Ugandan Gift Guide: Shop for Good

Last year, I fell in love with the beautiful people and country of Uganda.

I traveled there with Bob Goff’s organization, Restore International, and while we were there our team visited many NGOs that made me want to go out and start something significant of my own. As I was thinking about the upcoming Christmas season, I wanted to share with you these five organizations and resources who are making a significant difference in the lives of all who are involved – from artisan to consumer and everyone in between.

Restore International

Restore International Gift Set
image source: restoreinternational.org

This year Restore has put together some great gift package options, including their first round of Restore coffee! And how can you say no to that mug? I’ve seen the mug in person and it’s beautifully designed and holds a generous amount of liquid. If you want to keep it simple, bypass the stuff, and just straight up donate to a great cause, that’s great too!

Krochet Kids (Up to 50% off Site-wide)

Visiting Krochet Kids Uganda in 2013
Visiting Krochet Kids Uganda in 2013

Visiting the Krochet Kids project location in Uganda was so inspiring. The women who work there bring their children along, laughing and chatting as they construct beautiful crocheted items with skill and speed. They were so hospitable to us, sharing the stories of how they got involved with Krochet Kids and how they are using their earnings to start side-businesses of their own to provide for their families. The hats and scarves made in Uganda are of gorgeous quality and color, and I’ve had them on my “to purchase” list since I visited! With winter fast approaching, now is a great time to stock up.

31 Bits (FREE Shipping + 15% off)

31 Bits workspace in Gulu, Uganda. photos by Cindy Biniker
31 Bits workspace in Gulu, Uganda. Photos by Cindy Biniker

This company sells gorgeous paper jewelry handcrafted by hardworking women. My friend Cindy returned to Uganda this fall with Restore, and she was able to visit their workspace in Gulu. When you hear “paper jewelry” at first the image is a bit confusing, but it the paper is coated in a way that they become durable beads. The jewelry is unique and gorgeous and comes in so many colors and designs, you can find something for everyone from your niece to your grandmother.

Banded (FREE shipping on orders over $45)

"Bronze Party" LUXE headband, banded2gether.com
“Bronze Party” LUXE headband, banded2gether.com

This summer a friend of mine clued me in to BANDED, a no-slip headband company that gives back to Amazima, supporting the education of children in Uganda. I am usually not a headband girl due to the usually guaranteed headaches they inflict, but I’m intrigued by their comfort claims. They recently released a LUXE line that I’m positively swooning over, and would make an amazing addition to any girl’s holiday ensemble.

TOMS Marketplace (take 25% off select styles with code CHEER)

Goods from Uganda, image source: toms.com
Goods from Uganda, image source: toms.com

If you want more variety, TOMS (yep, the shoe company) expanded its website last year to include a marketplace, with socially conscious goods from all across the world (including Uganda)!

I hope this gives you some inspiration for gifts that keep on giving! It’s great to know your dollars are put to good work not just sentimentally for the smile on a loved one’s face, but also making a tangible difference in the lives of artisans and small business people around the world.

Where are your favorite places to shop for fair-trade and socially conscious goods?

Five Things Friday: 7.18.14

Five things I’ve been loving lately…

Governor’s Island

Hammock Grove bliss.
Hammock Grove bliss.

I was first inspired to travel to Governor’s Island because of an art exhibit three years ago, and I have loved visiting ever since. I took a trip with some girl friends from college a couple of weekends ago and since experiencing the 30 additional renovated acres, I’m not even more in love. What’s the draw? Wide open space, historical buildings, local art and pop-up shops, food trucks, and my favorite – a hammock grove! It’s well worth the trip, and the ferry is free on weekends beginning at 10 AM. Continue reading Five Things Friday: 7.18.14

Why I Went to Uganda

The Hoboken Grace Vision Trip Members: Nick, Jeff, Cindy and me.
The Hoboken Grace Vision Trip Members: Nick, Jeff, Cindy and me.

I’ve been home from Africa for over a week now, and I think I am finally starting to get back to “life as normal” after a week’s transition back to the States. We experienced and learned so much that when people say, “I want to hear all about your trip!” I have found myself at a loss for words. Where do I start? How do I pick “the highlights?” As I thought about where to start, I think this is a good place.

I went to Uganda to love people.
This is actually no different from how I try to live my every day in Hoboken and New York City. This is at the core of our church – how do we practically and tangibly show the love of God to people, so that they might come to know Him? I struggled a bit with guilt about this trip, knowing there are plenty of points of pause when it comes to short-term missions. I know that some of these kind of trips can end up doing more harm than good if you try to swoop in and change things in a week. But I also know that valuing people is a philosophy I hold, my local church holds, and that directly impacts our community. Our church constantly asks: if we closed our doors tomorrow, would the city know? As I prepared for this trip, I thought about the incredible things God is doing through His people here in Hoboken. I thought about how we’ve been Jesus to people during Sandy recovery. I thought about how the need for a mentorship program in Hoboken led a friend of mine to starting one. I am grateful to be a part of a community that doesn’t just believe that this way of living, of outlandish love and service, is something reserved for mission trips. It is embodied here on the Hudson, in our own backyard.

I went to Uganda to broaden my Horizons.
This trip provided a great reason to travel. I’ve visited quite a bit of the US and its territories. I’ve been to Canada. I got to experience Mexico twice. Nick and I fell in love with Costa Rica on our honeymoon. But I had never crossed an ocean, and have always wanted to see what is going on in other parts of the world. My aunt, uncle, and cousins lived in Africa for over a decade, and I heard lots of stories and saw home video clips during that time. I’ve supported organizations like The Mocha Club for years because I wanted to connect with Africa and the work people are doing there in a personal way. But until now, still Africa remained somewhat of a concept to me. While sending a few lattes’ worth of money per month is great, this trip offered the opportunity to experience the people and the country for myself. I wanted to put faces with names, I wanted to shake people’s hands, and hear their stories. Determined to go as a listener, I didn’t want to impose my agenda and assumptions onto others, but offering smiles and a listening ear.

I went to Uganda because I was invited.
This is the most simple reason, but probably the most important. When Bob came to speak at my church last fall, his stories of whimsy and the adventurous way he lives his life in the name of Jesus stirred up those things in me. Bob challenges your ideas of what’s “normal” and that applies to living out and spreading the gospel of Jesus. When Bob visited and told us to come to Uganda, it was truly without agenda, and a genuine invitation. He wanted us to not think about it too hard, just come along for the journey, and practice “becoming love.” Other team members on the trip have some awesome stories about what brought them to Uganda, and how God made it clear they should go, but for me, this trip was a “Love Does” thing. Bob loves God, I love God, and Bob invited me to love others. It was that simple. So I took him up on the wild offer, and thus far, it is proving to be one of the best leaps of faith I ever have taken.

So when people ask about the trip, the short answer is: It was incredible. We experienced such heartache and joy and sniffed out “the scent of Jesus” (as Bob would say). There is far too much to share in just one post, so I’m going to do my best to unpack it all here on the blog over the next month!

If you have gone on mission or service trips, what was your motivation? Did you find your pre-trip reasons changing while you were there?