Jocelyn Merkel of Huntsville, Alabama, and her daughters found a hands-on way to make gift giving through the FH Gift Catalog even more personal.
“I learned about Food for the Hungry (FH) and child sponsorship at the first IF:Gathering in 2014. That night, I started sponsoring a child in Bolivia,” Jocelyn said. In the years since, that one sponsorship grew to be several, all in Bolivia, she added.
“Because I was a sponsor, we began receiving the FH Gift Catalog that year. As soon as it arrived, we looked through it as a family.
“Everyone was very excited about it! The children’s page explains the various opportunities to help in a way that a child can understand,” Jocelyn said. “We decided we wanted to participate, but I didn’t want to just write a check. I wanted to do it in a way that really involved the kids.”
Ornament Making & Gift Giving
After a discussion, they decided to make and sell Christmas ornaments and use the proceeds to buy gift items from the FH catalog. Jocelyn purchased some supplies, and they created their first ornaments.
“There was WAY too much hot glue involved in those first attempts! So I made some modifications, and we refined the process,” she said.
A Low Price Was a Gift to All
When it came time to price the creations, Jocelyn calculated the cost of supplies, but also considered what people might be happy to pay.
“We agreed to sell them for just $5 each. People are very happy that they are so affordable. They not only buy them for their Christmas trees and wreaths, but many people use them to upgrade their gift tags.”
Other families Jocelyn knows have adopted their tradition and now make ornaments to fund their charitable giving.
FH Gift Catalog is an Advent Tradition
“My daughters are SO involved in the entire process, from design to creation. But I also have them make the phone calls to sell them. They also created a video that explains all the things they are able to purchase through the FH Gift Catalog with the proceeds.
“It has become a very important part of our Advent season,” she added.
Eleanor, who is 10, made her first ornaments when she was 4. Everley, now 8, started participating a few years later. This will be the first year that 5-year-old Edith will be helping.
“We homeschool, so the project also becomes a math problem,” Jocelyn explained. “That includes making a budget and then buying supplies based on those numbers. Later, when it comes time to select gifts, there is yet another budget created based on how much money they were able to raise.”
Favorite FH Catalog Gifts
“Animals are the favorite. They always choose a pair of chickens,” Jocelyn said. “They love pigs, and last year they were excited when they were able to buy one.” She is sure the girls will again start out shopping in the animals section of the catalog.
But some of their choices surprised her.
“It fascinated me that they were so excited about being able to buy deworming medicine for 500 children,” Jocelyn said. “They go barefoot around here all the time, so it saddened them to understand that, elsewhere, going barefoot can cause children to get worms and become very sick.
“So they were happy to be able to buy the medicine to help make them well.”
Gift Giving That Directly Impacts Lives
Like the Merkels, when other families or individuals purchase gifts from the Food for the Hungry Gift Catalog, they directly impact the lives of vulnerable families.
On the other side of the world from Huntsville – in Mayange, Rwanda – Mukakamari Rosine is a 46-year-old mother of three and head of her household. Her life was changed when she received gifts made possible by the FH Gift Catalog and generous families like the Merkels.
Rosine had tried to support her family by farming, but she had a very small piece of land and no knowledge of modern agricultural techniques. “I lost most or all of my harvest to weeds and worms,” she said.
“My children were not well because I could not feed them a nutritious diet. My daughter had to drop out of school since I couldn’t afford the fees. I felt like a hopeless and irresponsible mother,” Rosine explained.
FH Gift Catalog Delivers Solutions
But, because of gifts given through the FH Gift Catalog, Rosine received several small livestock, including goats and a pig. The gifts also included the training she needed.
Rosine’s farming became more productive after FH taught her methods like mulching, timely planting and weeding, and natural control of pests. The thriving small animals provided organic manure to boost her crop production. Soon, her small field produced flourishing soybeans, maize, and fruit trees.
FH Gift Catalog donations also helped Rosine establish a kitchen garden to provide vegetables for her family. And her daughter received a gift of fees and schools materials so she could again enroll in school and work toward graduation.
This Year’s Christmas Gift Giving Begins
Back in Huntsville, this year’s FH Gift Catalog has arrived in the mail. Jocelyn and her daughters are excited about the gifts they will give this year to families around the world.
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