Do you find yourself too busy, in the midst of final exams and papers, to go Christmas shopping? Do you feel frustrated because you can’t find that perfect gift for your best friend or significant other? Or perhaps you find New Haven’s shopping options somewhat limiting? No need to fret. Yale’s second annual Alternative Gift Market, sponsored by the undergraduate service organization Reach Out and held at Dwight Chapel on Tuesday, Dec. 9, offers a solution for all the unsatisfied shoppers out there.
The Alternative Gift Market allows shoppers to purchase gifts for needy citizens of underprivileged countries in honor of family members and friends. For instance, instead of buying a box of candy for Aunt Mary, a shopper at this market might decide to provide nutritious meals for Haitian children or purchase a solar-powered computer for a rural school in Honduras. Then Aunt Mary receives an attractive card telling her about this unique present given in her honor.
Relief and development agencies will send all of the gifts purchased in the markets to developing nations and to poverty-ridden areas in the United States. This year’s shopping list includes eye care for people in Honduras, oxen and pigs for student farmers in Uganda, clean water in Latin America, bicycles for students in South Africa and Ghana, refugee resettlement in America, shelter and education for street children in India, and much more.
Why should you consider shopping at the Alternative Gift Market? The market offers shoppers an opportunity to preserve our endangered planet as well as help hungry, sick and homeless people help themselves. Instead of shopping for presents our friends and family may not really need or even want, we can give gifts of hope and new life — gifts that change the world and build peace in our global village. For $15 at the Alternative Gift Market, you could buy one month of counseling for three women in Nicaragua or school supplies for one student in Afghanistan. In contrast, $15 at J.Crew will buy you a scarf, or perhaps a shirt on the sale rack. I think it is safe to say that the children of Afghanistan could probably use school supplies more than your friend could use another shirt to add to her already brimming wardrobe.
This eclectic bazaar represents what gift giving and the holiday season are supposed to be about and allows shoppers to consider an alternative to the overwhelming consumerism that takes over our stores and lives every December. Rather than relaxing and sharing the holidays with family and friends, many people spend this entire month scouring dozens of stores for the “perfect” gift. The Alternative Gift Market offers a way to avoid the consumer frenzy of the holidays. Shoppers can buy gifts that will truly make a difference in the lives of hungry and poor people around the world, and will help us all realize how much we have to be thankful for in our own lives.
The Alternative Gift Market is also a convenient solution for busy, lazy and frustrated shoppers. With finals approaching, students don’t have enough time to make day trips to nearby malls or to New York. They cringe as they think about having to find a new CD or sweater for each of their many friends and relatives, and dread the toll that such shopping will take on their probably already dwindling cash flow. The Alternative Gift Market, however, offers a wide range of items, from sesame seeds to hens, and is conveniently located in Dwight Chapel. Gift prices begin at just a few dollars, and each gift comes with a beautiful holiday card.
Even if pigs, oxen, and latrines do not strike you as being the perfect gift for your roommate or significant other, the Alternative Gift Market is a fun opportunity to learn about and celebrate other cultures. Come enjoy samples of ethnic food as you learn about development projects that are helping people and the environment overseas and in the United States. Unwind to the sound of a Chinese harp, steel drums, or one of several other international musical performances, and mingle with live goats, rabbits, and chickens on Old Campus and inside Dwight Hall. What better way to take a break from working on your term paper than to dance salsa while petting a goat?
Yassmin Sadeghi is a freshman in Morse College. She is a member of Reach Out and an organizer of the Alternative Gift Market.