For the festive season, NGOs offer a range of gifting ideas that will make a difference to the lives of the underprivileged.

At the Pune School and Home for the Blind, groups of four students make a product called Candle In Wine Glass. The wax, in orange and yellow, is poured into transparent glasses. When you light them, they brighten up your room. But when you buy them, they brighten up the lives of those students — in every group, three are visually impaired and one partially sighted.

At Bal Kalyan Sanstha, students make bunches of Stockings Flowers, each holding six fragile-looking flowers. Pune-based not-for-profit organisation All For A Smile (www.allforasmile.com) sells the candles and the flowers online for Rs. 165 and Rs. 100, respectively (delivery extra).

Festive gifts are no longer about cards and sweets. They are also not about buying just any gift. Many corporates and well-meaning individuals are opting for products made by NGOs and societies working for the underprivileged. The product range has grown from just greeting cards to include gift boxes, tape baskets, torans, candles and diyas, carpets and even pooja thalis.

At Amrit Centre for Special Needs in Coimbatore, students are trained to make gift tags (Rs. 2), kundan-embellished gift bags (Rs. 10 to Rs. 25), painted diyas (Rs. 10), note pads and scribble pads (Rs. 10 to Rs. 50). Their latest creations are gift boxes, priced upwards of Rs. 40. Meena Wahan, who works with Amrit, taught the children to decorate boxes using kundan stones and borders.

At Seva Nilayam, the children undertake one big project every year, says Jayashree Ravi, secretary. The children make colourful tape baskets in pink, green, violet and orange, priced from Rs. 60 to Rs. 150, and wire baskets. The children also make paper bags decorated with kajal pencil and cut-outs of butterflies and birds. These are priced at Rs. 12 a piece. Experts train the children in making these boxes.

These products are also bought by some retail outlets. The reasonable prices ensure they are fast sellers. Simran Wahan of Amaya, Race Course, stocks notepads from Amrit and baskets from Seva Nilayam. “Some people buy them because they are useful, others do so because they are made by children with special needs or those in need of encouragement,” she says. All the hand-made paper bags given away here are also made by students of Amrit.

Gayathri Balaji, treasurer, Amrit, says they started diversifying from cards about six yeas go. “We wanted to increase our range. Most importantly, with e-mails, cards were losing their edge.”

Ulka Kendurkar, co-founder, All for A Smile, says the website (attached to her NGO) acts as an interface among NGOs. “The people in these organisations are doing great stuff; we were amazed at the beautiful things they created. All they needed was guidance on how to package them,” she says. For instance, what used to be sold as a jewellery box was repackaged as a multi-purpose box. “Such a beautiful piece can hold pride of place on an office desk; it can hold pens, pins, clips…” As for the cost, Ulka says they are priced reasonably so that they reach as many people as possible. The most popular products on her website are jute bags, puja thalis, carpets and dhurries.

If it is not a product you want to buy, but a service you want to gift, head to Chennai-based True Gifts (www.truegiftsindia.org). The website puts together a wish list of various NGOs that you can pick and choose from. Among this year’s requests are two from Mahesh Memorial Trust. For Rs. 1,200, you can sponsor a nutritional drink for children undergoing treatment at Adyar Cancer Institute. Or, contribute Rs. 3,500 for gifting tees to 50 children there.

CALL FOR A GIFT

Seva Nilayam 0422-2473664

Amrit Centre for Special Needs 0422-2441902

True Gifts 044-24981967 or 94444-51268

All For A Smile 094237-78844