Friday, December 11, 2009

A Better Christmas For Everyone.

This Christmas I have decided that all of the gifts I'm giving are going to serve a double purpose. Yes, I want the people who receive them to like and enjoy them, but I want others to benefit from them as well. This year I have decided to support 4 different organizations through purchasing items from them. The organizations I have chosen are: TOMS Shoes, To Write Love On Her Arms, Overlooked, and Invisible Children All 4 of these organizations stand for things I believe in. And proceeds from every purchase made go to causes I believe in.

TOMS Shoes was started by Blake Mycoskie in 2006. The name might sound fimiliar as he came in 3rd place on the second season of the TV show "The Amazing Race." While vacationing in South America in 2006, Blake discovered the Alpargata, a traditional rope-soled shoe that has been worn by Argentina farmers for the last 100 years. At the same time, Blake was struck by the terrible poverty that he saw: too poor to afford shoes, children developed cuts and scrapes on their feet that led to serious infections, like Podoconiosis (or podo, for short). Blake returned to Los Angeles with 200 pairs of shoes in his duffel bag and the idea for a new company, TOMS Shoes. TOMS Shoes was founded on a simple premise: With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. It is that simple. So this christmas I encourage you to CHOOSE SHOES.

To Write Love On Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery. TWLOHA was started by Jamie Tworkowski and a few friends in efforts to rescue a 19 year old girl named Renee from self-mutilation, drug abuse, and a life that was going downhill very fast. (To read Renee's story click here.) Jamie and his friends created t-shirts to help pay for her treatment and created a myspace page to give the story a home. The members of the bands Anberlin and Switchfoot were amongst the first the ever wear the shirts. Now bands like Paramore, Underoath, Mat Kearny, Copeland, The Rocket Summer and more support TWLOHA. Before long the page exploded with people wanted to know how to help their friends and share their stories as well. From there TWLOHA took off and has not stopped since. Jamie has brought the conversation out of myspace to concerts, universities, festivals and churches around the world. (For you Centralites reading, you might remember Jamie speaking here at Central about a year ago.) The proceeds from everything purchased goes towarsd to organizations that TWLOHA financially supports: Teen Challege, Hopeline, Mercy Ministries, the efforts to stop Human Trafficking and Sex Trade in India, KidsHope in Australia which they support monthly and many other organizations as well. In 2008 TWLOHA donated over $250,000 to causes just like the ones listed above.

Overlooked was started because one person wanted to make a difference and decided to act on it. Overlooked offers easy, practical ways to help people that have been overlooked and make the world a better place. By buying merchandise it allows Overlooked to provide children in Africa with mosquito nets and clean water. You allow them to free young girls in India from sexual slavery. You allow them to loan money to women in poverty to start new businesses for a chance to support their own families. The goal Overlooked is to expose you to the problems in the world around you and offer you simple ways to make a difference. To introduce you to different issues and the organizations that address them. They sell t-shirts and other merchandise that address different issues. When you purchase one of the shirts you are participating in informing others of the issue as well as actively supporting organizations that are making a difference. In addition to the shirts they will give you information on how to dig deeper into the issue if you choose. Maybe you will find one that you are especially passionate about and want to get more involved. Overlooked supports many causes in one place. They work to end hunger, homelessness, sex trafficking, malaria and to provide clean water and KIVA loans. Besides t-shirts and accessories they sell fair trade items made by the people they support. They have jewelry hand made by survivors of the sex slave industry in Nepal, christmas ornaments made by struggling artisans in Ecuador, necklaces made by entrepreneurs in Uganda who simply lack the infrastructure, funding and/or exposure and the proceeds provide a consistent income.
To view their causes click here.

Invisible Children uses the power of media to inspire young people to help end the longest running war in Africa. The war in northern Uganda has been called the most neglected humanitarian emergency in the world today. For the past 23 years, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Government of Uganda (GoU) have been waging a war that has left nearly two million innocent civilians caught in the middle. The GoU's attempt to protect its citizens from this rebel militia has largely failed, resulting in an entire generation of youth that has never known peace. (to read the history of the war click here. It is estimated that more than 90% of the LRA’s troops were abducted as children. Invisible Children's goal is to raise awareness and encourage the US Government to take action. In recent years more and more international attention has been focused on this crisis. In 2001, the US Patriot Act officially declared the LRA to be a terrorist organization. In 2004, Congress passed the Northern Uganda Crisis Response Act, the first piece of American legislation to address this disaster. And in 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Joseph Kony and four of his top commanders. As the motives of the LRA become more ambiguous and their crimes more horrific, Invisible Children remains committed to seeking sustainable solutions to foster an environment that encourages peace. We are supporting and equipping a generation ravaged by war so that they can finally know peace. Invisible Children addresses the need for access to education and economic development through innovative programs on the ground. Proceeds from everything that is purchased goes to supporting these programs.

Is there a cause out there that you support? Are you looking to make a difference in the world? If so, maybe you'll join me this year in making it a better Christmas for everyone.