The Gift of Sight: Iconic New Zealand foundation creates Christmas gift shop that gives back

With Christmas soundtracks now echoing through the malls and decorations creeping up around us, it's clear that the festive season is well and truly here, meaning we're beginning to start writing lengthy prezzie lists for friends and family. 

But many of us are becoming increasingly conscious about the impact that our gift-giving has on the planet — and those we share it with.  

After a tough two years for our neighbours in the Pacific, any chance we can take to help them this festive season, we're welcoming with open arms. Doing it by gifting our loved ones unique, handmade goods that positively impact lives? Well, that's even better — and that's the goal of this year's Gift of Sight shop from The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ. 

The iconic New Zealand foundation is known for changing lives by restoring sight to over 80,000 people suffering from preventable blindness in the Pacific. The Foundation carries on the work of its namesake, legendary Kiwi eye surgeon and activist Professor Fred Hollows, who championed the right of all people to high-quality and affordable eye care. 

These days The Foundation is part of a global organisation operating in more than 25 countries worldwide — and collectively, restoring sight to over three million people. 

Professor Fred Hollows.
Professor Fred Hollows. Photo credit: Supplied

For the festive season, The Foundation has stepped it up another level, and partnered with Fiji-based social enterprise Rise Beyond the Reef to sell a selection of unique handmade gifts perfect for friends and family. Each gift not only helps restore sight to people across the Pacific, but also helps to provide income to Pacific communities around the region. 

So, yes, we'd say that's better for everyone than whatever those Youtube influencers are spruiking this season. 

The Foundation’s Fundraising, Communications and Marketing Director Jo Dowling says the partnership means each gift sold from their online shop will have "double impact" — supporting rural remote women artisans as well as restoring sight to someone in the Pacific. 

"Supporting our Gift of Sight shop is an invaluable, life-changing gift. While it’s not always easy to find the right gift for everyone, the Gift of Sight is one that will always be appreciated," she told Newshub. 

She said it was a "natural partnership" between foundations. 

"Our Chief Executive Officer, Dr Audrey Aumua, was inspired by the work [Rise Beyond the Reef] do – it's a fantastic organisation focused on women’s economic empowerment, supporting rural women across Fiji to earn an income," she said. 

"As we know, financial independence is a cornerstone, often a prerequisite, for gender equity, and Rise Beyond the Reef provides these women with a platform to stand on their own two feet.

Facebook: Rise Beyond the Reef
Facebook: Rise Beyond the Reef Photo credit: Rob Rickman - R A W F I J I

At The Foundation, we too are centred around gender equity and are determined to see the large inequities in access to eye health care reduced. So, it was a natural partnership that arose." 

Many of this year's gifts have a gorgeous Pasifika spin — including a senibua-printed canvas table runner perfect for the Christmas lunch table, hand-sewn toy turtles for the kids, or a small pouch perfect for storing makeup and skincare for next year's holidays. 

Also on the lineup? A very special teddy bear — or 'Freddy bear' — modelled after Professor Hollows himself. 

If you're struggling to think of gifts for those hard to buy for souls, we've put together our top picks from the Gift of Sight shop to make things easy. Each of these gifts makes a direct difference to someone's life and helps The Foundation carry on their important work — plus, they're gorgeous. It's a win, win, win in our eyes. 

Newshub's top picks from the Gift of Sight shop

Pencil case: $30.00
Perfect for the nieces and nephews or grandchildren, each of these funky pencil cases is made with unique off-cuts of fabric — making them totally waste free. They each come with a foundation-branded pencil so the recipient can immediately get to writing or drawing. 

The Foundation has partnered with Rise Beyond the Reef to bring to you a unique collection of gifts handmade by Fijian artisans.
The Foundation has partnered with Rise Beyond the Reef to bring to you a unique collection of gifts handmade by Fijian artisans. Photo credit: The Fred Hollows Foundation: Gift of Sight

Toy turtle: $35.00
Bringing a gorgeous ocean-themed spin to this year's gift shop, these adorable fabric turtles are back by popular demand — each one has been hand-sewn by women from Yakete District in the Ba Province of Fiji. They are made from scrap fabric, meaning they are all one-of-a-kind and brighten up any space — plus present a great opportunity to teach kids about the work The Foundation is doing.

Mini pouch: $40.00
These hand-printed pouches were made by remote-living youth through Rise Beyond the Reef's apprenticeship programme. They make a great gift for teachers or neighbours — and for a limited time, each comes with a free Indigo and Iris mascara, which is both vegan and cruelty-free. 

The Gift of Sight: Iconic New Zealand foundation creates Christmas gift shop that gives back
Photo credit: The Fred Hollows Foundation: Gift of Sight

Table runner: $75.00
Feel like your Christmas table is missing a little something this year? Nab one of these hand-printed canvas table runners — not only are they the perfect pop of colour, they've been screen-printed by a team of master and apprentice printers from rural communities in Fiji, thanks to new job training opportunities you're supporting. 

The Gift of Sight: Iconic New Zealand foundation creates Christmas gift shop that gives back
Photo credit: The Fred Hollows Foundation: Gift of Sight

Freddy Bear - $100.00
Our personal favourite gift option, the child (or young at heart) in your life needs this Freddy Bear, modelled on the late Professor Fred Hollows and made to honour 30 years of his foundation. Each bear is ethically produced, and comes dressed in his special surgical scrubs, hat and securely attached glasses. Inspire the next generation of eye surgeons! 

Gift cards - $25.00 - $75.00
Have loved ones located far away who you can't see this Christmas? Send them a donation card priced between $25 and $75. E-cards can be personalised with your own special message. 

Just make sure you get your gift order in before December 15 to ensure they get to the recipients before Christmas — and head to The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ website to learn more about their important work.

Article created in partnership with The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ.