Gift market aids humanitarian causes

Lea Negrin

Alternative gifts range in price from $2 to $10 and are available for purchase at Reid through Friday, Dec. 4. Credit: Hong
Alternative gifts range in price from $2 to $10 and are available for purchase at Reid through Friday, Dec. 4. Credit: Hong

Tomorrow, Dec. 4, will be the last day of the  Alternative Gifts Market where shoppers can purchase gifts that help the global or local community, such as a tree to reforest the Dominican Republic or a pair of chicks for a Bolivian family’s garden. The market has been running in Reid Campus Center during lunch hour since Nov. 16 with the aid of volunteers.

Rather than receiving an item, shoppers are given a card with an explanation of the cause to give to whomever they choose to dedicate their gift.

“I think it’s a really good idea and reduces the idea of consumerism,” said sophomore Dorian Zimmerman, who volunteered at the market’s booth.

Credit: Hong
Credit: Hong

Senior Graham Toben bought a gift that helps bring water to a school in India.

“I honestly think it’s a spectacular idea. With Whitman being so globally active it’s definitely a great way to give a boon by reaching out,” he said.

Toben chose this gift because several years ago he helped build houses in the Himalayas and witnessed the poverty there.

Similarly, senior Katie Higgins and junior Tumisang Mothei, both volunteers, each had personal reasons for choosing the gifts that they purchased.

“I’ve had personal encounters with people who have been orphans,” said Mothei, who purchased a day of school tuition for a Kenyan child. “I’ll be doing something life-changing for an individual fettered by a lack of opportunity. It’s small but what if 364 more people buy a day of tuition?”

Higgins chose three personal gifts for family members. One, a day of food and care for an abandoned Chinese elder, was for her parents due to their interest in the culture as well as their having seen the poverty there.

Credit: Hong
Credit: Hong

The gifts that are available are coordinated through Alternative Gifts International. Every year a cause from the Walla Walla community and the Whitman community is added to the list. This year’s local causes are Helpline’s STEP Women’s shelter and, for the Whitman Community, a meal for a Whittie on a Spring Break Service Trip.

Last year, the gifts raised about $1,000. Although volunteers have noticed a genuine interest in the market from the student body, Higgins pointed out that many students do not carry cash with them to Reid, which has been a small obstacle. Nevertheless, students have been purchasing the gifts.

The purchases all have the potential to start “a chain of positive events,” said Mothei. By buying a kit for a Guatemalan mother and infant, one more opportunity is available to an individual who may one day have the ability to pass on his or her fortune.

“Rather than buying someone more stuff, you are actually doing something with your money,” said Zimmerman.