My favorite things – 2011! (win a free t-shirt)

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

Oprah gives away cars.  I give away t-shirts. 

But what makes my list of favorite things extra special is that all these gifts give back. From fair trade coffee for the hubby, to handcrafted jewelry from Rwanda for the sis, to a brood of chickens for a family in need, you’ll find gift ideas here that have an impact far greater than what gets measured as “consumer confidence” by reporters this year. 

As promised, I tried to include some of your favorite things in my list, but of course I couldn’t list them all. But that’s okay, because if you leave a comment sharing your favorite place to find gifts that support a good cause, (or any comment at all), you will automatically be entered to win a GIVEN t-shirt from World Vision. GIVEN is a brand new clothing line designed by Jedidiah Clothing that benefits all the amazing work that World Vision does on a daily basis. I received a really pretty “Compass” shirt that I’ve been wearing everywhere.  (It looks cute under a kaki jacket in cold weather.) 

Anyway, browse around, leave a comment, and enjoy—as Oprah used to say with a booming crescendo—MY FAVORITE THINGS! 



My favorite: 

The Sunbreak Collection from Hill Country Hill Tribers -  HCHT is an organization that provides supplemental income and marketable skills to refugees living in Austin, Texas. I have the red tatted solo flower necklace and I get complimented on it all the time. 

Reader Picks:

Bead for Life – “Our goal is for our members to be independent of BeadforLife within 18 months by being able to support themselves within the Ugandan economy.  To assist members in launching their own small businesses or in creating new revenue streams, we provide entrepreneurial training, facilitate savings accounts, and make business funds available.  In the rural areas our program focuses on agricultural development.”

31 Bits - made out of 100% recycled paper, posters, and magazines by internally displaced women in Northern Uganda.

The Leakey Collection – available both online and in stores, handmade by the Maasai women and men of Kenya from environmentally sustainable materials.

Shoes, Clothing, and Handbags


My favorite:

World Vision GIVEN collection – Men’sWomen’s (Leave a comment to win a free t-shirt!) 

Reader Picks:

 Sak Saum, - a Cambodian ministry helping women who have been taken out of trafficking rings. Sak Saum means “for freedom.” The collection includes everything from aprons to baby shoes to wallets and purses. (Oh how I love that Lisa B. Cosmetic Case – so pretty!)

The Noonday Collection – provides jobs for impoverished women and raises money for international adoptions (Love the arm warmers and scarves)

Sseko Designs – I’d like a pair of those teal sandals, please

PUNJAMMIES – very cute, and made by women in India rescued from forced prostitution seeking to rebuild their lives

Krochet Kids

Freeset Global 


My Favorites: 

The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns – besides being an amazing book about justice and poverty, author royalties benefit World Vision 

After Shock by Kent Annan – one of my favorites of the year; 100% of the author’s proceeds go directly to education in Haiti through Haiti Partners 

Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn – will change your perspective on women, poverty, and exploitation forever; both sobering and hopeful 

Miscellaneous Gifts


My favorite: 

Ten Thousand Villages – one of the world’s largest fair trade organizations and a founding member of  the World Fair Trade Organization, Ten Thousand Village has been around for a long time and has just about the best variety you’ll find online. (They also have plenty of brick-and-mortar stores across the country.) You can always count on beautiful, quality products from Ten Thousand Villages.  I’m putting a gift card on my Christmas wish list!

Reader Picks: 

Thistle Farms - Founded in 1997 by Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest on Vanderbilt's campus, Magdalene is a residential program for women who have survived lives of violence, prostitution and addiction. Thistle Farms is their social enterprise. Founder Beccan Stevens was recently recognized by the White House as one of 15 Champions of Change.

Rwanda Baskets – beautiful and affordable. The Rwanda Partners Basket Co. is a poverty fighting program of Rwanda Partnersworking to change the lives of impoverished weavers and their families in rural Rwanda

Green Heart -   Chicago’s premier eco-fair trade non-profit shop, carrying eco fair trade products made by artisans from around the world. (Love their stocking-stuffers ideas.)

Eternal Threads – so much variety!

The Mercy House Kenya 

Life-Changing Gifts


My #1 favorite:
Ducks ($18), chickens ($25), or a goat ($75) from World Vision.  In Bolivia, I saw firsthand how effective World Vision’s agricultural fund can be. The gift of livestock helps families lift themselves out of poverty in a way that is sustainable and dignifying. This Christmas we’re giving chickens in honor of family members who live far away. It’s so much better than sending bulky packages or gift cards they may or may not use.(See the girl in the photo with the pig? I met her in Bolivia!) 

My #2 favorite: 
A tree ($1), an orchard ($10), a hillside ($25), a grove ($50), or a forest ($100) from Plant with Purpose, an organization dedicated to helping the rural poor through sustainable development.

My #3 favorite:
A mosquito net ($13), a chicken ($16), or vaccinations ($26) from Compassion International

Reader Picks:
A sewing machine ($85) from Eternal Threads
A mosquito net ($18) from Rescue Gifts

Christmas Cards


I love Unicef’s Christmas cards because they have so many bright and colorful ones to choose from. I buy them almost every year. But you can find a nice list of charities that make Christmas cards—from Autism Speaks to The Humane Society to The Make a Wish Foundation— here.

So, what else should we include? Anyone have any ideas for children’s gifts?

Remember, leave a comment and you'll be entered to win a free t-shirt from World Vision! 

*Contest runs through Tuesday at midnight, EST.*

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