The Gift of Giving

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As I spend this holiday season away in Peru, I am filled with gratitude and reminded daily how lucky we are to have a roof over our heads, access to clean tap water and the option of three meals a day. I have spent lots of time in the rural parts of Peru watching how hard these people work, growing their own produce and spending more than 10 or 12 hours a day in the fields to provide for their families. Many of these men and women are permanently bent over with back problems from harvesting all day every day.

It’s easy to get swept up in the holidays as we attend Christmas parties, ride around tacky lights tours, and find ourselves over our heads in Target shopping carts. I’ve always been taught to give at least 10% of my income to charitable causes and in recent years, I’ve made a conscious change in toning down my Christmas shopping as I try to buy less and give more. I like to find causes that my friends and family would have interest in, and often make a donation in their name. This year, I’ve found and teamed up with CARE to create a sponsored post about the incredible work they’re doing around the world.

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CARE.org is a program that’s dedicated to the education, empowerment and sustainable living of women through 890 programs in 95 countries all over the world. They provide assistance, education and resources in a variety of fields, including disaster relief, HIV/AIDS, child hunger, clean water, and maternal health, among many others.

I recently went through an experience where I was completely stripped of all of my power as a woman, and I couldn’t do a thing about it. I was defeated, weak, had no power and no control, so this organization is extremely important to me as a woman in providing support and assistance for women around the world. (Don’t worry, I’m okay, it was nothing violent or scary, but it was an experience where I can now say how it feels to be completely helpless in certain situations…)

In their current holiday campaign, we meet young girls like the one in this photo, 11-year-old Evelisi, who dreams of being a nurse and learn how our donations can help her achieve this dream. Do you remember what you wanted to be when you were eleven? At facebook.com/carefans, we meet Evelisi and Maliyana, as two young girls who are currently interacting with the community about their dreams and desires. 

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There are many changes I’ve made in my purchasing habits during the holidays. In addition to supporting causes like CARE, here are some other ways to have more of a worldwide eco-friendly impact, instead of the impact of increasing our carbon footprint:

  1. Avoid buying toys, clothes, anything that says “Made in China” – try to shop and support local by purchasing things made in the USA, where we don’t doubt the ethical treatment of the workers.
  2. Have a fake tree instead of a real one. This way, the forests get to keep their trees, plus it’s a more financially friendly option for you. You and your family can redecorate it every year, without getting a real one every year. Think about getting a real tree for every year your children go through school – that’s anywhere from 10-17 trees that have been cut down for you to have one in your house for a month…and then times that by hundreds of millions of people all over the world. That’s *millions* of trees cut down for the sake of one month out of the year.  I know the smell of pine is crispy and delicious to have in the house, but maybe try a candle instead 🙂
  3. Use recycled wrapping paper. I can’t even begin to think of the amount of trash we create during this one day every year. Presents are wrapped for a few weeks only to torn open in a matter of seconds. Or try switching to bags that can be reused. Recycle as much as possible and save any boxes, bags or wrapping that can be used again for years to come.
  4. Avoid stocking stuffers that are junk, and give gifts that are personal and meaningful. Most of what children receive these days will be played with for a few days while they’re shiny and new, and then the novelty very quickly wears off.
  5. We can encourage our kids to start giving back at a young age, educating them about charitable giving, programs like CARE and how Christmas is just as much about giving as it is about receiving. There’s a lot of “I want” that come from children these days, and we have the opportunity and power to change it from “I want” to “I want to give…”

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In looking back over 2016, I am filled with gratitude, and want only to give back this holiday season. And I *love* giving gifts. Admittedly, it may be a little bit selfish, because to give actually warms me from the inside out, making me feel really good knowing that I’m doing good. So I can’t say that it’s completely self-less. But to know that I am giving life and providing opportunity helps me to know that I’m not just taking from the world, but contributing to the benefit of it as well. 

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