The Gift That Gives More

The Gift That Gives More

In the western world, Christmas is a time where conflicting messages are jammed to the forefront of our consciousness. On one end, there is the winter wonderland of sparkling gifts and beautiful food, an abundance of goods, a joyous celebration of plenty. But on the other end, deeply rooted into the Christmas tradition, are generosity and charity. Reminders of injustice, along with pleas to help make the world a better place, come and find their place alongside the snow, the ribbons and the glitter. Christmas invites us to celebrate, but also in the same breath reminds us to “give back” since we have been given so much. And with this realization comes a sense of accountability. I think many of us live with this tension inside of us – this feeling of gratitude on one hand and responsibility on the other, like two wool mittens tied together with a cord that we carry over our necks.

I think many of us live with this tension inside of us – this feeling of gratitude on one hand and responsibility on the other, like two wool mittens tied together with a cord that we carry over our necks.

I have lived with the utmost privilege of not knowing true hunger, war and persecution. Without doing a thing to deserve it, I was given access to clean water, a safe place to live, an education and the ability – even perhaps the entitlement – to succeed with hard work. I do often take these things for granted, but when I stop to think, I truly am grateful. And with this gratefulness comes the sobering and challenging question: how can I give back?

I have lived with the utmost privilege of not knowing true hunger, war and persecution. Without doing a thing to deserve it, I was given access to clean water, a safe place to live, an education and the ability – even perhaps the entitlement – to succeed with hard work.

Many companies have given us options to “give back” comfortably nestled within our shopping experience, nearly making charity an afterthought. “A gift that gives back”. Fair enough. But what? Water? Shoes? Coffee? A T-shirt? I think that when we are endeavoring to “give back” in a meaningful and practical way, we actually need to approach the issue very differently. We must give it some thought and some intention, so we can put our buck where it matters. To understand what we give and how we can give it.

So … how about a gift that goes beyond giving back? How about a gift that directly helps put food on someone’s table, allows them to send their children to school, puts clothes on their backs and helps their community thrive? How about investing in a Christmas gift that not only gives back but actually gives so much more?

What does that look like, you say? Well, I think it looks a lot like this. Let me introduce you to to Seraphine, a Weaver for All Across Africa (AAA).

Seraphine - All Across Africa Weaver

Seraphine is 45 years old and lives in Rwanda, a country still deeply reeling from the echoes of the 1994 genocide, but rebuilding itself with unquenchable hope and progressively finding its way towards stability. Seraphine lost her father when she was 7 and was forced to leave school to learn the art of weaving in order to help bring in some income for her family. In 1990, she married and had 7 children, which meant she had to continue to work in order to provide for all of them. It took many years for her to find enough work.  She finally found a company that cared for her and her work, while also providing a consistent market for the products, but she eventually came to work with All Across Africa in 2011.

Basket weavers in Rwanda - All Across Africa

For Seraphine, weaving with All Across Africa opened a world of opportunities not just for herself and her family but also for her community. Weaving baskets provides her with steady income, which has allowed her to have a voice in her marriage and experience an equality that is uncommon in rural Rwanda. Her income, combined with that of her husband who is a rural farmer, has allowed them to build a beautiful home with their own cows, goats and chickens. Not only can she now provide food and clothing for the family but she can also send all seven children to school and build a home for her disabled mother in law. Her steady income also has a significant impact on her community: she can employ neighbors to work the land, hire transporters for her baskets to be brought to the packaging centre and support local vendors at the marketplace because she can afford to purchase good food more often. Because she is now a cooperative leader, her leadership impacts over 300 other women’s ability to also have income and create livelihood for their families, and AAA has been able to hire other local workers as well to package and ship the goods.

All Across Africa's Weavers able to feed their families.

All Across Africa works with 45 cooperatives and 3,200 skilled artisans who on average support 5.7 people each, although some people like Seraphine support over 12 people directly on a weekly basis. Over 18,000 lives are affected simply through AAA’s basket weaving network. This, my friends, is what I call a gift that gives a heck of a lot more.

So … how about a gift that goes beyond giving back? How about a gift that directly helps put food on someone’s table, allows them to send their children to school, puts clothes on their backs and helps their community thrive? How about investing in a Christmas gift that not only gives back but actually gives so much more?

Enough with subconscious and afterthought charity. Enough with walking the tensile line between gratitude and guilt and wondering “Have I given back enough?” My honest answer would be that we’ve been given so, so much, I don’t think we ever can. And actually that’s OK.  But I am challenging us to be mindful and intentional. Buying a beautiful basket for a loved one who will love the product gives hope, life and opportunity to so many, so far away.

This Christmas, let’s take the time to consider where we spend our money, and why, so that we’re not just “giving back” because we know it’s the right thing to do, but actually investing in a solution that offers so much more. More meaning. More life. More joy. For people like Seraphine and her community, and so many others on their way to restoration.

Come and check out what AAA and the artists it supports have to offer, and become part of A GIFT THAT GIVES MORE.

Warmest Christmas wishes,
A Christmas Shopper Like You

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One comment

  1. I have been a part of AAA since 2012. This makes me so very proud to be a part of AAA family!! This is the best Christmas gift I could ever ask for in 2014! Thank you Greg Stone for your commitment to these truly deserving Woman and Men of Rwanda. Allie Wallace is the best and I appreciate her all you do everyday. To Shawna Hicks, who stepped up to the plate this year. I am looking forward to my continued work with AAA in the coming year of 2015! Working together we will make a difference everyday!! Happy Holidays to all the staff at AAA and of course the wonderful people of Western Africa!!

    Respectfully,
    Patty Jo Carter

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