Alternative gift-giving yields global effects

By Karissa Rangel


The holiday season is synonymous with gift giving and chaotic shopping scenes spanning from Black Friday to Christmas Eve.

But the Women’s Global Connection – a ministry of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word – offers an opportunity for gift-givers to consider “alternative giving.”

Rather than worrying about what to give the person who has everything, WGC can channel the giving effort to donating perhaps pigs and chickens to women in Tanzania or funding preschool teacher training in Peru.

Alternative giving is non-traditional giving that allows gifting goods and resources globally to those most in need. Alternative giving capitalizes on the fact people have become more conscious of unnecessary spending for meaningless material gifts around the holidays.

Noted nonprofits for alternative giving include Heifer International and Oxfam. WGC’s mission is to promote the learning and leadership capacity of women locally and globally. And its Alternative Giving Program, which is promoted during the holidays, is available on its website.

Far away from the shopping malls of America lives Godbertha Mushowa, a member of a Tanzanian women’s group supported by WGC known as BUWEA, the Bukoba Women’s Empowerment Association. Mushowa and her husband, Philemon, work as peasant farmers in the Kabale village with their three daughters and one son.

Through WGC’s Alternative Giving Program, the family received a pig. When that pig had piglets, the family was able to sell the piglets and pay for their daughters to go to school. Since then, all of their children have graduated from secondary school and their granddaughter, Catherine, started primary school.

Because of the generosity of others and the help of WGC, Mushowa has been able to change not only her life, but also the life of her family and future generations.

Similarly, 53-year-old Angela Faustine, the mother of six, received one pig through WGC’s Alternative Giving Program in 2011. Since receiving the pig, Faustine has been able to help her husband by also contributing to the family’s income. Her pig delivered five piglets after seven months. With the money she sold the piglets for, Faustine was able to pay school fees and buy uniforms for one of her children. Her pig continues to deliver piglets and its manure helps yield a flourishing harvest. So a single holiday gift from San Antonio continues to change the life of Faustine and her family on a daily basis.

Nicole Foy, WGC’s associate director for communications and community development, said women such as Faustine and Mushowa are eligible to receive gifts through the Alternative Giving Program.

“Women apply to receive the animals and must do regular reporting to BUWEA and WGC about how they are adding value to their homes and businesses,” Foy said. “BUWEA acquires the animals there in Bukoba and grants them to the recipients. For the Global Business Partner program (available as part of the giving program), a donor is paired with a qualifying BUWEA woman who owns her own business, so that both may be in a relationship over the course of a year. They receive updates about each other’s lives and ventures. It is a nurturing mentor program.

“We challenge people to think about how powerful the giving spirit can be if even a fraction of holiday gift-giving budgets are aimed at directly improving the lives of the most vulnerable, rather than filling toy boxes and closets full of stuff that might be sold in a garage sale or donated a year later,” Foy said.

Alison Buck, WGC’s associate director of administration and women’s economic development, said although most of the items given are small, they benefit recipients directly.

“[The program] provides an opportunity for people who want to give…whether in honor/memory of someone or not, either at the holidays or some other time during the year,” Buck said.

Over the last four years, WGC has helped BUWEA women build 26 rainwater harvesters, providing clean water to more than 1,500 people in the Bukoba, Tanzania, region.

“When you take into account the granddaddy national nonprofits that excel at this, such as Heifer International and Oxfam, it is significant that San Antonio has its own local-to-global model of non-traditional, gift-giving through WGC,” Foy said. “One-hundred percent of the program’s donations are placed in the hands of those most in need.”


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