Welcome to the FIFTH annual Slave-Free Christmas Challenge!
Do you love Christmas shopping or do you hate it? I’ll never forget one of my first Christmases living as a newlywed outside of Washington, D.C. My husband and I split up at the crowded mall to conquer more territory and a few hours later he found me huddled next to a display of foot massagers rocking myself. I had shopped till I had — literally — dropped.
Years later living in the Atlanta area, I learned about modern day slavery and how many of the presents and decorations we buy to celebrate Jesus at Christmas are made by people living in slavery. I felt horrified and really small. I wanted to huddle by a display of foot massagers all over again. Instead, I decided to blog about it and find a way to shop for the family in my life while making life better for families around the world. I called it the Slave-Free Christmas Challenge, an opportunity to shop my Christmas list from companies and organizations making a difference in the world, a chance to help, and not hurt, the people with whom we share a planet. I invited you to join me. That was five years ago, and every year since I’ve had the best time searching for new companies to share with you. After all, giving gifts for Christmas should be about blessing people, all people, from the ones opening our presents to the ones making them.
I’ve featured so many wonderful companies over the years that it’s hard to narrow it down. This year, I decided to choose my top 25, like an advent calendar that you can open all at once. So here are my “25 Days of Slave-Free Christmas.”
COUPON CODE: “SlaveFreeXmas” ($10 off orders of $50 or more)
Guys, hands down, these are my favorite ornaments. Ornaments4Orphans partners with artisans earning fair, living wages in Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, and Malawi to create beautiful ornaments. Then people here sign up to “host a tree.” We sell the ornaments, send the money back to O4O, and they use the money to invest in the lives of orphaned and vulnerable children. You can host a tree, or you can just buy pretty ornaments for yourself, for teacher gifts, to tie on top of packages, or to give to all the people you love.
2. Purse and Clutch
COUPON CODE: “SLAVEFREE” (free U.S. shipping through December 31, 2016)
Purse and Clutch has become my go-to company for quality fair trade bags that always look and perform perfectly. Their goal is to make buying fair trade as easy as possible so that they can create as many jobs for their artisans as possible. This year they’ve started their very own label, a line of purses being made in a small workshop in Ethiopia!
These scarves are the coziest items in my closet, like an all-day hug around the neck. COLORS, started by my friend Steen Jones (listen to my podcast with her here), partners with three different organizations: Beloved Atlanta, 7 Bridges (a shelter for women & children leaving lives of homelessness, drug addiction, and broken situations), and the Refugee Women’s Network. Their mission is to empower women to lead healthy, creative, and sustainable lives, and they want to accomplish that by providing women with means to earn an income, everyday workforce skills, and a community that stands around them in support.
4. B.A.R.E. Soaps
COUPON CODE: “UNEXPECTED15” (15% off)
B.A.R.E stands for Bring Antiseptic Resources to Everyone. They have handmade soaps that make beautiful gifts, as well as everyday soaps for the whole family. Plus, this year they introduced a line of candles that makes my nose extremely happy. And my favorite part is they partner with Kaberamaido CarePoint in Uganda through HopeChest, giving a percentage of their sales to help orphaned and vulnerable children. Also, if that wasn’t cool enough, their packaging contains seeds that you can plant in the ground to grow wildflowers.
5. Forever We
COUPON CODE: “UNEXPECTED” (free U.S. shipping)
My friends Chantel Adams and Ginny Starr have created a doll company to encourage compassionate play. (Check out my podcast with Chantel!) Forever We connects kids with cancer and families who care, and they partner with organizations to raise money for childhood cancer research. These dolls are for our kids undergoing cancer treatment AND ALSO for our healthy kids, and the book that Chantel’s written is all about my favorite thing: friendship and the power of togetherness. Each Forever We doll comes with a gown, port in its chest, removable wig, special storybook that includes a parent discussion guide, pediatric cancer awareness ribbon, and courage bead. The dolls are stitched together with love in the USA.
