Ways To Give Back This Holiday Season

Baby ISO holding an acorn.jpg

Hurray! It feels good to be back after needing to take a few days off to care for Baby ISO's cold. And I'm back with a post about giving back this holiday season. I know that it's super easy to get caught up in the sparkle, shopping, endless cookie baking, and festive parties over the holidays, but even making as small a change as carefully selecting where you shop can benefit people in need. So this holiday season, I'm going to work towards giving back both with gifts and with donations. Here are a few of the places that I've found in my search for charities and ethical companies:




Refugee Women's Center

The Refugee Women's Center based in northern France is run by dedicated individuals who volunteer daily in Dunkirk and three days per week in Calais. The volunteers focus on emergency situations as well as distributing needs to women and their families. They also aim to do arts and crafts activities as well as provide information and contacts to all refugees in the center. The Refugee Women's Center currently accepts monetary donations that provide babies with bottles and women with medical care and sanitary needs. My heart aches when I imagine not being able to provide a clean bottle or diapers to a baby.

If you speak directly with Katie via Instagram, you might also be able to organize sending gently used toys to be distributed to children at the center--some of Baby ISO's toys are going in the mail this week.

Recently we attended a "personal resilience and supporting others" training session with Dr. Lynne Jones. Amongst the most poignant parts of the session were reflections from a Syrian refugee who co-founded "Refugees 2 Refugees". Driven by personal experiences of powerlessness on refugee camps, this inspiring man started up an organisation to empower refugees; predominately by encouraging them to initiate and implement community based programming from within camps and accommodation centres. The disempowerment that goes hand in hand with uncertainty and controlled everyday decisions, that we take for granted day to day, manifestly impacts the mental wellbeing of refugees to a profound extent. In an environment where opportunities are sparse, enabling refugees choice and the ability to utilise their broad array of skills and assets is a basic human need they deserve. We are dedicated to enabling families to practice skills; from providing knitting materials, distributing cooking equipment and doing language learning exchange; thus providing a platform where refugees can retain their identity, hobbies, dignity and a touch of home from home. At the Refugee Women's Centre, we feel we can learn so much from these resilient human beings, and empowerment will continue to be at the centre of our work. If you feel our work is worthwhile and want to help us continue to change lives, please donate through the link in our bio.

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Toy Drives/Book Drives/Food Drives

Drives of any sort making giving really easy since they are often held locally right at a location in which you can buy something to donate. For example, in both Vilnius and Florence, food drives are held seasonally in grocery stores and the international schools have held toy drives and/or partnered with local orphanages. I bet there is a drive in your area--I know of a few in Florence if you need ideas and would like a suggestion!

Crune Lab

Crune Lab is another charity supporting refugees that I found on Instagram. Crune Lab is based in Tuscany and focuses on giving a space for refugees to create and sell handcrafted goods. Crune Lab is often looking for donations of fabric and artists who are willing to teach sewing, design, and crafting skills. You can learn more about supporting or volunteering at the Crune Lab on their website.

The Book Fairies

Reading is so important! The Book Fairies fights against inner city illiteracy by striving to provide people in the New York area with books. They are always looking for like-new book donations at all reading levels or monetary donations that can range from supporting one child with books for a full school year or provide an entire grade with books. If you are in the area, you can also hold a book drive.


Ethical Shopping


You'll likely be purchasing gifts for loved ones at this time of year, so how about supporting ethical brands whenever possible? Your purchase can be a great gift for someone on your list and do something as amazing a provide new shoes, glasses, a school bag, or job security to someone in need. And how awesome will your gift recipient feel if they receive something that they know has done good for someone else?!


Toms is such a well-known, international brand that it needs no introduction. If you have a frequent traveler on your list, you could surprise them with practical, comfortable shoes, with the added benefit that purchase provides shoes and clean water to those in need. I've worn Toms shoes for years and especially loved them when I was working in rural China.

Warby Parker

Another buy one give one company like Toms, Warby Parker is a gorgeous glasses brand that has distributed over 3 million pairs of glasses! So if you need new glasses or sunglasses this Christmas--I do!-- purchase frames from Warby Parker and provide glasses to someone who needs them!


With your purchase of a backpack from State, the company gives one backpack stuffed with school supplies to a U.S. kid in need.

New small accessories are here - take your pick. #statebags #GiveBackPack

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Cotopaxi is a great brand for travelers as they sell coats, backpacks, tents, and sleeping bags. They also donate 2% of revenue yearly to help alleviate poverty.


If you want to upgrade your man's travel bag, Duffler creates rugged, carry-on sized bags and when you spend an extra 10 euros, Duffler gives 30 euros to This World Exists charity.

John's Crazy Socks

Who doesn't need a new pair of socks at Christmas? John's Crazy Socks is a company run by a father and his son who has Down Syndrome. Two dollars from each purchase of their Down Syndrome Awareness socks goes to fund Down Syndrome charities.

Ten Thousand Villages

Ten Thousand Villages is one of my favorite places to browse home decor, and the company directly collaborates with artists across the globe, providing jobs and business opportunities for people in developing countries.

The Company Store

Based out of Wisconsin, the Company Store makes the warmest, best quality comforters to make your bed super cozy for the winter (I've had the same one since grad school!). When you purchase a comforter from the Company Store, they give a comforter to a homeless child.

Globe In

If you have someone on your list who recently moved house or purchased a home, a gift or gift box from Globe In makes a great gift. Purchase of home decor or pantry items from Globe In directly supports local artisans and farmers in rural communities

Cuddle and Kind

For the little kids on your list, Cuddle and Kind sells the sweetest stuffed animals and every doll sold equals 10 meals for kids in need.


One of my favorite lifestyle blogs, In Honor of Design, also has numerous great suggestions for giving back locally! Check out this post for one of her many suggestions.

What other charities or brands can you add to this list? I'd love to learn more!