An Initiative of the International Youth Foundation an initiative of the international youth foundation

YouthActionNet Blog

Gifts to Feel Good About

Lisa Jones | December 9, 2014
Photo by Mercado Global

As we enter the holiday season, many struggle to find meaningful gifts that can be cherished not only for what they are, but the hope and possibility that they bring. Below you will meet 16 Fellows who have discovered diverse ways of funding their social ventures. Not only do they rely on non-traditional funding techniques to sustain and grow their projects, they often use income generation activities as catalysts for empowerment and change in the lives of the people they serve.

YouthActionNet’s support of these innovative young people is made possible through the Sylvan/Laureate Foundation’s generosity and commitment to global leadership development. Read on to learn more about Fellows’ work and how you can purchase gifts that brighten lives around the world.

Empowering women and girls through entrepreneurship:

Emerge Global, United States
Founded by Alia Whitney-Johnson, Emerge Global supports Sri Lankan girls who have been removed from their homes and placed into shelters due to past abuse, and are courageously testifying in court against their perpetrators. Emerge transforms these shelters into entrepreneurship hubs where girls develop the skills needed for self-sufficiency. Emerge enables each girl to generate a financial foundation by creating and selling unique jewelry. Half of the profits from each piece go directly to the girl, and half help sustain Emerge Global. Shop

Mujeres: Cambia, Ecuador
Founded by Marisa Catalina Casey, Mujeres: Cambia (Women Are Changing) provides opportunities for women in Ecuador to earn income and benefit the environment through making and selling jewelry created from recycled materials. Participants work toward change within their families and community by setting goals and participating in learning opportunities in areas like computer skills, business training, and financial literacy. All products are made by hand and priced to ensure that each artist is paid a fair wage. Shop

Rags2Riches, Philippines
Founded by Reese Fernandez-Ruiz, Rags2Riches (R2R) strives to make design, entrepreneurship, and progress truly inclusive by empowering low-income Filipinos to create eco-ethical fashion and home accessories from up-cycled scrap cloth and organic materials. R2R provides artisans with access to an international market and skills-based, financial and health training. In six years, R2R has trained over 900 artisans across communities in Metro Manila and continues to expand its social impact and eco-ethical footprint in the country. Shop

Mercado Global, Guatemala
Founded by Benita Singh, Mercado Global empowers indigenous women to overcome poverty and become agents of change in their communities. Women receive financial education and leadership skills to help them start small businesses, and are connected with large-scale sales opportunities to turn their skills into income. With this income, artisans provide nutritious food to their families and invest in their children's education, breaking the cycle of poverty in the community. Mercado products have received global recognition in The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue, and Elle Magazine, and have been sold through the popular retail chain Anthropologie. Shop

Carpets for Communities, Cambodia
Founded by David Bacon, Carpets for Communities empowers Cambodian mothers to earn a stable and fair income. Participants are taught how to make one-of-a-kind, hand-hooked carpets that are sold globally with the support of a large volunteer base. Children return to school within 48 hours of their mother joining the program, greatly reducing the risk of child labor and human trafficking. Once the family has stabilized, the mother is encouraged to develop her own business through a Carpets for Communities’
micro loan. Shop

Sughar, Pakistan
In Pakistan, sughar means ‘skilled and confident woman.’ According to founder Khalida Brohi, it’s a phrase rarely used. Sughar works to provide women in rural villages across Pakistan with opportunities to unleash their skills and confidence from within. Among several life skills and leadership initiatives, Sughar offers women the opportunity to make and sell traditionally-embroidered goods. In addition to preserving a rich cultural tradition, the approach equips women to earn income, increasing their independence and helping to diminish harmful customs like ‘honor killing’ and child marriages. Learn how you can help.

Color Silk, Cambodia
Founded by Vanntha Ngorn, Color Silk works with over 400 silk weavers in Cambodia to provide opportunities for economic independence through the production and sale of hand-woven textiles. Women in the program have either escaped the sex trade or come from a low-income subsistence farming household. Color Silk works with stakeholders in the private sector to link communities to international markets, providing weavers with fair wages and jobs they are proud of. See their designs.


