The quest for the ultimate Christmas gift.

It’s getting towards that time of year…with only four weekends left until Christmas the shops are rammed, and everyone around me seems to be at least halfway through their Christmas shopping whereas I have hardly even begun.

A rising onset of panic has prompted my quest for the ultimate Christmas gift – something that will give rise to the appropriate ‘ooohs’ and ‘ahhhs’ upon being opened, but something that is more than a disposable knickknack or curiosity. I’m looking for something that with ethics and a story but which won’t break the bank, and of course has that extra bit of wow factor.

It was with these thoughts in mind that I came across The Leaky Collection, a fabulous little range of jewellery with an interesting story, making it much more than what meets the eye. The collection features some really lovely wooden bracelets and necklaces which won’t fail to be a hit, but the real winner come in the form of the Zulu Grass strands – colourful and versatile jewellery which is ethical and ecologically sound to boot.

The Leakey Collection is the brainchild of Philip and Kate Leakey who live and work in the Kenyan Rift Valley. When drought and ensuing hardship struck in 2001, the Leakeys wanted to help those around them by encouraging sustainable business that fitted in with local peoples’ lifestyles, but which would attract the attention of the international market. Using their design skills combined with a love of nature and the Maasi culture around them, the Zulu Grass range was born. Each colourful bead is in fact a dried segment of the abundant native Kenyan grass, ideal to be mixed and matched with other colours to create a look which is both natural and authentic, and vibrantly fashionable.

The Leakey Collection is going from strength to strength internationally, and has caused such a stir that it has been nominated for the 2008 BBC World Challenge awards. This global competition aims to give recognition to projects and small businesses that show enterprise and innovation, rewarding those who really help to make a difference. The twelve finalists will find out who wins the USD $20,000 grant during December, money that can be poured back into the winner’s business and help encourage more growth and development.

If the Leakey Collection clinches the prize, the project can grow further. Over 1,400 women already make a sustainable living through the Zulu Grass project, living and working in a manner which is in fitting with their traditional lifestyles. The more the project grows, the more families will benefit.

All of this certainly helps in the quest for the ultimate Christmas present. The collection makes a wonderful set of gifts for friends and loved ones, and as well as being fun, colourful and attractive, it ticks the ethical boxes too. And shopping online certainly beats fighting your way round town on a Saturday afternoon four weeks before Christmas…!

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