Shop Differently: Give a Card, Make Life Better

There are certain people in my family (remaining nameless), who wouldn’t know how to do Christmas without gift cards. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one, practical hand, gift cards make sense to give to those who sit with blank, unblinking stares when you press them for wish list. They are also often good for those same people to give, since they don’t want to shop anyway. My dad falls into both of these categories. Wrapping up any gift that he must find a place for in his home is simply sinful. He doesn’t want half the stuff he already has, and he certainly doesn’t want to trek out to buy stuff for anyone else. He’s an anti-stuff guy. So, yes, it’s gift cards for Dad. But the teenagers and college kids fall into the “give ’em a gift card” category too, and so does my cousin and my uncle. They don’t like stuff either. Some years, it seems as if our family Christmas party is more of a card exchange party: “Thanks for the Visa gift card and here’s your Barnes and Noble gift card. Merry Christmas.” Watching someone reach into that tiny gift bag for that same gift card can seem a little perfunctory. But hey, I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I’ll take a B&N gift card any day you want to give me one, Dad.

Some things won’t change. Dad, the cousins, the college kids, and my uncle will always be the gift card people. It makes sense. But my Dad surprised me this year by saying that he really doesn’t even want a gift card. I should explain that the only gift cards he receives are those to restaurants, since anything else would be wasted on him (read: he won’t get out to use it because that would involve shopping). So I’ve been pondering what to do about this, and I think I’ve found a solution. He doesn’t read my blog (he hates computers, too), but for those family members who can’t keep a secret, spoiler alert.  I’m about to reveal my Christmas idea.

And, this is a Shop Differently idea for the gift card people in your life.

Meet Iman.

He lives in Azerbaijan, and sells milk and breeds cattle. In a country where corruption is the modus operandi, it’s tough to make an honest living. Azerbaijan is also a country where those who aren’t in government or don’t live in the quasi-glitzy capital city of Baku are reduced to scratching out a living doing whatever they can, and, often, that isn’t even enough. I’ve been there and seen it for myself. These proud people want to make a good life, but sometimes they just need a little help. Maybe a little loan? Iman needs about 1,500 AZN in order to purchase more cattle for beef and a milk cow. Demand on these products is high, and he just isn’t able to cover the cost for growing his business and making a better life for himself. I know, you don’t have 1,500 AZN. How can you (and I) help Iman? Get a gift card!

I discovered Kiva about five years ago, and it just keeps getting better and better. Now, you can purchase a gift card for your loved one for as little as $25, and give someone like Iman a loan to help him get more cattle and a milk cow so he can sell meat and milk. Genius! Here’s how it works:

You purchase a Kiva gift card from their website. You’ll be able to print an actual card to give to your recipient after check-out. Your recipient will redeem it by selecting a borrower from Kiva’s list of fundraising loans and during checkout, they will apply the code from their gift card. All loans made by the gift recipient will be credited to his or her account and, when the borrowers repay the loan (and yes, there is a 97% repayment rate) those repayments can be used by the recipient to make even more loans! Tell me of a better Christmas gift for someone like my dad than helping an entrepreneur in a developing country work his or her way out of poverty. It beats a candle or a golf sweater any day.

I have to be prepared when I go to the Kiva website, because the stories are addicting. Here are a few more to get you as excited as I am about Kiva gift cards:

Maria lives in Colombia and is trying to make a living selling clothes, perfumes, accessories, bags, and other items. She wants to improve her quality of life by expanding her business, so she needs to purchase some cabinets to put her items in. Maria, as described by Kiva, is a “tireless fighter” who has run her own business for several years now. She needs a $1,075 loan, and is 46% there.

Oybegim lives in the Rudaki region of Tajikistan. She is 23 years old, married, and lives with her parents. Oybegim has been working as a seamstress from home for the last three years. She is taking out this loan to purchase fabrics. She needs a loan of $650 and is 3% there.

So if you’ve always yawned at the thought of getting out to get that obligatory gift card, here’s the answer! I think what the recipient receives is far better than anything a traditional gift card can buy.

And as for Dad, don’t forget, “mum’s the word.”

2 thoughts on “Shop Differently: Give a Card, Make Life Better

  1. I can’t tell you how much emotion this post brings to me. Especially since my trips to Armenia (I was right on the board of Azerbaijan) and Tajikistan are so fresh in my mind. I have seen these people, spent time with them and seen how such a small amount of money can go so far to helping these war torn countries.

    Great cause Lisa and thank you for reminding me what we can give instead of more stuff!

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