Author Archives: documama

Rwandan Women Weaving Their Own #Path2Peace

Rwandan Women Weaving Their Own #Path2Peace

Willa Shalit, co-founder of Rwanda Path to Peace, Janet Nkubana, co-founder of Gahaya Links, and Terry J. Lundgren, Macy’s chairman and CEO at the celebration

Each year as the holiday/gift giving season approaches I start to think about how I will be using my purchasing power. As consumers we drive the economy, we choose where our money goes, and according to an article in Forbes “Women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing, through a combination of their buying power and influence.”

Imagine if women used that economic power to help lift other women up?

Through my travels and writing on social good topics I’ve gained a heightened awareness of how my money is spent, and what it goes to support. Visits to the factories or studios where beautiful hand crafted goods are made has given a face to the artisans behind my purchases and insight into where some of the products that I buy come from. Having observed women using their talents and working hard to give themselves and their children a brighter future I know first hand that choosing one of their items really can make a positive impact in the lives of others.  I admire companies that set out with the mission of benefitting the communities from which they source their goods, companies that choose to train and support craftspeople, so that they in turn can support their families in a dignified way.  Each year as I put together my “gifts that give back” lists for the holidays I think of the women I watched at work in Ethiopia, Indonesia or South Africa, making their beautiful hand-crafted goods as a means of survival. I love to share their stories, along with their crafts, with friends and family.


The Macy’s Rwanda Path To Peace program is the longest running “trade-not-aid’ partnership of this type, and I was thrilled to be there for the 10 year celebration. It was exciting to hear Willa Shalit tell the story of the origins of the program, and have Terry J. Lundgren, Macy’s chairman and CEO, tell the audience how impactful his visits to Rwanda have been to him.  But it was Janet Nkubana’s statement that

“Husbands don’t beat their wives anymore”

once they are supporting the family with the income from the baskets that really brought home the impact of what economic empowerment means for these women.

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The event, held at the Macy’s Herald Square location in New York City, was a fun celebration filled with food, wine, music and colorful, beautiful hand-woven Rwanda baskets. The speeches reminded us all why we were really there.

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My emotional connection to the celebration was twofold as it combined a place in the world that I love with a mission that I love, stretching back to my visit to central Africa in 1991, just a couple of years before the civil war broke out.  The country had subsequently suffered one of the worst genocides in recent history, leaving the country in despair. The success of the Macy’s Path to Peace program can be measured in the transformation and rehabilitation of the communities in which the weavers live, and it is inspiring to see that determination towards strength and rebuilding.


Keep an eye out for my upcoming Gifts That Give Back list, and know that the Rwanda baskets that you see on it hold a special place in my heart. If all the women who have buying power used that influence to help economically empower other women around the world, and lift each other up, what beautiful thing that would be.


I am a member of the Everywhere Society and Everywhere has provided me with compensation of beautiful Rwanda baskets as gifts for this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.



Simple Giving Is The Best Gift Book This Season

Simple Giving Is The Best Gift Book This Season

FullSizeRender-6I believe that is is human nature to want to help others when we can. Two of the biggest hurdles in giving to others are knowing who or what needs help, and then what we, within each of our personal constraints as individuals can do. We also each have our own personal causes and issues we care about. That is one of the reasons that I love sharing stories on my blog of people who make a difference in some way large or small, and hopefully inspire others to do the same. There are so many ways to give, and the book Simple Giving is a perfect guide to how we each can contribute in a positive way to this world.

The book was born from Jennifer’s blog and her Philanthropy Friday series. She began to see certain patterns in the types of philanthropy that she featured, and for the book  she breaks them down into six different giving models.

  1. Everyday acts of kindness that can be done everyday for little or no money. An example of this could be as simple as paying someone a compliment.
  2. A new approach to philanthropy which is setting a mindset of giving, even if that amount is small, as a way to make the world a better place.
  3. Shopping with a conscience which has become almost mainstream, consumers want to buy products that give back, are made in an environmentally friendly way, help others to earn a sustainable income, or all three.
  4.  Finding your passion and doing something about it. Start your own non-profit, advocate, be the change you want to see!
  5. Giving as business model, or social enterprise.
  6. Giving it forward means modeling good giving behavior and showing others the way forward.

In Simple Giving Jennifer details case studies for each giving model,  and then lays out a “how to” at the end of each chapter.

I found this book incredibly inspiring, and came away feeling like Simple Giving had given me tools to channel my own philanthropy in new ways. I also now have the desire to give this book to everyone I know as holiday gifts! I think a book like this makes a wonderful present, and just think that when the recipient is in turn inspired by the book it turns into a gift that keeps giving forward. It has been scientifically proven that when we give or help others we feel happier, and  Simple Giving offers each of us a place to start or place to grow our philanthropy in practical ways.

