Friday, December 1, 2017

Anti-Poverty Mom's 2017 Gift Picks

Wow. This year has really been something else. It's true I haven't been blogging very much because I've been busy, like many of you, advocating to protect things like Medicaid, Social Security, children's health insurance, global health funding, global education programs, tax credits for Americans in poverty, women's rights, etc, etc, etc that have all been under attack in 2017. At this time of year, I like to suggest gifts that are good for the Earth or help people in poverty. This year, I think it's appropriate to look for those kinds of gifts even more. 

My general guidelines still stand: Buy local, shop small businesses, gift charity donations, think vintage, buy from places that support women who are survivors of trauma and/or poverty. This year, there is a heightened awareness that corporations are playing a bigger part in our politics than many of us previously realized. So, there's even more of a reason to make sure you spend your hard earned money on a responsible gift that helps people and will make your loved one happy, too. Here are my favorite new finds in 2017. For more ideas, search in this blog with the keywords "Gift Picks" to find my suggestions from past years that are likely still out there!

1. Lemon Chef's Soap from Ten Thousand Villages
I love this for host/hostess gifts for holiday dinners or parties. If someone has been cooking for you, this is especially appropriate! Made in India by people of the marginalized Harijan community, this soap has a lemon scent that rids hands of cooking odors. It's crafted from natural vegetable oils by traditional soap makers. The fragrance is unique and derived from herbs, roots, leaves, and flowers. It uses palm oil grown on local plantations. This oil provides work to local farmers and does not contribute to deforestation. 

2. Penzey's Hot Chocolate with a Hint of Mint
Great for kids and chocolate lovers! Penzey's may have headquarters in Wauwatosa, WI, but there is a local store here for me in St. Louis. Penzey's is well known for the owner's open stance against racism and the President's remarks against minority groups. So, if you want to give the give of a relaxing, sweet, delicious beverage that makes you feel good about supporting others willing to take a stand, check out their Hot Chocolate with a Hint of Mint ($10.55 for a 16 ox bag). They do also have a regular flavor and also a wide range of wonderful gift boxes.

3. A Warm Pink Hat for a January Women's March
Ok, I have no link for this. You need to do our own local homework to find a great knitter in your community willing to make you a pink hat. Pay a fair price for materials and labor, then ask if your knitter needs a ride to any of the Women's Marches taking place again on January 20. We didn't mean for this to be an annual thing, but now that sexual assault survivors are starting to be heard, it's fitting for us to keep the momentum going and show harassers and assaulters that we have not forgotten anything or anyone. Here's a list of scheduled marches around the country. Photo credit: Margo Chambers

Made for Freedom products are made by artisans in poverty who are in danger of becoming victims of human trafficking or have been victims already. By paying women a living wage, they remove the source of their vulnerability, and prevent them from turning to sex trafficking, exploitation or sweat shop labor as their only source of viable income. Some of their items are simply fun and pretty styles, but I rather like the "Speak Up" necklace and bracelet with a biblical verse from Proverbs that is a reminder to advocate: Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. 
Okay, I've been testing this one for you all year. The description said, "Meet your new favorite bag!" and for me it was actually true. Noonday artisans are people in developing countries - mostly women - who work in partnership with Noonday to come up with designs together and sell them at a fair value to help artisans work out of poverty and to benefit adoptive families.  This bag is from India. At $178, it's a lot pricier than the other suggestions on my list, but it's a good value compared to similar bags you might buy from a regular retailer. Plus, if you find a local Noonday representative and host a party like I did, you can buy it for much, much less while helping even more people. It's huge size makes it my favorite lobby bag to take to Capitol Hill now because it easily holds standard folder sizes and I can use it as a show-and-tell piece to talk about partnership with entrepreneurs in developing countries in my meetings. Warning: Because of the unique vegetable tanning process used, over time the leather will transition from a light fawn to a rich caramel color...but in my opinion it just looks better and better!

6. Solar Powered Charger from Little Sun
Something techie that will help people in poverty AND be good for the earth! This solar power bank can harass the sun to fuel your phone, camera, or any USB-powered device. OR it can provide up to 150 hours of light. It is weather and UV-resistant for camping and other outdoor activities. Plus, for every charger sold (just like the Little Sun  lights I reviewed in 2014), the same exact product you buy is offered at a fair, locally-affordable price to someone in an underserved area. Pretty good deal for $99. On sale for $84.15 at