That's perhaps the most intriguing feature of the Inspired Gifts program. It's like an Amazon.com shopping experience where abject materialism goes out the window and philanthropy takes the stage.
The Inspired Gifts Web site breaks down donations into categories like education, immunization, water, nutrition, emergency and HIV/AIDS. In each of the categories is a list of corresponding products next to thumbnail pictures and price tags that are not unlike other shopping sites popular this holiday season.
But instead of iPods and Elmo toys, the list includes oral rehydration salts, retinol, water pumps, emergency health kits, a school-in-a-box and other essentials for the survival and betterment of the world's impoverished children.
The major debate in Melchior's classroom on Friday, Dec. 21, was what the class' $194.50 could actually buy. Melchior's "wired" classroom contains a sleek Apple computer hooked up to a projection screen allowing the teacher to surf the Web while her students look on.
She pulled up the Inspired Gifts site, and in moments they were shopping. Would they spend most of it on a higher price tag item like the school-in-a-box ($176) or would they try to stretch their money to purchase multiple items?
After much discussion, the class chose to purchase four unique gifts. For $130 they decided on a basic family water kit that contains buckets, collapsible water containers, soap and water purification tablets for 10 families.
For $23 the group settled on buying measles vaccines, enough to immunize 50 children.
After some simple math, the class had a bit more than $40 remaining. They decided to add an insecticide-treated mosquito net ($15) to their shopping cart. According to the Inspired Gift site, Mosquito-borne malaria is the biggest single killer of children in Africa, where a child dies from malaria every 30 seconds. A mosquito net could decrease infection rates by 50 percent.