We are in luck that Simple Giving is out in time for holiday giving, and giving back! Get your copy here.

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Author Jennifer Iacovelli

Jennifer Iacovelli is a writer, speaker and consultant. As Chief engagement officer of the Another Jennifer Writing Lab, Jennifer helps entrepreneurs , bloggers, and nonprofits tell their story. She is also the author of  the Another Jennifer blog, and creator of the Simple Giving Lab. She writes for Mom Bloggers For Social Good as part of the Global Team of 200 and is a regular contributor to World Moms Blog and HuffPost Divorce. Jennifer is also contributing author of the book The Mother Of All Meltdowns. Her work has been featured on GOOD, BlogHer, USAID Impact, Feed The Future and the PSI Impact Blog. She is based in Brunswick, Maine.



Celebrating 10 Years of the Rwanda Path to Peace Program

Celebrating 10 Years of the Rwanda Path to Peace Program

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 4.20.53 PMThe style of our home décor leans toward Nomadic with pieces we have collected  from around the world on our travels that represent a meaningful trip or story. The beautiful hand-woven Rwandan baskets are no different, in them I see the history of an area of the world that I’ve been to and loved, woven with the hope and Path to Peace that each basket represents for the women of Rwanda.

In 1991 I spent six months living out of a backpack as I traveled overland through 16 African countries from Morocco down to Botswana. We camped in tents along the way, shopped for our food at village markets, and made our fire to cook over each night. As you can imagine it was a transformative experience. When people find out that my travels have taken me to over 60 countries around the globe they often ask which one was my favorite. An impossible question in this diverse and magnificent world of ours, rich with its variety of cultures and topography. When I am pressed to choose just one area, Central Africa is the region that pops into my mind each time. We went Gorilla Trekking on the border of Uganda and Rwanda, a phenomenal experience in itself, and it was just one of the most beautiful areas I have ever seen. It was not just the picturesque stepped farms carved into verdant mountains, and the surrounding lush landscape. It was the people, the villages, their arts, and culture that captured some part of me.

I was heart-broken and horrified just a few years later when I heard about the tribal massacres that swept Rwanda in a brutal killing spree that took the lives of almost a million people over the course of just three months. It seemed impossible that an area that had been so warm and inviting, had felt so safe, could erupt in such a violent way. I mourned for Rwanda and volunteered to go back to help, but they really only needed medical volunteers.  This left me feeling useless and frustrated at my lack of valuable skills that could help in any recovery.  The tribal hatred between the Hutus and Tutsis had turned into an ethnic slaughter where neighbor killed neighbor in one of the worst genocides in human history.

The violence left many Rwandan women as the sole providers for their families. Husbands, fathers and sons had been killed or jailed for committing unspeakable atrocities. In the aftermath of such horror I am always amazed by the resilience of the human spirit, that of women in particular. Despite fresh wounds, both mental and physical, the women of Rwanda began to come together through the tradition of weaving as a way to rebuild and reconcile.

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“After the genocide, which tore the ethnic communities of Rwanda apart, the country was looking for a positive symbol that all sides could endorse. Beautiful baskets had been part of Rwanda’s culture for centuries. Their craft and artistry were celebrated by all sides and across the ethnic divide. When the Rwanda Path to Peace program began, the basket became the symbol that all Rwandans could embrace. And as women from formerly warring tribes came together to weave, the Path to Peace program became a vital tool to foster reconciliation.”

In 2005 Macy’s launched the Path to Peace Program. Willa Shalit, an American Artist, Activist and Social Entrepreneur, had introduced Macy’s executives to the beautiful hand-woven Rwandan baskets. Macy’s Partnered with the women of Rwanda in one of the very first “trade not aid” programs where all parties in the business model would benefit from its success.

This week Macy’s will celebrate 10 years of the Rwanda Path to Peace program. It is the longest running program of this kind, and over the years has transformed thousands of women’s lives, and in turn, those of their families and communities. I have come to realize that there are ways to help despite my lack of medical knowledge, and one of those is through my purchasing power. By choosing to spend my consumer dollars on products that I know come from socially responsible sources and are beneficial to others and our world. The hand-woven Rwandan baskets from the Macy’s Path to Peace program represent that idea that sometimes simple actions can collectively make a big impact in the lives of others.

Join me at the 10 year celebration tomorrow in New York!

