Friday, December 19, 2014

How to shop for the holidays in a socially concious way

**Look for links right in the post with more down at the bottom!!**
If the person you are trying to buy a present for has cupboards full of food and didn't make a special request for something, chances are the best present for them isn't at the mall.

Lululemon is but one example of who's at the mall but they were just in the news because they *only* sold about $420 MILLION in the last quarter. They don't need your money. Many small business would be over the moon if they sold $42,000 in that same time-frame.

A quick side note, and this applies to everything from retail to restaurants and to the music and film industries. Every little fish of course wants to be a big fish. The bigger the fish you are the more successful you must be and the more money you should make. The more money you make the more freedom you have blah blah blah. It's a vicious circle and I certainly can't claim to not also wish for success for myself and my little vintage business. I don't hate on business for having been successful, but more so for how it often breeds greed.

That said, you do you think appreciates your support more, the big fish faceless corporation at the mall or the little fish?

It doesn't matter if you want to help people on the other side of the world with micro loans (imagine if a small loan was enough to start your own business and literally stop your family from starving to death) or your local artisan who is now able to put his/her kids in dance classes because of your purchase.

Photo of Danielle from her GoFundMe page
There are also other options that you can give to instead of buying a present at the mall - support a local artist, buy a handmade card (or make it yourself!) and tell them why you thoughtfully chose to support someone like Danielle from my blog post the other day. Danielle lives right here in Winnipeg and she has a brilliant mind but a body that doesn't quite function like most of ours. She needs a wheelchair to get around but the wheelchairs provided by our health care oddly enough aren't designed for Winnipeg winter use. Instead of giving up and sitting at home on disability she volunteers her time to help others. She will undoubtedly help others if she's able to get her law degree - but that's next to impossible if she's housebound because her wheelchair is broken or because she can't get through the snow. Why doesn't she just suck it up and buy herself one then you ask - well, what job do you know of that is going to pay her well enough to buy a $30,000 wheelchair when she can't always make it to work because she's stuck at home waiting for someone to come and fix her unreliable chair? See, another circle.

If children can ask for donations instead of presents for their birthdays (that's a big thing now) surely you can buy a goat (Oxfam), buy a homeless person dinner (Siloam) instead of getting your Aunt Mabel a Walmart gift card (The Oxfam link will take you to their site where you can buy more than just goats, lots of great items)
Buy a goat for someone (image from Oxfam website)

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with presents, but if you're going to give something tangible consider shopping local, as in locally made or sourced not something from the local mall. Remember a $40 present from a local shop or creator puts that money into the hands of someone you know*

*since Winnipeg has probably about 3 degrees of separation at best.

You can even shop from 100's of local shops from the comfort of your couch - if you've not yet heard of etsy it's a great place to be impressed by the ingenuity of those around us. They also have a lot of vintage items. Check out this link to search etsy listings just in Winnipeg:

The Scrap Came Back - a local upcycling shop on St. Anne's that says "All of our products are hand-made pieces constructed from hand-picked scrap. Many of our pieces are made from Manitoban artists, many of whom have disabilities. A few of our pieces are made by people overseas; all of these products are strictly fair-trade."

Similar to Oxfam, Plan Canada offers the chance to purchase items to help those in need in other parts of the world. Access to education, clean water, healthcare - all things we typically take for granted.

By no means is my list exhaustive - there are so many ways to give local, shop local and to help those in developing nations.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Know EXACTLY where your donation is going

'Tis the time of year where we are all in a giving mood, but where to donate our dollars?

Well, if you want to see your dollars in action, possibly quite literally, then you should donate to Danielle Otto.

Danielle is a Winnipegger with big dreams and an even bigger hurdle - winter. From her Go Fund Me page:
I've been a wheelchair user since was five years old, and I have an awesome life.
Wheelchairs are often seen as as very negative: confining, limiting. But my power chairs have been extremely liberating to me. I can go anywhere, anytime I want without anyone's help.  And because I have Cerebral Palsy, that is a level of mobility I'd never be able  to achieve without this technology. It's amazing.

I've done a lot with the freedom my chairs have given me. I have a degree in Psychology. I work as a counsellor in a health clinic, and as advocate for university students. I'm hoping to go to law school in the Fall of 2015.     

Unfortunately though, my current chair isn't working out so well. It has poor traction in cold or snowy environments (a BIG problem for someone living in downtown Winnipeg who is a a die-hard pedestrian and public transit user). The footrests have broken EIGHT TIMES in a year and half. They are not designed for the way I need to use them. 

It is a constant source of worry and frustration.

I can't simply request a better chair.  Wheelchair Services in Manitoba offers only a few pre-selected chairs, made by a single manufacturer, and it doesn't really matter if those truly meet your needs. 

So I'm hoping that you will help me buy a Permobil M400 Corpus 3G. This device is VERY expensive , but Permobil chairs are well-respected in the wheelchair industry for being of superior quality, and having cutting-edge features like a special powered footplate that will not snap without warning...and drumroll please...SNOW TIRES.

By donating toward the purchase of an M400, you will give me tremendous peace of mind, and enable me to keep working toward my goals without slowing down for repairs.

Since this is Winnipeg, I "know" Danielle by only one degree of separation, and what she doesn't mention in her writeup is all the time that she has spent volunteering. Or how hard it can be to get a job that pays enough to cover additional expenses associated with her Cerebral Palsy; what jobs do you know that young adults have that don't typically require someone to be able-bodied?

Danielle has a brilliant mind and to help this young woman attend law school, something that will come with additional challenges for her over the other students, would be a benefit to society as a whole. She's one of those "going to change the world" sort of people.

So, this holiday season, if you are looking to do some good, or perhaps make a donation in lieu of a gift, consider helping Danielle out. If you are local to Winnipeg, you might even get to see her roll on by with her new wheels - that's seeing your dollars in action!