This festive season, put some thoughts into your gifts and choose one that will give back to the community

Sweet talk

Founded twenty years ago, Kshitij, an NGO that works with people with intellectual disabilities, tapped into the demand for handcrafted chocolates only in 2013. The Mumbai-based NGO employs 22 specially-abled adults to make their own chocolates, right from mixing the cocoa powder, to creating flavours by adding ingredients such as chopped nuts and orange peels, and wrapping the chocolates.

Though they started out by designing handicraft items such as bags, diyas, stoles, napkins, and more, to keep their children constructively occupied, they struck gold once they entered the chocolate-making business. “The profits from the chocolates we sell during the festive season is what keeps us running throughout the year,” says founder Beena Modak.

The chocolates are available in flavours such as roasted almond, orange peel, and butterscotch, with almond drops being the highest-selling. Beena claims that they use no added sugar, and generally make dark chocolates. “Our recipes have all been born out of constant trial-and-error,” she says.

Orders can be placed on their website, or on call at 9930038094

Choco Niwant:

A branch of the Pune-based Niwant Andh Mukta Vikasalaya, an NGO that offers vocational training to the visually challenged. Proceeds from these chocolates are used by the students to pay for their education and livelihood. Flavours such as strawberry, orange, raisin, roasted cashew, coffee almond and more are available.

Orders can be placed over call at 9923772375/9422033122 or over email at niwantvision@gmail.com

Pascati:

These chocolates are single-origin, and use cocoa beans from Kerala. You can gift boxes of truffles, pralines or different bar combinations from lemon and ginger to saffron topped with pistachio. Three new flavours: mango, peach and raspberry have been introduced.

Orders can be placed at www.pascati.com/gift

A fair world

“We hardly think about the products we use every day, where they come from,” says Devina Singh, Campaigns and Outreach Manager at Fairtrade India, an organisation that helps producers achieve better trading conditions, and makes sure brands conform to international environmental and social standards. Brands that have the Fairtrade logo have been verified to ensure that their products were made in decent working conditions. “We want to promote responsible consumption, and create a better world for our producers and farmers,” says Devina.

Here are a few interesting Fairtrade products you could try out.

Keep calm and take a sip

With Oothu organic tea by the Bombay Burmah Trading Corp, you can be assured that the tea plantation workers have access to fair wages, safe working conditions, and the right to form association and unions. It doesn’t hurt that drinking green tea is proven to be beneficial to your health, given how it reduces free radical damage.

The tea hamper can be bought at oothu.in/shop

Or you could follow in the footsteps of PM Narendra Modi, who gifted Makaibari tea to the Queen on his visit to England. Makaibari uses sustainable agricultural practices, and profits also benefit the local communities. It also plans to make use of the surplus biomass as an alternative source of fuel to dry the tea.

Orders can be placed at http://www.makaibari.com/en/tea-shop/tea-shop.aspx

If the person you are giving the gift to is more of a coffee person, you could try the Black Baza range of coffee, grown in the BR hills of Karnataka by 392 smallholder producers, with zero chemical pesticides and fertilisers. The coffee plants grow under the shade of indigenous tree species, protecting the local ecosystem and wildlife.

Orders can be placed at store.blackbazacoffee.com

Bend it like (a socially conscious person)

If you are looking to buy your children a football, you might as well choose one that has been made in decent working conditions and for which the workers gave been paid the wages they deserve, such as INDPro footballs. Recently, the Forca Goa Foundation, a sister of FC Goa, made a commitment to only using Fairtrade footballs in their programmes and placed an order for the same.

Products available on Amazon

When ethics are fashionable

It is commonly said each time you pick up a Madurai Sungudi sari, you revive a dying art, but these ones by Madurai NGO Tharagai are even more special, having been handcrafted by a group of mentally challenged women in Madurai. Under the care of the M S Chellamuthu Trust and Research Foundation, this small group has taken about a year to master the craft, and for the last three months, their products have been up for sales.

Local NGO Tharagai trains anyone willing to learn the tie-and-dye method of Sungudi. “It was started as an experiment to see if our patients could concentrate on the job and if it helped in healing,” says R Rajkumari, the executive director of the Trust, who was instrumental in bringing Sridevi Suresh and Hema Arun Amarnath of Tharagai to the campus. Tharagai provides the raw material — fabric, thread and design — and a trainer who ensures the women practise three to five hours of tying the knots every day. They have moved on from handkerchiefs to one-metre blouse pieces, and now saris.

The authentic handmade Sungudi items include saris, dupattas, stoles, scarves, jackets, file folders and bags. Tharagai sources them all and sells them at the Kamala Crafts Shop in Egmore, Chennai.

Call 91-44-28191457

Funky and spunky

Weawin is another such project undertaken by three NGOs who work with adults with intellectual disabilities, in collaboration with Shuttles and Needles, a creative textile art studio. It employs around 70 people to weave cotton fabric freestyle through easy-to-use looms provided by the studio, which is used by a designer to fashion iPad sleeves, spectacle cases, tote bags, and wallets. Weawin currently does not sell products separately and is available only as gift hampers.

To place an order, contact mail2weawin@gmail.com. Visit www.weawin.com; or call 9840049209

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