Marina Koestler Ruben

Blog Posts: December 2012

Gifts for the Globally Aware

If your holiday wishes include spreading awareness about global needs--and, by extension, making a big-picture difference in the world--consider the following gifts.

1. For even the youngest children, see Barbara Kerley's books, which feature her vibrant photographs of parents and children around the world.  Thanks to A Little Peace, my toddler knows that all it takes to make a difference is, as she says, "uhn hand!"  We also own You and Me Together, which has prompted discussions about everything from the brass neck rings of a Padaung mother and daughter in Thailand to the colored powder decorating a mother and child celebrating India's Holi festival.

2. Gerda Muller's beautifully illustrated picture board books serve as a starting point for discussions about each of the four seasons: WinterSpringSummer, and Autumn.  

3. If you'd like to make a monetary donation in your child's name, consider the International Rescue Committee, which provides support for refugees in humanitarian crises, and Heifer International, which allows donors to select from among 30 different animals to donate as a form of sustainable agriculture to families in need around the world.  To make a Heifer gift more tangible for a child--and to increase the likelihood that he or she will remember and think about this type of giving--attach a matching stuffed animal (or a small animal figurine) to a note in which you explain the donation.

4. Several photojournalists have used their art to document the differences between and within borders.  Peter Menzel photographed families posed in front of their homes with all their worldly possessions, a project you can see in Material World.  He's also put together a similar book focusing solely on women's issues and three others depicting what families and individuals eat.  (What the World Eats is intended for kids.  Menzel's other books are intended for adults, so you may want to pre-screen them to determine whether you think their content is suitable for your children.  Though fascinating, Material World contains sad background information about some of the families, and the extreme inequity between families could be too troubling for some readers.)

Another book along these lines is Where the Children Sleepwhich uses James Mollison's photographs and descriptions to document the range of accommodations in which children sleep, from mattresses in fields to luxury bedrooms in the suburbs.  (The same warning I issued in the previous paragraph applies for this book.  Perhaps best as a gift for an adult or older teen.) 

5. Also for adult gift recipients (or mature young adults), try the Half the Sky documentary (2012), an incredible look at the oppression of women worldwide--and the way that select activists are making a difference to females who would otherwise live without literacy, shelter, safety, or respect.  I have not read the Half the Sky book on which the documentary was based, but I've heard it's also outstanding. Read Full Post.