18 Christmas Gift Ideas That Also Give Back To The Community
Bake With Dignity is an employment initiative by Dignity & Services (D&S), a non-profit organisation working for and with adults with learning disabilities (AwLD). The adults are taught how to bake, which helps boost their self-esteem while also teaching them life skills that allow them to take up employment.
Their extensive menu covers a whole range of cakes, buns, and biscuits - perfect as a gift for that foodie in your life. On weekends, they host baking classes for Persons with Learning Disabilities aged 17 years and above, as well as for their parents or caregivers.
2. Batik Boutique
Born out of a friendship, Batik Boutique is a social enterprise that "promotes the ancient art form of batik" while also empowering mothers by teaching them skill sets that result in a stable income.
You'll find a whole range of clothing and accessories that can be used daily - such as batik shirts, dresses, kimono cardigans, make-up pouches, scarves, and bag tags made by Batik Boutique's over 150 artisans, where your purchases helps them gain a fair, sustainable income and marketable skills.
3. Chocolate Concierge
Did you know Malaysia has its own homegrown chocolates? Chocolate Concierge deals in single-origin chocolates that are grown in the peninsula and by the indigenous Semai and Temuan tribes. Besides just elevating local cocoa into an international brand, founder Ong Ning Geng also sees Chocolate Concierge as a support platform for Orang Asli communities.
Ning - as he is known - told First Classe that he is able to pay the farmers three times more than what they were previously paid by removing middlemen. The enterprise also pays homage and preserves the identities of its origins, by naming various bars after the farmers that grew them.
Lot No. G1, Ground Floor, Bangsar Shopping Centre, 285, Jalan Maarof, Bangsar, WPKL.
Daily (10am - 10pm)
4. Earth Heir
Founded by Sasibai Kimis, Earth Heir uses traditional artisanal skills to create modern, contemporary pieces that can be worn as earrings, necklaces, and scarves, or carried around as woven bags and pouches. Roughly 80% to 90% of the company's products are dedicated towards highlighting Malaysian artisans from various states.
Earth Heir displays the breakdown of its profits for transparency purposes on their website. 31% of the price you pay for their 'Nelly' bags goes towards paying for the materials and labour of its artisans. The World Trade Organisation fair trade-certified enterprise works with 120 artisans from women's cooperatives, indigenous tribes, and refugee groups across six states of Malaysia.
Fugeelah began as a fundraising project to help keep education free for refugee children and youth at the Fugee School. It has since grown into a lifestyle accessories brand that is "quietly expressive", "a little quirky", and has "a touch of class".
The majority of their monthly profits is committed to Fugee School Malaysia, which helps keep it open and give access to free education for its over 200 students. Fugeelah also employs the students to work as jewellery makers and bazaar stall minders at RM10 per hour.
6. Gerai Orang Asal (Gerai OA)
Handled by a rotating group of volunteers, Gerai OA is a nomadic stall that sells handicrafts made by women of various indigenous tribes in Malaysia, such as the Jakun and Mah Meri tribes.
Their handwoven tote bags, purses, and bookmarks - which I am personally a big fan of - are highly sought-after. As Gerai OA only sets up a physical stall when they are not charged for it, 100% of the profits will go back to the artisans.
7. Havan Clothing
On the surface, Havan Clothing looks like your typical lifestyle company - but its designs are all drawn by children living in shelter homes.
Part of the profits from purchasing a T-shirt or pair of socks will go towards the Havan Programme, which empowers children from shelter homes through education. The proceeds are used to hire teachers, purchase staionery, and develope the children's EQ.
8. Helping Hands Penan
Helping Hands Penan (HHP) is probably one of the most well-known 'brands' to turn to when one is looking for a skillfully crafted woven bag - HHP bags have been spotted on Selangor royalty and local politicians! The non-governmental organisation was casually formed by a group of expat wives in Brunei with the intention of helping the Penan tribe across the border in Limbang, Sarawak.
According to Going Places Magazine, the Penan weavers are the ones who collect the materials and come up with their own gorgeous designs. Each bag is priced by the weavers themselves and volunteers pay them upfront when collecting stock. The profits are channelled towards the Penan people's education, vilalge infrastructure, and welfare programmes.
9. Lametna Project
The Lametna Project has one simple goal - to improve the lives of the Chin refugees in the Klang Valley. Chins, who have since fled Myanmar, make up one of the largest refugee groups in Malaysia. Lametna is a Tedim Chin word for 'hope'.