6. See Beautiful
COUPON CODE “UNEXPECTED” (30% off your order through 12/15/16)
See Beautiful is a philanthropic company with a mission to provide ethically-sourced, eco-friendly products that create more beautiful in the process. (Check out my podcast with founder Lydia Mays here.) With every purchase, you choose which of our Humanitarian Giving Initiatives to support (hint-hint, one of the choices is #5, Forever We!). Together we give when you receive.
COUPON CODE: “UNEXPECTED15” (15% off all products through January 31, 2017)
You guys, every single time I wear my 139Made shirt I get compliments. When the owner of 139Made reached out to me to tell me about her company, I wrote back, “Do you know I have that verse tattooed on my back?” I got a Psalm 139 tattoo in the midst of infertility and after years of an eating disorder. I am so excited about a company reminding people that they’re “fearfully and wonderfully made.” 139Made supports organizations fighting human trafficking, and all their tee shirts are made sweatshop-free.
8. Trades of Hope
Need jewelry? Trades of Hope partners with women artisans from all over the world to help market and sell their beautiful products. These artisans are paid four to six times more than what they would normally make, so that they can take care of their families and send their kids to school. WE get to buy pretty pretty jewelry to wrap up under the Christmas tree or slide into a stocking.
9. Esther’s Hope
COUPON CODE: “Slavefree20” (20% off through December 20)
Esther’s Hope provides single mothers with artisan training, materials, and a market to sell their goods, with the ultimate goal of generating income to keep their families together. These single mothers also receive discipleship training, so that they are able to grow in their faith and raise up their children in the joy of the Lord. Today, nine women are employed and paid a fair wage by Esther’s Hope.
10. Sak Saum
Located in Phnom Penh and the Saang district of Cambodia, Sak Saum is a ministry dedicated to the rescue, restoration, transformation and rehabilitation of vulnerable and exploited women and men. Sak Saum is pioneering a model of self-sustaining ministry, um, and also, they make absolutely gorgeous accessories. They’ve created a nurturing, empowering, restorative program which facilitates vocational training in sewing, excellent products, and community development.
11. Mi Esperanza
This company makes really cute totes and wallets! Mi Esperanza means “my hope,” and through Mi Esperanza women are finding a new sense of hope, self empowerment, and the stability to gain control of their future. The program provides life-sustaining change in the lives of women in the villages surrounding Tegucigalpa, Honduras, elevating women out of poverty by giving them the tools and resources they need to break the cycle of poverty.
12. Karama Collection
Karama champions the development of small businesses and provides access for artisans to a global marketplace – that’s us! They are all about restoring dignity for people living in poverty through creative and purposeful work. And I love that they invest in African teens through the Young Life program.
Joyn utilizes as many pairs of hands as possible per item, oh, and by item I mean purses, lots and lots of gorgeous purses. More hands mean more jobs, so Joyn seeks to make everything as handmade as possible. It takes 14 sets of hands to make one of their items. Everything is hand-picked (organic cotton), handwoven, hand block printed, hand stitched. These hands live in northern India, where they receive a good work environment, education for their kids, vocational training, and medical coverage for their families.
If I had to pick one item in my wardrobe that I wear the most, it might be my lightweight grey scarf from Fashionable. Fashionable invests in women. They say, “When a woman is empowered with work to do, whether in the home or in an office, she not only experiences the joy and satisfaction of developing a skill, she also creates change in those around her. Fashionable’s role in this story is working with women, both locally and globally, who have overcome challenges ranging from prostitution to addiction to a lack of opportunity. Every one of us understands what it means to overcome, and we are all ABLE to find purpose in the work we do.”
15. Wildly Co.
Wildly Co. clothes are cute and well made and their soft knit lasts longer than all others in my daughter’s closet. Every time they come out with a new swing dress and leggings I feel compelled to buy them for Evie. Their clothes are ethically made, and I love how they state their commitment to fair labor, “The products we make and sell will not be made based on the hardship of another family.”
Lift up a pant leg in our house and you’ll probably find a Mitscoots sock underneath. They come in a million patterns, feel comfy on your feet, and my kids and hubby love them, too. And now Mitscoots is branching out into other articles of clothing, too, like hats and gloves. Mitscoots is dedicated to helping the homeless, giving out socks to those in need and also giving them jobs packaging and shipping the socks.
