The holiday season is a time of generosity and exchange. For many friends and families, gift-giving is a deeply rooted tradition—a tangible way to demonstrate love and appreciation. For some, the stress of selecting a unique and meaningful gift can temper the joy of gifting. And in the haste of last-minute shopping, we may lose the opportunity to make mindful selections. At Extraordinary Journeys, we see the holidays as an opportunity to choose gifts that give back. This year, we’ve assembled a joyful selection of global goods—including many gifts from East Africa—that have big stories to tell and are an amazing way to give back. Each supports one of our partners who have a noble cause or community, many are handmade and all are assured to delight their recipient.
Azizi Life is a not-for-profit purveyor of beautiful, handmade home items and fashions, made by artisans in Rwanda. The quality of materials is superb—local, natural and renewable—and the designs, featuring collections both traditional and modern, are covet-worthy. Neutral palettes and timeless patterns make it a very giftable catalog of goods. Even better, the fair-trade economic opportunities Azizi Life provides means artisans and their families are rising out of poverty. By the work of their hands, women are becoming financial contributors. Gifting a basket made by women in Kigali or a set of woven bowls supports their investment in a range of community impact projects. American customer orders are shipped from the company’s Washington state warehouse for timely holiday arrivals.
“Saving gorillas—one sip at a time.”
When you brew a coffee with Gorilla Conservation Coffee beans, your morning Joe is felt a world away. These special blends represent Uganda’s first coffee beans expressly made and sold to protect endangered gorillas and their fragile habitat. The social enterprise finds success in its mission by helping vulnerable communities living in close proximity to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park establish a viable source of income. Notably, Gorilla Conservation Coffee pays its growers an above-market price, reducing the instances of people using the national park to meet their family’s basic needs for food and wood fuel. The result is delicious, medium roast, single origin, 100 per cent Arabica coffee. Each steaming sip starts with a citrus taste and wraps with a sweet finish. Aroma notes include caramel, butter and almond. Gorilla Conservation Coffee is available for sale on its US-based online retail store.
Lower Zambezi, Zambia
Founded, flowered and fruited in the depths of the pandemic, the fashions and homewares born of Zambezi Joy Society spread chitenge cheer. For the uninitiated, chitenge or kitenge are blissfully bold fabrics traditionally worn by women as a sign of respect, styled across the waist, chest and over the head as a headscarf. The Society’s talented designers and seamstresses use the boisterous and bright fabric to handcraft items like Christmas wreaths, aprons, dog bandanas, table linens, shoes, backpacks and more. Gifting some chitenge cheer this season will add a pop of fun and color to your recipient’s home or closet while supporting and empowering Zambian artisans and pattern makers. Zambezi Joy Society ships worldwide.
Ethiopia, Colombia & Peru
It may look like an ordinary 12-ounce package of coffee beans, but every bag of fair-trade certified Laughing Man Coffee sold—or gifted—supports its mission of empowering Ethiopian, Colombian, and Peruvian communities through farming to help eliminate poverty. On a visit to Ethiopia in 2009, the company’s founder, actor Hugh Jackman (maybe you have heard of him?) was inspired by the optimism and determination of a young coffee farmer named Dukale. Since this fateful meeting, the quality of life enjoyed by Laughing Man Coffee’s farmers and their families has elevated—thanks to steady, sustainable incomes, but also through its charitable foundation which issues college scholarships and contributes to renovating the homes of co-op members. We recommend gifting the signature, medium roast Dukale’s Dream blend. Rich, bold and perfectly balanced with subtle notes of blueberry and dark chocolate, it yields a cup of coffee that might just inspire your next charitable deed. Laughing Man Coffee can be purchased by the bag or as a subscription delivery.
In a remote region of Zambia, on the edge of South Luangwa National Park, Mfuwe artisans working in a small rural workshop use traditional Batik techniques to produce gorgeous hand painted textiles. The prints are uniquely African, pulling iconic motifs and drawing inspiration from culture and wildlife. Whether you gift a one-of-a-kind cushion cover or a tote, you can feel good knowing this community-invested retailer is creating economic opportunities in a place where jobs scarcity sometimes forces folks to engage in poaching or deforestation. Makers receive a fair monthly wage and a host of benefits that ascend the basics: sick pay, a housing allowance, nutritious meals, medical care and feminine hygiene products. All Tribal Textile items are made from non-GMO cotton and water-based, non-toxic paints. To shop, view the company’s website for a US-based stockist near you.
Slipped over the hand and delicately dangling on the wrist, a Down to the Wire silver bangle gives no indication that it used to be a deadly wildlife snare. At the date of publication, the organization has reworked a staggering 8.5 miles of wire animal snares, fashioning beauty from cruelty and turning destruction into hope. Because snares are low cost to create, low effort to construct and are inhumanely effective, poachers widely favor them. Snared animals often die a slow, painful death—unless anti-poaching units are able to intervene. From rings to pendants to its signature adjustable bangles, each Down to the Wire sale creates awareness around poaching while raising funds for wildlife veterinarians who dedicate themselves to treating and rehabilitating injured wildlife.
Imagine walking into a marketplace where the goods have been mindfully curated and lovingly handcrafted by artisans from Ghana to Guatemala, many of whom are displaced persons and refugees. In this marketplace, many items draw on traditional crafts—weaving, embroidery and dyeing—made using techniques that have been passed from one generation to the next. This is Millie Marketplace, a social enterprise creating employment opportunities and economic empowerment for women. Since launching in 2018, it has contributed $22,500 to education campaigns, nearly $20,000 to women-led charities in the Middle East and has rallied against period poverty. We love that each product listing includes a meet-the-maker biography, describes the item’s inspiration and explains the impact. The result: beautiful, fair-trade gifts that tell a story.
Over the last hundred years, the world has watched the steady decline of wild cheetah populations—by some estimates, as high as 90 per cent. Since 1990, the Namibia-based Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) has been championing efforts to save the species. The challenges are complex and the solutions are holistic, requiring the engagement of stakeholders across the animal’s range. This season, the CCF encourages cheetah lovers to wear their cause on their sleeve by purchasing a T-shirt, long-sleeve tee, hoodie or crewneck from its Happy Holidays campaign. The design features a festive, Fair Isle spin on the organization’s logo. All sales go to the Fund’s efforts to help human communities successfully live alongside the cheetah, while supporting conservation, research, and education.
Looking for some more ideas for travel-related gifts that give back? Check out this story on East African holiday gifting ideas.