A Decade of Giving Through “Gifts For Life”

Anne Harris, an Episcopalian living in South Carolina, shares how Gifts For Life seamlessly complemented her downsizing efforts back home over the last 10 years. Beyond physically making space, Anne was also able to make room in her life to support communities around the world who could make better use of the holiday gift-giving practice.

About 10 years ago, as Christmas was approaching, my husband and I decided that we really did not need or want any more "things". We were in the process of downsizing in anticipation of moving to an apartment in a retirement community.

A copy of the "Gifts for Life" catalog came in the mail, and it struck a chord – gifts for us that would go to those people in other places who were in great need. We loved the idea.  

sugar beans

Sugar beans are a drought-tolerant, high-protein, early maturing crop that can be intercropped with other crops — and provide a nutritious diet for children. Photo taken by Tammi Mott, Director for Institution Strengthening, in Zimbabwe

I obtained several copies and sent them to our daughters, suggesting that they choose their gifts to us from the catalog. And so this was done for several years. One year we "received" a pig, a flock of chickens, some trees, and a source of freshwater. Quite a nice farm!

As time passed, we found that our own Christmas shopping was becoming more and more physically difficult. So one year we gave each of our daughters and each of our adult grandchildren a goat from the Gifts for Life catalog for Christmas. The next year it was pigs. For the family member who is vegetarian, we gave tools and seeds or fruit trees. These gifts have been well-received, and the pigs and goats are even given names!

The idea has spread beyond our family. One daughter started giving smaller gifts such as mosquito nets or “Nurture & Nourish the Earliest Learners” to co-workers; some of them have asked to see the catalog so they can do the same thing.


“Nurture & Nourish the Earliest Learners” provides parent/caregiver support & learning groups that promote behaviors like healthy eating and family play to help kids develop cognitive, language, social, emotional and motor skills. Photo taken by Tammi Mott, Director for Institution Strengthening, in Myanmar.

Every year, Episcopal Relief & Development responds to the needs of humanity in so many ways and in so many places. Over 3 million people are impacted by this fine organization annually. I’m so glad our Gifts for Life effort has caught on with family and friends, and am grateful to help transform lives for the better.

"In as much as you have done it to the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me."

From our family to yours – Have a Merry Christmas!

Clean Water
Clean Water: By building water systems and offering the education needed to practice good hygiene, a Gifts For Life present can protect entire communities from illness. Photo taken by 

Tammi Mott, Director for Institution Strengthening in Angola

Anne Harris is an Episcopalian living in South Carolina active in her local church, The Chapel of the Holy Spirit.

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