Their products - from woven baskets and bags to crocheted pieces - are lovingly handmade by the Chin women artisans. The majority of the profits from the sales of these products will go back into the hands of the amazing artisans, whereas the rest of the profits will then go towards funding the education and welfare of Chin children.
Find out more on their official social media channels:
Facebook | Instagram | Website
10. Nazanin Bags
Nazanin Bags is named after the daughter of Qasem, the skilled artisan behind the social enterprise. Qasem and his family are Afghan refugees, which disallows them from taking on jobs to earn income - thus, their only income for Nazanin's future comes solely from sale of the bags.
The enterprise has also attracted a collaboration with AirAsia Foundation, which led to the development of a 'Soggy No-More' series of bags made out of recycle life jackets.
11. Persatuan DAYBREAK
DAYBREAK is an acronym for 'Disabled Adults and Youths Being Rewarded, Encouraged, and Awarded'. Launched in 1992, Persatuan DAYBREAK was initiated by the Social Concerns Committee of the Canning Garden Methodist Church in Kinta, Perak.
All their items are sewn and crafted by their trainees. You'll find stunning pillowcases, tote bags, soft toys, and cloth coasters that make for perfect small gifts. Proceeds from sales will help the association to continue providing vocational training to the disabled community, which in turn provides them with employment that matches their skill sets.
You've seen the Jalur Gemilang-inspired ribbons, but did you know they are made by Orang Asli youths? Projek57 is a non-political and non-partisan social enterprise that is committed to building unity and hope in Malaysia.
Besides the ribbons, they also have T-shirts bearing a silhouette of our 'Bapa Kemerdekaan', Tunku Abdul Rahman. In addition to all proceeds going towards empowerment programmes for underprivileged youths, especially from the Orang Asli community, Projek57 also donates RM5 per T-shirt to a beneficiary.
13. Rumah Gareh Borneo Natural (Rh Gareh)
Rumah Gareh is named after the Iban women of Rumah Gare in Nanga Kain, Sarawak. Dr Welyne Jeffrey Jehom formed the project for the purposes of preserving indigenous knowledge and skills of Pua Kumbu, a 'ceremonial blanket'.
The sacred textile is made into wearable and affordable shawls, skirts, and jackets - which in turn help provide the Iban women with sutainable income. Local songstress Zee Avi has sported a number of their designs!
Every level of SevenTeaOne's production line gives back to someone in some way. Their herbs, spices, and flowers for infusion teas are locally-sourced from small-scale family-run urban farms and community gardens.
Meanwhile, people who come from differently-abled and marginalised communities are employed so that they can earn dignified incomes in a non-discriminative work environment. Their teas are vegan-friendly, rich in traditional health properties, processed with no chemicals or preservatives, and are caffeine-free.
15. Sew X Dignity
Dignity for Children Foundation is a non-governmental organisation that provides holistic care and education for urban poor children. It runs several transformational enteprises - such as Sew X Dignity - where children and youths are trained in certain various skill sets.
With Sew X Dignity, youths aged 15 to 18 years are taught to sew items such as pouches, book covers, and scrunchies using recycled and donated fabrics. The profits are then divided between the artisan and the Foundation, which will then be used to help more children and youths in need.
16. Suri Lifestyle
Suri Lifestyle is a social enterprise borne out of the experiences of single mothers, with the aim of empowering other single and underprivileged mothers by providing them with financial opportunity and living skills, like sewing.
These single mothers - mostly located in Klang, Selangor - upcycle old denim into fashionable handbags, backpacks, tote bags, and other household items. This helps them generate an income while also teaching them entrepreneurship and exploring their creativity.
17. Tanma Federation
Tanma Federation was formed in September 2010 by a coalition of three refugee women groups, namely Mang Tha, Kaoprise, and Chin Women Organisation. 'Tanma' means 'strong' in Burmese.
They sell woven Chin and Karen fabrics and handicrafts for mothers and babies, batik household crafts, organic soaps, and massage oils. All sales go back to the community and helps fund a refugee school consisting of 55 children and four women empowerment centres, where weekly classes, workshops, and training programmes are offered to refugee women.
18. YWCA KL
Young Womens' Christian Association of Kuala Lumpur (YWCA KL) is one of the city's oldest women's non-grovernmental organisations. Since 1998, YWCA KL has been running the Vocational Training Opportunity Centre (VTOC), where young women from disadvantaged backgrounds are empowered with skills training - among them hairdressing, culinary and baking, and sewing.
The result of these classes - from quirky origami pouches to colourful tote bags - are sold through YWCA KL's Social Enterprise Estate. The student artisans benefit from sales of the products, meeting their basic needs and learning financial independence.