All I Want For Christmas is a Camel: Fair-Trade Christmas Gifts

After stumbling into the alternative gift market at my church last week and discovering the sumptuous display of beautiful and unique handcrafted goods from artisans around the globe, I’m convinced I’ll never go Christmas shopping in a mall again. Why fill the bulging coffers of Macy’s or Walmart, when my purchases could be helping to support a struggling family in a less fortunate part of the world?

Here are some of my favorite fair-trade gifts for family and friends this year:

• For the Nativity collector, fair-trade retailer Ten Thousand Villages has a wonderfully eclectic collection of handmade Nativities in all sizes and price points by artisans from Peru to Bangladesh to Kenya.

• Communion Bread, as wells as bread for the family dinner, feels even more like a feast in colorful handmade baskets from Baskets of Africa.

• The perfect stocking stuffer comes from Yobel Market, a fair trade company based in Colorado Springs: Rwandan hand-carved crosses, made by at-risk boys in Rwanda. Other handcrafted items that help benefit exploited and impoverished women and men around the world include stunning silk bags and purses, sari journals, and bamboo jewelry.

• Is there a more exotic and imaginative gift to give a loved one than a camel, especially when said camel provides milk and transportation to a needy family in a part of the world too dry for other livestock? Through the Heifer International Gift Catalog, you can send such a gift in the name of your friends and family. And if $850 -- the price of a camel -- is too much for your budget, you can send a flock of fuzzy chicks, enough to feed one family for a year, for a mere $20.

• Perfect for your Bible-toting friend or relative, an African-print tote bag from Dsenyo is a stylish and socially conscious way to carry your Bible and other books to study groups and church. Dsenyo offers hand-crafted bags and accessories in a range of prices that celebrate African textile design and support African women and artisans working their way out of poverty.

• What hard-working pastor, youth minister, or Sunday School teacher wouldn’t love a delicious gift basket of organic coffee, hot cocoa, chocolate, nuts, and berries from Equal Exchange? EE produces deliciously fair-traded products while supporting small-scale farmers across the world.

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