Giving a goat as a Christmas present is certainly unusual, but in Britain it’s one popular way of helping fight poverty in Africa. Holiday shoppers can go online and buy a goat for about $40, and through Oxfam, a charitable relief agency, the sender gets a personalized card and picture of the animal, and a family in Africa gets valuable livestock.
Rachel Brown is the manager of “Oxfam Unwrapped,” an alternative gift catalog that gives Britons and others worldwide the chance to buy an item, such as the goat, or a service that benefits someone living in a poor country. She says, “the idea came about as a way of enabling people in the West to buy items to help poor people.” She said it’s a way of engaging the public in Oxfam’s work by its offering unusual and useful items for those in need. For example, she says, “people think it’s much funnier to buy a toilet for someone than to buy bubble bath at Christmas, and it’s just a way of bringing to life what we really do and how we help people.”
NOT JUST GOATS
Brown says everything offered, such as donkeys and camels, is requested by the communities Oxfam works with.
The "Oxfam Unwrapped" official says program feedback is positive and plentiful and has transformed peoples’ lives, “giving them a sense of hope and dignity, which is great news.” She says the countries benefiting from the program are Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, north and south Sudan, Rwanda, Somalia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Niger, Mauritania, Mali and Ghana.
Brown says there are 52 items in the catalog which are selling very well. They include school dinners, classroom supplies, mosquito nets, essential medicines, trees for planting, and training for farmers. She says, “there’s a really wide range of gifts from all over the world but most of our ideas do come from Africa because obviously there is such a big level of need there.”
THE WORD IS OUT
The Oxfam representative says Oxfam has a support base in the United Kingdom that is huge – and very receptive to the program. She says it also captures the public’s imagination.
“Oxfam Unwrapped” also advertises. Examples include banners on websites, e-mails, billboards on London buses, and advertising in newspapers and magazines. She says the response is great, “We only need a little bit of investment to get a huge return because people think this is such an exciting idea.”
For more information or to buy gifts for Christmas, go to www.oxfamunwrapped.com.
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