I’ve given up my annual grump about how early the holiday music and decorations appear in stores. The inevitable Christmas creep has arrived, but you can put a good spin on the extended gift-giving season. Before you play Santa for friends and family, visit Changingthepresent.org. This new website lets you buy a “gift” for more than 33 charitable causes worldwide, from disaster relief to human rights to third-world entrepreneurship, as easily as any other online shopping site. The specificity of the gifts makes it easy to be inspired. It only takes $14 to buy a sturdy pair of shoes for a girl in Africa who has to walk long distances to school. Donations can be a viable alternative gift for friends as well, providing the recipient has an activist mindset and the donation is individually matched to the recipient’s interests. In honor of the mentor who always inspired you to be self-sufficient, give a seamstress in Latin America a loan for her own sewing machine and the means to start her own business ($50, Calvert Foundation).
In addition to the donations, the site is also a resource for volunteer opportunities and news related to each cause. Anytime you need to renew your faith in humanity this holiday season, log on and do something good.