31 Bits

Taking paper beads to a beautiful new level, the ladies of 31 Bits (99 of them!) create stunning pieces from their homes in Gulu, Uganda.  Designs are unexpectedly sophisticated and beautifully presented on the 31 Bits website, and most importanly, beaders earn a liveable wage for their work and participate in a range of classes, from English lessons to financial management and vocational training.

Warning: seasonal and wedding lines keep the styles fresh and keep you coming back for more.  Not that that’s a bad thing.

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Ten Thousand Villages

Perhaps you’ve heard of them. Founder Edna Ruth Byler catalyzed the Fair Trade movement way back in the 1940s.  Today there are more than 70 Ten Thousand Villages shops in the US and 300 more stores that carry their products – chances are good that some are near you.

Products include beautiful jewelry, accessories, home decor and personal care items from artisan groups in 38 developing countries.  Their secret to success? Long-term relationships with artisan groups give communities the stability they need to plan for the future, building schools and clinics, not just factories.

Ten Thousand Villages supports its huge network of artisans both financially and creatively: they work with designers in-country to develop products that will sell well in an American market and price the products based on what the artisan needs to live a fulfilling life.  Lucky for us, Ten Thousand Villages shops are largely staffed by volunteers, keeping prices surprisingly reasonable.  We all win!

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Sir Richard’s

At a little over $1 a pop, Sir Richard’s Condom Company delivers a double-whammy.  For  discerning ladies and gents, these vegan-friendly condoms come smartly packaged and ready for action in four varieties.   And for every condom sold?  You guessed it: one is given to a couple in need.  Sir Richard’s works with Partners in Health to distribute condoms in Haiti.

You can buy online or at your local Whole Foods or Walgreen’s, but as their tour bus criscrosses the nation, expect Sir Richard’s Condoms to be popping up everywhere.


Bonus! Sir Richard’s marketing is never short on funny: One Prophylactic Sells Another…

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Krochet Kids

Kohl, Travis and Stewart began crocheting their own winter hats when they were awkwardly awesome high-schoolers in Spokane, WA.  They even sold some of their creations and were  known locally as the Krochet Kids.

Fast-forward a decade or so and these boys are running a non-profit that employs women in northern Uganda.  The goal? Sustainable employment that unravels the charity-dependence that has stifled development in that region for a generation.  The products?  Simple and stylish crocheted hats, handmade by one of more than 80 talented ladies.

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Cause Bound

The new semester’s coming up and you’re dreading the long lines and hefty price tag at the college bookstore.  But wait! There’s Cause Bound!

Cause Bound is a college textbook shopping site that meets a few needs: books for kids around the world, comparison shopping for cash-strapped college students, AND our need to feel like we’re making a difference.

Search for your required reading through their website and find the lowest price at one of Cause Bound’s partner sites.  Cause Bound gets a small kickback for directing your business and they redirect $1 per book sold to Room to Read: enough to produce 1 book for kids in their own language.  Everyone wins!

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Roma Boots

Wellies. Galoshes. Topboots. Gummies. Billies. Rain Boots. They’re the practical alternative to toe exposure in rainy, muddy, and otherwise mucky conditions.  Keep your tootsies toasty and help Romanian kids do the same in a pair of Roma boots.

Founder Samuel Bistrian knows firsthand the need for proper footwear in his birth country, so Roma offers rain boots for us and warm winter boots for Romanian kids.  It’s a one-for-one company and Roma’s line of reasonable, gender-neutral boots should be a staple in everyone’s closet.  Chilly weather is never too far away!

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Named after an old man founder Willy Oppenheim met in India, this online network facilitates partnerships between volunteers and the organizations that need them.  Its focus is on education, both at home and abroad, and volunteers can search for opportunities based on the organizations’ needs and locations.

There are no guided tours or placement services here – you find your match and make all of the arrangements with your partner organization.  Omprakash does, however, offer support: volunteer grants can offest the cost of your travel, seed grants can fund your project, and Omprakash encourages connections between classrooms here in the U.S. and projects with partners in different countries.  The possibilities are endless.

Omprakash is based on the idea that positive change is best done through a human connection.  What better premise for your volunteering adventure?

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