17. Refugee Sewing Society
These guys sell beautiful products that provide sustainable incomes for refugee families. Resettled refugee women in Clarkston, GA, use traditional fabrics from their home countries — as well as vintage, repurposed, and sustainable materials — to create handmade items, which they sell through their Etsy shop.
18. Eternal Threads
If you need pretty tablecloths and napkins and homey stuff, I like Eternal Threads. This awesome organization also offers birthday party packages, bright raffia animal garlands, and accessories. You can purchase small business training, literacy classes, and sewing machines for women in Afghanistan and Nepal. Eternal Threads creates income generating programs that train and provide sustainable livelihoods to improve the lives of women and children who have been exploited and trafficked.
Bethlehem Alemu started soleRebels to bring jobs to her area of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and her shoes are now distributed all over the world. I have a pair of the CoZEE boots and they are insanely comfortable. All soleRebels use recycled tires as the soles. They ship free anywhere in the world, and these shoes are fair trade and made in Ethiopia.
20. The Root Collective
The Root Collective makes beautiful shoes in Guatemala, and the jobs they create help keep kids out of gangs. Their artisans own their own companies and set their own prices. The Root Collective works with nonprofit organizations in the communities where they work and donates 10% of the profit back into the nonprofits, which are working toward sustainable development and not creating dependence.
I love these versatile sandals. You can buy different straps, and they have online tutorials on all the different ways you can tie them. Endless strappy sandal possibilities. Sseko employs young women in Uganda during the nine-month gap between high school and university, helping them earn money for school, which is accrued in a savings account until their tuition is due. They also have matching gifts that match 100% of the money earned. They use a sustainable, self-sufficient model of economic development.
22. Krochet Kids
Krochet Kids started with three guys teaching people living in camps in Northern Uganda how to crochet hats. Their goal is sustainable economic development. They teach people how to crochet, give them a job, educate and mentor them in personal budgeting, saving and loaning, and business development. They help people who are sick of living off the government and aid organizations to become self sufficient. You can actually go on their site and write a thank you note to the person who made your hat. They post the thank yous on their site, and it’s so fun to see all the sweet comments from happy customers.
23. Bella Luna Toys
Bella Luna Toys offers organic, handmade, “green” toys. They sell imaginative toys for dress-up, ride-on toys, arts and crafts, and toys encouraging play skills and sensory exploration. These toys are beautiful and unique, and pouring through the website, I feel my own imagination come to life as I flip through pages of parachutes and castles, silken streamers and dollhouses.
Amani is a sewing and reconciliation program for marginalized women in Africa. They sell really cute nativities and home decor. Women from many African nations and cultures are learning to work together through faith in God, who provides a peace that transcends cultural and ethnic differences. Amani is committed to holistic development. The women in the program gain experience in stitching, quality control, purchasing, bookkeeping, management and design. As new women enter the program, they are mentored in quality workmanship with an emphasis on ethical business practices and harmonious relationships.
COUPON CODE: “newlyunexpected” (free U.S. shipping)
Not enough consumer goods are made with recycled content, so five guys created a company that makes beautiful home goods from 100% recycled or repurposed materials. I’ve been all over their website and can’t wait to try out the glasses and trays. And you guys, they have really special fuzzy blankets, and you know I love a good blanket. One of the founders, Michael, told me, “Everything from our products to our packaging (even the ink we use) is recycled and as low impact as possible.”
Well there you have it. My top 25 picks for where to shop this Christmas and make this world a better place for everyone living in it. May you and yours have a very, merry, slave-free Christmas!
Slave-Free Christmas Challenge
This Christmas, I’ve challenged myself to shop my Christmas list from organizations that are helping, not hurting, people. Today, 27 million men, women, and children live as someone else’s property. Slaves are making the items that I’m buying to celebrate the birth of my Lord and Savior. Somehow I don’t think He’s blessed by the blood on His birthday presents. If you buy something from the list, please post a pic on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter and tag it #SlaveFreeChristmas so we can encourage these companies working hard to help others.