Christmas gifts that make a difference

gifts that make a difference

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“True generosity consists precisely in fighting to destroy the causes which nourish false charity. False charity constrains the fearful and subdued, the “rejects of life,” to extend their trembling hands. True generosity lies in striving so that these hands–whether of individuals or entire peoples–need be extended less and less in supplication, so that more and more they become human hands which work and, working, transform the world.”

― Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

We all like to support our favourite organizations, especially at Christmas. My firm belief is that true charity should empower. So much of charity work is done with good intentions, but with the ultimate result of leaving more people dependent on handouts, or worse.

Donating reams of old clothing and shoes to the developing world? This puts many local tailors and clothes stores out of business.

Donating infant formula? This causes babies to sicken as the formula is mixed with dirty water, just in time for the mothers to discover that their breast milk has dried up.

Spending thousands of money to send North Americans to build homes? This does little to aid the local economy or give men and women job skills so they can get out of poverty.

If this seems more like a poke in the gut than polite conversation, I’d encourage you to read a phenomenal book called “When Helping Hurts”. It opened my eyes to see the difference between true and false charity and has helped give me a structure for assessing the organizations I choose to support.

My prayer is that as you decide where to donate, you would do so with eyes open to the possibility that not every charitable organization is created alike. Some have a much better track record of working against poverty, while others simply enable it under the guise of “charity”.

Each Christmas our family chooses several gifts from the gift catalogues of our chosen organizations, and given the popularity of charitable gift catalogues, I’m sure that you do as well! For a quick read on how we approach this with our children, click over to The MOB Society for a post from last Christmas entitled “Teaching our children giving during a season of getting”. 

Without further ado, I’d like to present to you three organizations that are doing fantastic world in this world. They are successfully battling against poverty, fear, war, and hatred by bringing dignity and love. Each of these three organizations is doing true charity. This Christmas, let’s buy gifts that make a difference.


Compassion International

This is quite possibly my favourite organization ever. I’ve seen them in action in both El Salvador and Nicaragua; all their local ministries are run by community members, and their financial track record is impeccable.

They were one of the only parachurch organizations that opened themselves to a very rigorous assessment exercise from an outside group a few years ago, and the outcomes were phenomenal. Their model WORKS, and is helping eradicate extreme poverty, one child at a time.

The best thing about their Christmas gift catalogue is that each gift is created in partnership with a local church, therefore their catalogue is a little different each year. This not only brings dignity to communities, but helps foster true charity.

There was the community that wanted a safe play space for their children, so we were able to contribute to a playground.

Then there was the community in India where the men had little job opportunities, so we were able to contribute to bikes so that they could start their own rickshaw businesses.

Currently, in the Ujiji community of Tanzania, there are 15 children that have been identified as highly vulnerable and in need of safe home, because their current homes are in danger of collapsing and their caregivers are unable to provide a safe home. Check out their story here. 

In Burkina Faso, children are constantly sick because they have no access to clean water. Recent droughts have made water even more inaccessible. Check out their story here. 

Haiti is also still in need of much help, and Compassion has local people willing and able to serve.

You can contribute to Compassion’s ongoing disaster relief in Haiti here.

The full gift guide from Compassion Canada is available here.

The full gift guide from Compassion International is available here.


Preemptive Love

Preemptive Love is an organization committed to spreading love in war-torn Iraq through skills training, life-saving surgeries, and immediate relief efforts. Their driving believe is that conflict will not be resolved by more conflict, but rather, by love. I love the statement on their website:

AT THE CORE OF VIOLENCE AND CONFLICT, IS FEAR.

We fear loss. We fear shame. We fear ideologies and religions. We fear vulnerability. So we fight, first with attitudes and words, then with fists and bombs.

Preemptive Love is a global movement of peacemakers changing the way we engage the world’s most polarizing conflicts by confronting fear with acts of love.

On their website you can find the usual donation-style gifts, but my US friends can also purchase soap for yourself, soap made by refugees. The soap helps these desperate families create a small business to sustain themselves, so they don’t have to rely on handouts.

Check out their online store here! 


The Lulu Tree

Founded by local author Emily Wierenga and now involving several nations, The Lulu Tree is dedicated to preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s parents. Their current work is done in Uganda, mostly by equipping at-risk mothers to care for their children. They have just opened another facility in Sierre Leone, which is a dream come true for them!

One of the most incredible things about Lulu is that they run on volunteer labor. None of the “western” founders take any pay for their work, which means all the money goes straight to those who need it.

The other incredible thing is that Lulu doesn’t fundraise, they faithraise. When they have a need, they don’t tell people, they tell God. And it’s incredible to see what God is doing through their ministry.

Check out The Lulu Tree Christmas gift guide here. 


In addition to these fabulous organizations, I ran across this great list of gifts (physical gifts) that empower women.

I know that there are many more organizations doing the work of empowering by encouraging true generosity, so please share your favourite in the comments!

And as always, if you found this post valuable, please share with a friend!