Diwali gifts that give back
By buying these gifts you can also help the poor and needy.
Diwali is no longer just about the extravagance that the rich can afford. While on one hand, eco-friendly crackers, home pujas, flower based rangolis are taking over, on the other hand, the spirit of thanksgiving is also being nurtured by people. This does not mean just the giving of gifts to friends and family but also to the poor and the needy.
This is being done by buying those products the proceeds of which are used for charity.Diyas
Go shopping to the Blind School Diwali Mela at the Lodhi Road ground for all your Diwali needs because as you fill your baskets with goodies, you keep contributing to the less privileged. It is a simple fair which does not change much over the years. But do visit this Diwali Bazaar as it is popularly called, held by the Blind School Relief Association founded in 1944. Starting from handmade chocolates to pottery; from Chinese toys to artificial jewellery; from diyas and candles to various colourful danglers, one can get everything here.
The candles made by the visually impaired students continue to remain the most popular. They are handmade and not very expensive. But they sell out very fast. So do make sure that you visit the mela in he initial days itself.
Gift packs of handmade diyas and candles are also available online. These are made by the artisans of Vidya Udyog Kendra. These artisans live in slum communities of various parts of India. Headquartered in Delhi, they have branches in Mumbai and Bangalore too. For every product that is purchased, the artisans benefit directly. Prices starting at Rs 100, they are not expensive at all. So do go ahead and buy them as they are for a good cause and are eco-friendly and innovatively designed as well.
Diyas, cards and skylamps are also being made by the mentally challenged kids at Prabodhini Vidya Mandir in Nasik. Rajani Limaye, the founder president of the organisation which has been functioning for more than 25 years now, feels that making these items instils in them not only the creative instinct but also the happiness during the festive season.
Some other NGOs in Mumbai which are making diyas are:
- Manav Foundation: For purchase mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
- LIFE Trust: For purchase mail to email@example.com
- Ojus Medical Institute: Damini Women’s Project: For purchase mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Photographs: Amit Dave/ Reuters
Diwali cards form an important part of the festivities. This year, instead of buying expensive ones, try purchasing those which have a good cause attached to them. There are a number of NGOs which bring out these cards for the festive season.
Koshish, Centre for the Deaf have cards which have pictures of the children who are challenged and they have been shot by in house photographers.
Similarly Cancer Patients Aid Association also has Diwali cards. Starting at around Rs 11, they are very nominally priced. One can mail email@example.com for further details regarding its availability.
Assema is another charitable organisation that takes care of under privileged kids. They are also making cards, the proceeds of which go for the upliftment of the kids. These cards are 4.5 inches by 6 inches in size and are blank on the inside. Details regarding its purchase can be mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Similarly, Akanksha Foundation Charity which reaches out to poor kids are making cards for this festive season. For bulk order of over 5000 discounts are given on these nominally priced cards. For details one can mail to email@example.com.
Some cards can be purchased from the ebay website as well. This includes cards made by the El Shaddai Charitable Trust. This trust takes care of orphans by providing them with food, clothing and shelter. NGO Narad Charity also has Diwali cards made by the tribal artists of Jawahar. A set of eight cards costs around Rs 150.
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
School-Without-Walls is an education system for the underprivileged kids run by Syamantak Voluntary Oorganisation.
It is located in Maharashtra in the Dhamapur village in Sindhudurg.
For Diwali the kids here are ready with its sweets made of natural products. For example the eggless banana halwa and the nut malt. The sweets and gift hampers all come in bamboo boxes. For more details one can mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photographs: Sahil Salvi
Bags and home decor
Sari Bari sells a number of items online which can make beautiful Diwali gifts. This includes home decor items like table and cushion covers, bags, scarves and even jewellery. These are actually made from Indian saris by woman who has been involved in sex trade in Kolkata’s red light areas.
Sari Bari offers an opportunity to such women who want to come out of lives of exploitation. For each product that you buy, not only do you help these ladies but also, since each of the items have the name of the person marked who created it, you become a part of her journey as well.
Go to the website http://saribari.com/ for viewing the catalogue and for ordering. Also, for those in Kolkata, they can be visited in Canning every Monday between 10.30 am to 1.00 pm to meet the ladies and also for purchasing the goodies.
Such gifts are also being made by the Women's India Trust in Mahim (email@example.com) and the Society for the Education of the Crippled in Agripada (firstname.lastname@example.org). The latter is especially working on open gloves, kitchen aprons and tea cosy sets.
Visit Masmara at www.masmara.com to buy innovative and an exquisite range jewellery and bags for this festive season. The products are hand crafted by artisans from the villages of India.
Based in Bangalore, this organisation began operations with the aim to bring little known rural art to people and also to support them. All products made by them are eco-friendly and thus it has a global appeal. For example the raw materials used are jute, banana and hibiscus fibre, sheep wool etc. The prices are reasonable with a red coloured cotton bead choker necklace made by the craftswomen of North Karnataka priced only at Rs 355.
Metal jewellery crafted by the nomadic Lambani tribes of Karnataka are over Rs 500 a piece though.
St. Mary's Mahila Shikshan Kendra centre in Ahmedabad helps women from the poor families of the region. Most of these families are landless labourers who came to the city in search of a better life. The proceeds of all products bought are distributed to these artisans in the form of savings plan, school scholarships for their kids and also for upgrading their technical knowledge.
The women of this trust create excellent embroidered and mirror worked cushions, baskets, wall hangings and even innovatively designed candles. These make wonderful gifts during the festival of lights. For buying one needs to visit them online at http://www.tenthousandvillages.com. The prices are a little expensive, but worth it.
For example a handmade candleholder costs around Rs 1000 and a necklace around Rs 1500.
Other than this, the Indian Artisans Online (http://www.indianartisansonline.com/) is another platform where one can not only shop online for various textiles, home decor and handcrafted products but also help to positively impact the lives of the Indian artisans. After in-depth research, this forum has collated the work of various artisans across India whom the customers can contact directly.
This online store has an interesting collection of beautifully handcrafted pieces which can make excellent gifts for this festive season. Prices are reasonable with a traditional Dokra brass and copper necklace costing Rs 410, a brass inlay pen stand priced at Rs 520 and various candleholders ranging between Rs 300 and 350.
Recycling used products to create decorative items are widely being used by various NGOs. Not only is it giving the needy the opportunity to create something and earn a livelihood, but also helps the environment too. And as for us, it makes interesting gifts to give too.
For example, the youth run NGO, Swechha based in Delhi, which focuses on environmental and social development issues made wallets out of rice sacks last year.
There are others too which are creating interesting curios out of buttons, gunny bags, toes, chips packets, mobile covers etc. For this they employ underprivileged women, needy kids, even rag pickers for the job. This includes NGOs like:
A Hundred Hands (email@example.com)
Many of these NGOs are exporting too. For example Conserve India sends it to European countries and Haathi Chaap (products can be bought at http://www.itokri.com) which makes paper out of cotton and elephant dung has a huge market in Germany.
As for the price of these items, they are a little expensive. This is because the work of creating items out of waste is very labour intensive. It involves efforts right from collecting the waste to turning it into a new product.
Visit the Charity Haat in Ahmedabad. It is located at the BPA campus near IIM. Started a decade ago, you are sure to get a mixed bag of articles here. It ranges from second hand electronic items to furniture. Now even big names like Big Bazaar, Star Bazaar and Pantaloon have begun to participate by sharing unused clothes, shoes etc.
This Haat is run by the volunteers from the Blind People's Association. The proceeds from this fair are used to light up the Diwali of the disabled in the city.