Transforming communities through locally-owned solutions:

Development in Gardening (DIG), United States
Founded by Sarah Koch, DIG empowers African communities to develop sustainable shared gardens, improving nutrition and quality of life for vulnerable populations. DIG’s smallholder farming programs provide hundreds of families with a renewed sense of potential, and school garden programs teach children and their parents how and why to eat healthy. Purchase a donation gift in someone's honor such as watering cans, seeds, and tool sets, and DIG will mail the recipient a card describing the gift and what it
means to those who will use it. Shop

Pollinate Energy, Australia
Co-founded by Emma Colenbrander, Pollinate Energy improves the lives of India’s urban poor by giving them access to life-changing and affordable products such as solar lamps and safe cook stoves. The venture is made possible by its pollinators—entrepreneurial individuals from the region who take on the challenge of gaining people’s trust and connecting them to Pollinate products. In just 18 months, Pollinate has provided over 7,000 families with a solar lantern to replace their kerosene usage. Purchase a solar light or send a holiday card that lights up a family, or even a whole community, through your donation. Shop


Bringing hope to those living in society’s shadows:

Befriender Uganda, Uganda
Founded by Jane Nampijja, Befriender Uganda is the first and only organization to confront suicide in Uganda. Suicide is shrouded in negative social stigma in Uganda, leaving its victims and their families silenced. Jane confronts suicide through the Befriender Center, a group dedicated to suicide awareness and prevention. To make her work sustainable, Jane partners with local women who make beaded jewelry and donate a portion of profits to the Befriender Center. Partner venture Tuli sells the jewelry online,
with orders shipping from the US. Shop

Seven Women, Australia
Seven Women began when founder Stephanie Woolard met seven disabled women in Nepal working in a tin shed to support themselves. The disabled are often stigmatized in Nepal, leaving these individuals isolated and neglected. Today, Seven Women has two centers in Nepal that have trained and employed over 550 women who craft handmade home accessories and textiles sold in Australia with profits returned to further expand projects in Nepal. Seven Women won the 2014 Ethical Enterprise Award. Shop


Creating fair jobs for a more inclusive future:

The Yonso Project, Ghana 
Founded by Kwabena Danso, The Yonso Project works in Ghana to provide student scholarships, improve local schools, administer micro-loans to small-scale entrepreneurs, and pursue other innovative projects to provide accessible opportunities for rural families to break the cycle of poverty. The Project also employs rural youth at a bamboo bicycle production facility where they take part in producing long-lasting, eco-friendly bikes and accessories that are shipped worldwide. Shop

Oliberté, Canada
Founded by Tal Dehtiar, Oliberté is the world’s only fair-trade certified footwear manufacturing facility. Oliberté partners with factories, suppliers, farmers, and workers to produce premium eco-friendly footwear in Africa, creating fair-wage jobs and leading the charge for workers’ rights and economic growth in Africa. Oliberté is a lifestyle brand that seeks to tell the story of those who believe in its mission and products, such as inspiring African extreme sports athletes featured in its Sportanya initiative.  Shop


Providing a platform for youth to define their narrative:

Kosovo2.0, Kosovo
Co-founded by Besa Luci, Kosovo 2.0 gives a voice to the country's silenced, disenfranchised majority: young people. Kosovo 2.0 consists of an online platform which features daily blogs, videos, photo reports, and podcasts. In addition, Kosovo 2.0 releases a high-quality magazine twice a year, each issue focused on a theme of high sociocultural significance in Kosovo, Europe, and beyond. Past themes include religion, migration, public spaces, and corruption. Shop


Leveraging technology for social change:

StartSomeGood, United States
StartSomeGood empowers change makers to mobilize people—and funding—to transform their ideas into action and impact. Through their crowd funding platform, StartSomeGood has enabled social entrepreneurs worldwide to raise thousands of dollars toward projects people believe in. StartSomeGood’s GiftsForGood Christmas Sale showcases the diversity of projects that have successfully crowd funded on and each purchase supports both the social venture and StartSomeGood. Shop


Teaching girls to become tomorrow's leaders:

She's the First, United States
Co-founded by Christen Brandt, She's the First sponsors girls’ education in low-income countries with the goal of creating first-generation graduates and the next generation of global leaders.
Scholars learn more than science and math; they learn how to apply their new skills to the world around them, encouraged by a support system every step of the way. This season, She's the First is selling tote bags inspired by the message that girls can change the world; 100% of profits support girls' education. Shop