One of my favorite ways to kick off the holiday season is to (hand) write greeting cards to my dear friends and family. You see, I don’t have a sitcom life. My friends and I don’t all live in the same building, coming and going into (unlocked) apartments as we please. We don’t all meet up at the neighborhood bar and trade beers and tales between the laugh track. I’m lucky if I see them once a year; they live in places like China and Buffalo and Phoenix. Sending holiday cards is my way of acknowledging how much they still mean to me, even though we remain separated by tens, or thousands, of miles.
According to Hallmark, Americans send 1.5 billion holiday cards every year, a statistic that I’m betting makes Hallmark very happy indeed. But sending holiday cards doesn’t have to be a corporate affair. Hell, much of Christmas already is. By purchasing your holiday cards from a charity, everyone wins. You will have beautiful, unique cards to send to family and friends, and charitable groups benefit from the donation and exposure.
As a traveler, I feel so blessed to have actively participated in other cultures, and my life is all the richer for it. During the holidays, I focus on international organizations from which to buy my holiday cards. Below are a few of my favorites.
Angel Covers is dedicated to caring for orphaned and destitute children around the world. They operate Humble Hearts School for the Deaf in Nairobi, Kenya, and Mama’s Wish high school in Western China, which focuses on educating girls. Angel Covers’ holiday cards are quirky and original; I especially love the animal prints. They cost $13 for 10, and you can either choose 10 of one design or get one each of the 13 designs. What a deal! www.angelcovers.org
Faces of Siberia, selling their cards via Orphan Card Shop, offers assistance to school-age orphans and children in need (especially those with a limited chance of adoption) in the city of Ekaterinburg in Russia. Each holiday card design is a product of the Orphan Artwork program. They are so cute! 10 packs are $15.95. www.orphancardshop.com
Amani Children’s Home provides food, education, counseling, and medical care, and protection to Tanzania’s vulnerable children (those living on the streets or who are living with HIV/AIDS). Their exceptionally beautiful and sophisticated-looking charity holiday card prominently features the poinsettia flower, which grows readily throughout the country. The cards cost $14 for 25 or $7 for 10. http://cards.amanikids.org/us
CEOLI cards are hand painted by artisans in Bolivia, many of whom are mentally handicapped young adults. Many of the cards are of Bolivian scenery, but several would make lovely holiday cards. They are all hand-painted and therefore are priced a little higher at $1.25 per card. But still, it’s a small price to pay for a piece of bonafide art, art that empowers.
The Step Centre addresses the needs of children with disabilities in Kingston, Jamaica, with an emphasis on parental participation. Sales of the Christmas cards greatly help offset the costs of the operation. The Step Centre sells cards that are more traditionally “Christmas-y,” including another stunning poinsettia print, but my favorite is the scene of the backyard, by Jamaican artist Ainsley Martin. It just looks so serene, yet exotic. Sending this charity holiday card would definitely be a change of scenery from all the snow, snowmen, and snowflake cards I see being sold in boxes by the hundreds in the stores. Cards are $0.70 each.
Survival International is a movement working for tribal peoples’ rights worldwide. Their website does a much better job of summarizing their mission than I could ever hope to paraphrase, but their work is important in this ever-globalizing world of ours. Their selection of holiday cards are stunning photographs of tribal people at work, this one of reindeer herders in Siberia. They are $8.99 for a pack of 10, and if you buy four packs, you get a fifth for free. There are many scenes to choose from, and if you’re a resident of the UK you have even more options! How lucky are you? http://store.survivalinternational.org/c/cards
Half The Sky Foundation cares for orphans in China. Named for the Chinese adage “Women hold up half the sky” (which also inspired the name of bestselling book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn – seriously cannot recommend it enough), Half the Sky Foundation recognizes and seeks to remedy the fact that the majority of babies abandoned in China are girls. Their holiday cards are proudly Chinese; I love this one of the dragon made of poinsettia. It’s message? “May dragons set your dreams on fire this year.” Love it. Pay $25 for a dozen. www.halfthesky.org
Made By Survivors offers much more than just holiday cards, but their holiday greetings cards are so festive and beautiful, you’d think they were handcrafted by Santa’s elves than by survivors of human trafficking and slavery in Nepal. For $12 you get a set of 6 cards. www.madebysurvivors.com
What cards did I decide on this year? If I’m lucky enough to call you my friend, you’ll just have to wait and find out!