This weekend I have the honor to help out in a booth at an Alternative Gift and Fair Trade Event. Every year several area churches take turns hosting this event during the November and December weekends.

This is an alternative to the commercial nature of the Christmas season. It’s an effort to connect the spirit of holiday giving and the impact our choices have on the world around us.

There are Fair Trade gift items like baskets and table lines, Fair Trade coffee and chocolate that help small scale farmers and artisans in developing countries become economically self sufficient. By purchasing Fair Trade crafts and products, we help these small scale farmers and artisans provide food, education, housing and healthcare for their families. Talk about a “feel good” way to go shopping! I like to call this shopping with a conscience.

The international project I’ll be supporting is the Empowering Women’s Future, AIDS Orphan Sewing Project. We will be selling the African shirts and dresses that the young women in this sewing project make. The funds are returned to Tanzania to support this three-year program that teaches these young women to learn sewing skills and gives them a sewing machine when they graduate. Without these skills to earn money to pay for their food and housing, many of these young women run the risk of being victims of human trafficking.

I’ll also be selling my book, “Pathways: Tales for the Spiritual Seeker.” Towards the back of the book, I feature the story of how the AIDS Orphan Sewing Project got started, and how it is one of many ways for us to live our spirituality.

Heifer Project International is another terrific outreach organization that we can support with donations. Contribution cards will be available for this cause as well as for the local Boys and Girls Club of Fond du Lac, the Christ Child Society, the Solutions Center (a haven for adults and children at risk in abusive relationships), the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and our sister parish in Nicaragua, Santa Rosa.

With every monetary donation in the name of a friend or relative, we receive a gift card to announce the gift donation. This is a powerful way to help someone locally or around the world and to still let our own loved ones know that we are thinking of them and honoring them with this gift.

The best part about these gifts is the way they give back. They assist, empower, and provide hope and dignity for people in our own local community as well as around the world. When I don’t know what to get and give anymore, what will please and what will be appreciated, how far my money is going to go, then this is the place I want to do my holiday shopping.

If you’re out and about in the area, here’s where to come:
Holy Family Catholic Church
271 Fourth Street Way
(Corner of 4th St. Road and County Hwy K)
Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

And the hours are:
Saturday, November 15, 2008 from 5:15 pm to 7:00 pm
Sunday, November 16, 2008 from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm

If you’d like to read more about and make a donation to the AIDS Orphan Sewing Project through a secure PayPal connection, then click on this link.

Drop us a line and share your thoughts about giving gifts that give back this holiday season. Have you done something like this in your way? Does anyone in your area host alternative giving fairs like this? Would you shop at the Fair Trade stores and markets online if you can’t find them locally?

(On this blog, write in the response box below. On Facebook, click on the comment link for the comment box to open up for you.)

I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Janice M. Puta
Author of Pathways: Tales for the Spiritual Seeker
Free Preview: Pathways: Tales for the Spiritual Seeker

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