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Gifts for life

Why not go ethical this year? Alison Brace has some great ideas for presents which will benefit the poor but won't break the bank

Is the crazy consumerism of Christmas getting you down? Or is it the prospect of the three million tonnes of waste we'll create, or even the 8,000 tonnes of wrapping paper we'll use which is dampening your festive spirit?

If you feel the season of goodwill has become nothing more than the season of ringing cash tills then it's time to think about giving something different this year.

How about a goat? For pound;30, Farm Africa will supply an animal to a struggling farmer in Africa - for information see

Buy this for a friend and they will receive a toy animal and an information pack about how their present will help transform a life.

Or how about helping families from Chitsulo, Malawi, organise their own pressure group? They need a bridge built across a river to get to their local hospital. For the sum of pound;88, ActionAid ( will help equip them with the skills to lobby politicians.

If you fancy spreading a little seasonal cheer closer to home, then maybe giving a group of underprivileged Year 7 pupils their first taste of the theatre or opera would be your thing? This will cost you just pound;5 a head from

Or how about giving a homeless person a full Christmas dinner with all the trimmings? Buy a Harrods Christmas pudding for pound;20 from and you will be doing just that.

But perhaps the most ethical Christmas gift idea comes from the development charity, Voluntary Service Overseas, which is looking for teachers to work in Africa or Asia for one month to two years.

"You don't have to give money this Christmas," says Abigail Fulbrook, a VSO spokeswoman. "Just give yourself. It's the ultimate Christmas gift." It saves on the wrapping paper too


Peace oil (pound;9.95 a bottle) - olive oil produced in Israel by Jews, Arabs, Druze and Bedouin working together. Profits support peace and reconciliation work in the Middle East:

Indulge in Truly Divine Fairtrade Chocolate Treats for pound;3.50,, or for pound;8, buy 128 cocoa tree seedlings for a family in Ghana from

pound;9 pays for 30 school dinners in an African school at

pound;17 will buy a cataract operation for an adult or 10 pairs of glasses:

A school desk and chair for pound;15 or fishing nets for pound;10 from Oxfam's Christmas selection:

If you're feeling flush, pound;1,200 will buy a library for an Indian village from

Recycled wrapping paper and Fairtrade gift wrap (from pound;3.99) available from

Children's games, such as clown skittles from Sri Lanka, pound;14 from

pound;30 buys 100 fruit tree saplings for an African village:

From just pound;10 a month link up with a VSO volunteer working in areas of need and get regular updates and pictures of their work:

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