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Meaningful gifts

Dorothy - 17/12/2010

Choosing Christmas gifts can be difficult. Sometimes the person we want to honour with the gift seems to have everything necessary for a comfortable life. Other times we are so busy with end of year responsibilities and functions that no new ideas come to mind.

I want to suggest some possible gifts for people who care about the world keeping its beauty unspoiled, working towards a healthy environment and easing the suffering of people in need.

For people who gain particular pleasure from the beauty of the natural world

New Zealand: Eye on the Landscape is a new book of exceptional landscape photographs from all over New Zealand. This is published by Craig Potton Publishing, but in this volume Craig Potton is not the photographer. Instead, it includes the work of a wide range of New Zealand photographers, both professional and amateur, who belong to the Photographic Society of New Zealand. Scenes come from all over the country, and show nature in many different moods from a peaceful view of Lake Wanaka to the after-effects of the 1886 eruption of Mt. Tarawera and a storm rolling in over the Wairarapa Coast.

New Zealand: Eye on the Landscape - page 31 New Zealand: Eye on the Landscape - page 128
New Zealand: Eye on the Landscape - page 95
Click on image to view a larger version

For those who care about conservation

Water Whisperers Tangaroa, is a recent documentary by Kathleen Gallagher, award winning director of Earth Whisperers Papatuanuku. "This film is about the reconnection of ourselves with our lakes, rivers and oceans. We have guides already in our midst - old fishermen, conservationists, farmers, scientists, local iwi and divers who are intimate with lakes river and sea life, knowledgeable about sustainable fishing practices and to restore damaged waters."

In this beautifully photographed film, ten stories of environmental redemption are told, from the Poor Knights Marine Reserve to the Hurunui and Rakaia Rivers, and including the wonderful Mike O'Donnell describing how a toxic Coromandel waterway was rescued from arsenic and effluent poisoning by sensible planting and community commitment.

Purchasing information is at

"Good" Magazine
This magazine would be an ideal gift for people who want to reduce the impact their lives have on the environment. The well-presented articles offer practical advice and encouragement for those wanting to make wise choices about their lifestyle.

Good magazine is published six times a year and is not overloaded with advertising. The latest issue includes articles on gardening, cycling, healthy diet, kid-friendly holiday celebrations and more.

* Only $35.50 for a year's subscription.

Buy gift subscriptions at

Good magazine

For children and their parents!
If you want to give a meaningful gift to a whole family, try to choose for children something that will keep them happily occupied, especially on long wet days or in the car on long journeys.

Books, puzzles and card games, masks and scarves for the dress-up box, art supplies, and music CDs are all fun for kids. It's always worth looking at the latest books by Margaret Mahy and Joy Cowley.

If you have young children, get them launched on the Hairy Maclary series, by New Zealand author Lynley Dodd. Some of these titles are available on CD to listen to in the car. If you love A. A. Milne, there's a new CD of songs from When We Were Very Young, sung by Bill Williams, with accompaniments by Maurice Till. It's also available on iTunes.

For those who believe that Christmas is a time to ease the sufferings of the unfortunate

Several organisations working to improve the life of people enduring hardship offer ways of donating money and having an acknowledgement sent to the recipient of Christmas wishes.

The Leprosy Mission NZ
Their website gives information about the spread of leprosy and the ways donors can help by giving to individuals and families affected by leprosy. They have a special programme called "Really Good Gifts 4 Families". There is a wide range of gift ideas, from a pair of glasses ($10) to a buffalo ($500), and lots of things in between. After you choose the gift you want to donate, they will send you a gift card that explains the gift you have chosen, and a special red gift box for you to put it in, so that you can add a signed message to the recipient. This can be a way of sending a message from your more fortunate family to a family with serious problems.

Find out more at

Christian World Service
Another charity which makes gift-giving easy is New Zealand-based Christian World Service. They offer a range of gifts you can send to needy people around the world. Some of their suggestions would appeal to children, such as giving balls and games to children in South Sudan, or a beehive to families in Uganda, or hens to families in Palestine. After you donate, you receive a card to give away containing a paper "magnet" with the image of the gift you have chosen. Gifts start at $10. Visit their website at

Oxfam also has a system of Christmas giving called "Oxfam Unwrapped". They have 60 different gift ideas, starting as low as $5 for seeds for East Timor and Papua New Guinea. Other ideas are three ducks for families in Indonesia ($18), wheelbarrows for East Timor ($32) and back-to-school supplies for children in Vanuatu and East Timor ($42). The recipient you name receives a personalised card explaining how their gift is used to help people overcome poverty. For more information, go to