Better World Books makes a difference in someone’s life, as it supports world literacy through grants, literacy-partner programmes, book donations and the building of libraries.
If you’re looking for unusual gifts that aren’t a dime a dozen, you’ll be a happy shopper at The Art Faculty by Pathlight, a platform that promotes the special talents of people with autism and related challenges.
The merchandise designed by Pathlight’s savant beneficiaries run the gamut of fashion accessories, stationary, lifestyle products and art. You can shop online through The Art Faculty’s catalogue and have your items delivered, or opt to self-collect them at their flagship store at the Enabling Village (55-56 Lengkok Bahru, Block 56, Singapore 150056), where gift-wrapping is free.
Do Me A Favour & Pay It Forward
Don’t want to shop because buying is just too easy? Then give the gift of a favour. After all, the best things in life aren’t things. A favour could be simple errands and tasks that loved ones may need help with, like babysitting, dog-walking, cat-sitting, getting their windows done, editing a speech they’ve been working on for a special occasion, getting their dry-cleaning sorted, gardening… the list is endless and the effort absolutely useful.
Or do welfare work in a loved one’s name, because you know they believe in a particular cause, and because, for whatever reason, they are unable to do the work themselves. And instead of spending money, you’d be spending time on your loved ones’ behalf.
You could also perform random acts of kindness for strangers in the name of a loved one. In place of a conventional gift exchange, pay it forward for them, and then ask them to pay it forward to someone else in your name. If we can keep that do-good ball rolling, the gifting would extend way beyond Christmas and the world would certainly be a happier place.