Online charity stores offer wide range of gifts for worthy causes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 December, 2009, 12:00am

It is never easy choosing the right Christmas present. Do you go for that new Louis Vuitton bag, the Patek Philippe watch or a 10-metre stretch of road on the mainland and a new toilet for a family in Nepal?

Gift givers are finding that the solution to their Christmas present dilemmas lies not in Hong Kong's glitzy malls but on the websites of charities. In the past, supporting charities at Christmas involved buying greeting cards and calendars or making a straightforward donation. But the ever-increasing number of worthy causes competing for the same dollars has forced charities to become more creative, with many now offering donors more control over where their money goes. In recent years, the trend has developed into a gift service whereby instead of buying birthday, Christmas and even wedding presents, you can opt to donate the money to a specific charitable project on behalf of those you were planning to give to.

Surf the Web and you will find all manner of charity gifts on offer.

Around HK$320 will buy your friend a gift of footballs and sports equipment for a school in Tanzania, while HK$5,000 will train a midwife in Sierra Leone. Alternatively, with HK$425, you can buy a gift that will help rescue a bonobo ape in the Congo while HK$175 will help reduce your carbon footprint with a contribution to a wind farm in Shandong province.

Oxfam has its 'Unwrapped' gift programme, ActionAid its 'Gifts in Action' and Save the Children has its 'Wish List', to name just a few.

However, the charity gift is not a complete solution, as Australian Ashley Rosshandler discovered when he and his wife decided to buy one for a friend who had become engaged. 'We thought a charity gift like a well or a goat might be nice, but then it's always a bit sticky when you buy someone a gift like that. What if they're not into goats? What if they're into whales or heart research?' he said. 'So we thought wouldn't it be great if we could empower the people receiving the gifts to decide where they'd like the money to go? That's when we came up with the idea of a charity gift voucher.'

Rosshandler went on to set up Karma Currency, a non-profit foundation that allows people to buy gift vouchers that the recipient can donate online to their chosen charity from a list of 150.

Following are a few of the charities offering gift services this Christmas:

Oxfam ( A wide range including potatoes, seeds, trees, livestock, fishing equipment and toilets, from HK$80 to HK$1,000.

Action Aid ( Gifts ranging from mosquito nets, energy-saving stoves, winter coats for children in mountain regions of Vietnam to donkeys and carts for women in Ghana, from around HK$100 to HK$5,000.

Heifer International Hong Kong ( Bees and livestock to help poor farmers on the mainland become self-reliant.

Save the Children (www.savethechildren. Gifts to improve all aspects of the lives of children in poor communities including shoes, textbooks, school uniforms, teacher training and water filters. From HK$90 to HK$8,000.

Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ( Gifts range from desexing and micro-chipping a street cat for HK$300 to kitting out an SPCA inspector for HK$1,500.

Karma Currency ( Gift vouchers redeemable at more than 150 different charities covering a broad range of causes.

World Food Programme ( Gifts range from meals in impoverished areas to water storage systems and kitchens, from US$30 to US$10,000.