Gifts that Give More

Live More on Less

Enough Already

Tips 'n Tools


“No gifts please, your presence is all the gift we desire.”

Yeah, yeah.

Except this time I knew they meant it. But this time I also knew that I really wanted to give a gift. The couple in question are the most generous, giving people I’ve ever met. Not in a crass, obligation-creation way. They just always seem to be there with the perfect little something that makes you smile for a week. They’ve got perfect timing and the best sense of humour. I love them to bits.

Me? Well, I try, but I’ve never been nominated for any thoughtfulness awards and I’m not holding my breath waiting. Much too short an attention span to be a genuinely thoughtful person I think. But this time I really wanted to be that kind of person.

This couple’s surname is WinningHAM ....and they live in “Hog Heaven ...a state of mind.” Get it? Well, that’s their sense of humour. So, of course, over the years they have been inundated with all the porky bric-a-brac a home can handle. Cannot go there again.

We briefly considered actually buying a pair of live piglets. But they recently re-did all the landscaping. Letting live pigs loose to root through their carefully constructed new garden would be just cruel.

And “thoughtful” is the direction I’m actually trying to head in, so bad idea.

What to do? What to do?

A few years back I decided that my nieces and nephews got too much junk for Kenyan LadsChristmas. This was my assessment of the situation, I didn’t ask them. I was recently returned from Africa and the assault of Christmas commercialism hit me like a sucker punch to the gut. I couldn’t breathe. The idea of spending money on more stuff ...with the faces of African children so fresh in my mind ...just couldn’t do it.

So my nieces and nephews acquired a foster cousin for Christmas ...and all the Christmases since. It’s what I do on their behalf, instead of buying them more junk. My husband lucked out that Christmas too. Instead of the woofer he’d been hinting for ...he found a new son from Ghana under the tree.

I’ve never felt so good about my Christmas shopping. And I remembered, pondering this, the brochure I’d received last Christmas ...with a whole menu of creative gift giving ideas including something about farm animals. The brochure was long gone, so I checked out the website of Foster Parents Plan.

Sure enough ...farm animals, including pigs. I could buy a couple of pigs for a poor Indonesian farmer on my friends’ behalf. What could be better? Live pigs without the rooting around in the garden and no more bric-a-brac. It was brilliant.

We found a photo of two cute pigs – with apologies to the original photographer – I don’t know who you are but the photo is brilliant and it is for a good cause so I hope you’ll forgive me. We made up a presentation card and I think ....they thought it was brilliant too.

Which got me thinking about the gifts that we give ...and having a good feeling about that credit card ching-ka- ching.

The Foster Parents Plan website has a whole raft of interesting gift-giving ideas.

note: photos below are from the Foster Parents Plan website

Farm Animals – from $40 each
How about a young goat for an old colleague’s 60th birthday? It’s a guaranteed laughgoats you’ll feel good about.

A Dozen Tree Seedlings – $20
If you’re a teacher, how about seedlings as an end-of-year gift for your students. A practical lesson in philanthropy. At $1.66 per seedling this costs no more than treating them each to a bottle of pop.

A Latrine - $100
When you are doing a bathroom reno, this is NOTHING. How about choosing the standard toilet and put the money you save into buying a whole latrine for a village. latrineJust think of the karma ...and how much more productive you’ll be on the standard throne than you ever would have been on the high-end low-boy.

Water – from $500 to $19,500 to drill a deep water well
If you’ve ever seen the women and children of Africa walking 10 km through the dusty heat for a bucket of dirty water ...you’ll be touched by this need. What a way to celebrate a milestone birthday or anniversary – to drill a well for a whole village.

School Desk and Chair - $30//set
Textbooks – 1 child - $30, a whole class - $1,530, a whole school $4,600
What a gift for a special child in your life, to know that another child is going to read classroombecause of them.

Solar Panels to Light a Classroom - $3,500
Know a teacher who is retiring? Start a fund.

Scholarship for one Girl to go to School - $1,225
Do this in the name of a grandchild starting school or or a dear friend dying.

Adult Literacy Training for Two Women - $65
This is soooooo cheap ...and has the potential to make such a huge difference in the life of a family. Ask the people at work to pitch in and make this happen every month.

mosquito netMosquito Net for One Family - $25
Malaria wrecks havoc and kills ...this costs so little. Perfect for a wedding shower gift

Immunization for an Entire Community of Children - $170
Celebrate the birth of a special baby by immunizing the babies of a whole community. Ours already have enough clothes and toys and stuff dangling off their designer cribs.

Training for a Midwife or Birth Attendant - $230
The perfect gift to celebrate the announcement that your daughter or daughter-in-law is pregnant. She is already certain to get the care she needs.infant care

Ambulance Bicycle - $65
There are many places that the bicycle is the fastest way for a medic to get to where they are needed. And when was the last time you saw a bicycle priced at $65 in your town? This is a bargain. Ask for one for your birthday!

Medicine and Supplies - $325
This gift fits any occasion ...wedding, birthday, retirement, in memorium.

So be creative ...and I guarantee you will feel better than great about the gift that you’ve given. The giftee? How they feel is up to them ...but most of us would be thrilled and the others? They just need to think about it a bit longer.

Carolyn Usher