The Independent Newsweekly
|Today's Take: NCR's daily Web column|
|Each weekday over the course of a week, a member of the NCR staff offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news. It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.|
|December 18, 2003||
Vol. 1, No. 170
Gifts for a better world (no batteries needed)
Pat Morrison, NCR managing editor
We're now in the final countdown to Christmas -- six days to go! If you still have people on your list to buy for (or are super organized and already looking ahead to next year), there's help at hand. As I mentioned in yesterday's column (Go ahead, get Uncle Edgar's goat!), alternative gifts make wonderful presents, and expand the circle of recipients.
Ten Thousand Villages (www.tenthousandvillages.com) is a nonprofit program of the Mennonite Central Committee, the relief and development agency of Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches in North America. Through their stores located throughout the country, as well as catalogue and online sales, Ten Thousand Villages provides vital, fair income to Third World people by marketing their handicrafts and telling their stories. The exquisite hand-made and fair-trade products sold in Ten Thousand Villages stores enable native artisans who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed to become self-reliant and support families and entire communities. With no middle man cutting into the profit, the funds raised go primarily back to the native peoples and their cooperatives, helping to pay for food, housing, health care and education.
Craft items, dinnerware and pottery, clothing, toys, fair-trade coffee, jewelry -- and a wonderful selection of Christmas decorations, ornaments and Nativity sets from around the world -- make Ten Thousand Villages a shopper's delight (and a native artist's bread and butter). An attractive, easy-to-navigate Web site gives store locations, types of goods available, stories about the artisans, and much more. (Ten Thousand Villages, P.O. Box 500, Akron, PA 17501-0500; (717) 85908100; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
If that special someone on your gift list says, "I don't need anything. Just give me world peace," Seeds of Peace (www.seedsofpeace.org) can help. Seeds hasn't yet solved all the world's problems, but it's on the way to bringing peace and understanding, one young person at a time. Founded by a journalist discouraged by the constant fighting in the Middle East, Seeds of Peace brings young people from conflict zones around the world together, throws them into an international camping situation in Maine where they get to know and understand one another, and sends them home to change their world. Since its founding in 1993, Seeds of Peace has expanded from its original focus on the Middle East (which it continues), to include other hot spots, including Northern Ireland, the Balkans, South Asia and other regions.
From their first tense days together at camp, Seeds participants --children of conflict selected by their home governments for their leadership potential -- learn to talk to one another, to stop hating one another and then move on to build lasting friendships. Through their camp experience, and ongoing follow-up and support programs, Israelis and Palestinians, Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, Serbs and Croats learn to dispel fear, mistrust and prejudice -- the root causes of violence and conflict. Seeds of Peace ensures that the future of peace is in the hands of friends rather than enemies.(Check out their Web site for the success stories and the voices of young people committed to peace around the world) This Christmas, forget another poinsettia that will hang around until Easter and donate the equivalent to Seeds of Peace. Your gift of any size will help young people without means, living in war zones, attend Seeds camp in the United States and build a more peaceful world. Not a bad deal (and you don't have to water it). (Seeds of Peace, 370 Lexington Ave., Suite 401, New York, NY 10017; (212) 573-8040; e-mail: email@example.com.)
Catholic Relief Services (www.catholicrelief.org) is one of the success stories of the American Catholic church. Founded as the overseas relief and development arm of the U.S. bishops, CRS has been providing steady, behind-the-scenes aid in the world's most troubled and impoverished regions for 60 years. Many people are familiar with CRS for its emergency assistance in humanitarian crisis situations, such as earthquakes in Latin America and famine in the Horn of Africa. But CRS also sponsors a wide range of programs that boost human dignity and self-sufficiency, from sustainable agriculture and water/well programs, to providing jobs and training to native peoples. In the Holy Land, for example, CRS was on the scene when Palestinian homes were demolished and roadblocks limited travel and employment. From initial emergency assistance through food, blankets and water for the crippled population, CRS then moved to partnership with existing organizations to help people rebuild their homes, thus ensuring an income that otherwise wouldn't have been there. It also sponsors ongoing programs for children, from rebuilding schools to providing psychological counseling to kids growing up in war zones.
An attractive, informational (and kid-friendly!) Web site allows viewers to browse a catalog of projects, link with a favorite country they may wish to help, learn more about the people of a nation, and various ways to partner with CRS in its life-changing work around the world. This year, scrap the fruitcake and give a gift to CRS or a share in a project on behalf of a friend or family member. You'll both be making a difference -- and no gift wrap or batteries needed! (Catholic Relief Services, 209 West Fayette St., Baltimore, MD 21201-3443; (410) 625-2220)
Pat Morrison is NCR managing editor. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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