In previous years it was goats, camels or other beasts of burden.
This year's ethical Christmas present has a more 21st century feel - a laptop equipped with wi-fi.
The project that aims to bring $100 computers to the developing world, One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), has said it will enable Western customers to donate machines as Christmas gifts.
For $399 (£197), customers in the US and Canada will be able to purchase two laptops - one for themselves, the other for a child in a poor country - as part of an initiative called 'Give One, Get One'.
From "day one" there had been "a lot of interest" in the developed world to participate in OLPC, the project's head of software development, Walter Bender, said.
But it is also hoped the initiative will generate orders for the machines among target countries, whose Governments have been slow to commit to buying them.
The OLPC laptop, whose price recently rose to $188 (£93), has been manufactured to endure difficult conditions in rural villages, and has a screen that can be read outside, as well as a wind-up crank to power it.