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 11.04.42 AMI am a member of the Everywhere Society and Everywhere has provided me with compensation for this post. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Social Good Fellowship & #GlobalGoals

Social Good Fellowship & #GlobalGoals

share-globalgoalsI am thrilled to be in New York City as a United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow this week during the historic adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals by world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly. This opportunity comes through my advocacy efforts with the Shot@Life campaign to help all children around the world get access to life saving vaccines.

This new set of Global Goals continues the mission of the Millennium Development Goals that had been set in the year 2000 and expired this year. The seventeen goals are archingly broad and ambitious, but through the success of the Millennium Development Goals it is clear that with the right dedication, funding, and collaboration true progress can be made. Global poverty and under five mortality were cut in half over the past fifteen years. The world needs to maintain that momentum and learn from mistakes made along the way to do better. We have many of the solutions to pressing issues, often access to those resources is a barrier to the most remote populations. Environmental disasters and man-made conflicts hold back progress, and in many cases erase it. Experts believe that we can reverse damage to the environment if we act swiftly, and avoid worsening and more frequent natural disasters by doing so. Man made conflicts are as old as time, strong positive world leaders need to step in and take charge. When I think of the world working together towards the Sustainable Development Goals I think of Carl Sagan, and The Pale Blue Dot.

The United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellowship is designed to provide Fellows with the latest information on pressing global issues and then explore their intersection with technology. Fellows will have access to leading experts, policymakers, and opinion leaders over the course of the Social Good Fellowship. Fellows will also attend the Social Good Summit which brings together world leaders, experts, grass-roots advocates and new media and technology around creating a better world.

I am looking forward to delving deeper into the Global Goals this week as I learn more through the Social Good Fellowship, and organizations lay out their plans for working towards these goals. I remain hopeful that between today’s leadership and the next generation we will rise to the challenge of achieving these lofty goals, and leave the world a better place for generations to come.


How To Tell The Future

How To Tell The Future


At times wouldn’t we all love to know how to tell the future? No one knows exactly what the future may hold for them, but I am sure that I’m not the only one who wonders about it often. We learn that although we can’t predict what may happen, that what we do today will impact our tomorrows, we also learn that even then sometimes life has a way of changing the best laid plans! One thing we know for sure about planning the future is that when it comes to our kids, when we #InvestinChildhood, it pays off. According to Save the Children, kids  who are enrolled in Early Childhood Development programs are more likely to enroll in school, plan their families, become productive adults, and educate their own children than those who don’t.

Fortune favors the prepared mind.-Louis Pasteur

Infographic_31It has now been proven that early education is essential to help kids get on the right path in life. Not all children are born into the same opportunities, but if given the right tools, the playing field is leveled.  September is Bright Futures Month for Save the Children to champion the investment in childhood and provide children with the early learning essentials for a bright future. Given the right tools all kids can learn and thrive to their full potential.

It all begins at home. I am personally glad to know that the research now backs up those seemingly endless evenings when I tucked in each of my four children by reading them a book!

By the age of three children growing up in poverty without books will have heard an average of 30 million fewer words than their peers. As you can imagine they are starting off at a great disadvantage so that by the time they get into school they are about a year and half behind the kids who were read to. And they may never catch up.

The first five years of a child’s life are critical for building the foundations of success. By the time children reach five years old their brains are already 90 percent developed. If within those rapid years of growth children do not receive adequate care including being played with, spoken to, and read to, their social and emotional skills will likely be underdeveloped. Preschool is a lifesaver for the children who do not get those necessities at home, and it is Save the Children’s mission to help children in need get the early education  they need to succeed.Infographic_41

Save the Children’s Early Learning Platform, “Invest in Childhood” seeks to raise awareness among U.S. consumers of the early learning deficit that children living in poverty experience. By mobilizing our celebrity ambassadors, corporate partners and supporters, we shine a spotlight on this critically important issue to create a brighter future for children.-Save the Children

Last year during my interview with Save the Children Artist Ambassador Jennifer Garner  she talked about her visits with Save the Children to homes enrolled in the early education programs they support.

“When Save The Children rolls up and goes once a week to see them, they bring them books, they bring light, they bring life. And the main thing that I love to see is they bring encouragement for these moms.”-Jennifer Garner

We may not be able to project what the future will hold for us or our children, but it is within our power to prepare and lay down the foundations for them that we know can help lead to success.  We can also help to shape the futures of children in need by joining Save the Children to #InvestInChildhood by getting them the early learning essentials for a bright future. Together, we can help ensure that all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential.


A strong start is a child’s best chance for a successful future. Let’s invest in childhood today – giving children the best chance for a better tomorrow. Learn more here.

Tell your own future by downloading, printing and creating your own future teller for you or your kids!