My Christmas list this year is slightly unusual. Instead of the customary socks, books and DVDs, I'm asking for a camel, a donkey and a couple of chirpy chickens. It may sound like I'm planning to set up my own farm, but actually, these are all gifts which feature in CAFOD's World Gifts range of alternative presents.
Earlier this year, I travelled to Karamoja - in rural Uganda - where I met communities who have benefitted from World Gifts and saw firsthand the difference this scheme can make to the lives of people living in poverty.
Greener than many of its neighbours, and home to both the highest mountain range in Africa and the source of the mighty Nile, Winston Churchill famously described Uganda as the 'Pearl of Africa'. Unlike much of the country, however, due to its harsh climate and low annual rainfall, the Karamoja region is predominantly a semi-arid plain - causing many problems for the communities who live there.
Time and again during my trip I met people who were struggling to feed themselves because of ongoing drought. Most of those I spoke to were farmers but the lack of rain meant they were no longer able to cultivate crops or keep animals.
CAFOD and its partner Caritas Moroto are working in the area to make sure the most vulnerable people have enough clean water to drink and food to eat. They're helping families to grow more crops using drought-resistant seeds and to increase their household income by selling surplus produce at market. For communities whose traditional work - like cattle rearing - is under threat, they're ensuring long-term development by providing innovative ways for families to earn a sustainable income.
In the village of Naloret I met Paul and Peter who, like many others, are no longer able to rely on farming to earn a living because of the drought. However, both men have been given World Gifts beekeeping starter kits - everything they need to keep bees, look after the hive and safely produce honey - and Paul is now the chairman of the Naloret community beekeeping group. The group consists of 25 members and each member has their own hive. If the harvest is good, the community can collect a staggering 500 litres of honey - that's around 2,000 jars in one harvest!
There are so many benefits to keeping bees. The honey is a brilliant source of nutritious food, has medicinal properties and can be sold at the local market to provide an income. A successful business like beekeeping, which brings money in to help the entire village, can often have a crucial role to play in keeping the peace and building a strong community.
When I asked Peter how beekeeping had changed his life and that of his family, he said: "When I first settled in the village, the vegetation was good but now the soil is exhausted. Farming was my only way to make money and it has been taken away from me. But now that we've been given beekeeping training, I think my life will change. I take this activity seriously and it is helping to sustain my family."
During a tour of the village from members of the beekeeping group, we approached the patch of land housing the hives. As the hum of the bees grew louder and louder, I realised what a serious business beekeeping is. It's absolutely not for the faint-hearted! With hundreds of thousands of bees to contend with, having the right kit is essential. The World Gifts beekeeping suit costs just £33 but it is keeping Paul, Peter and the other beekeepers safe while they look after the hives.
At the end of my visit to Naloret, the group proudly presented me with a jar of their honey which I ate for breakfast for the remainder of my trip. And they should be proud - through their hard work, patience and the occasional sting they are producing some of the most delicious honey I've ever tasted.
The beekeeping starter kit is the perfect package to help someone like Peter to support his family, and it's just one of many gifts which are making all the difference. World Gifts are unique. How many people will be able to say that they helped someone to begin a business or received a queen bee this year? World Gifts are easy to give, fun to receive and most importantly a real game-changer for many communities. They're gifts which you can be sure won't be forgotten by New Year.
This year CAFOD is celebrating ten years of World Gifts. Buy a World Gift for your loved one this Christmas.
Last orders for free delivery for Christmas must be placed by 17 December. E-gift certificates available all year round.