Category Archives: Gifts

(social) Good Gift Guide

(social) Good Gift Guide
Heart of Haiti

From the Heart of Haiti line at Macy’s

Each year for the holidays I put together a gift guide of socially responsible gifts that give back. Whenever we shop, we have an opportunity to use our purchasing power to create positive change. It might be by impacting the lives of women through economic empowerment or purchasing sustainable agriculture as a way to help preserve the environment. Whatever the cause, there are opportunities to support what you believe in as you do your gift shopping.  It makes the giving even sweeter when you know your purchase makes a direct positive impact on someone else’s life somewhere in this world. It’s like giving twice.

2016 (social) Good Gift Guide

1. Heart of Haiti

I was bursting with excitement when the box with my order from Macy’s arrived. I Carefully unwrapped the smooth gilded soapstone heart box that now sits on my desk, a talisman from Haiti.  On our recent trip we visited the very river that soapstone was sourced from, and had watched the stone carvers sculpt misshapen rocks into beautiful smooth hearts by hand. I saw the completed gold-leafed hearts ready to be shipped for the Heart of Haiti holiday collection, and couldn’t wait to order one once I got home. It has been a thrill to meet the artisans and follow the creation process through to the finished piece of art now placed in front of me. I’ve gained a deep respect and appreciation for the creativity, resilience, and hard work of the Haitian artisan community.  I cherish my golden Heart of Haiti heart as a beacon of beauty shaped in a place where life is not always easy. Every item in the line is like this, hand crafted with hope by the amazing artisans that we had the chance to meet.

Heart of Haiti Metal Trays

Heart of Haiti Metal Trays

2. Artisan Business Network

The partnership with Haitian artisans through Artisan Business Network and Heart of Haiti was established after the earthquake in 2010 to provide long-term sustainable economic opportunities for the many talented artisans of Haiti. The Artisan Business Network works to empower Haiti’s artisan culture to improve the wellbeing of the community as a whole. Visit the ABN website to see more beautiful work from Haiti’s artisan community.

The Red Sari Felted Scarves made in Nepal

The Red Sari Felted Scarves made in Nepal

3. The Red Sari

Gorgeous felted scarves and fun holiday accessories make this one of my favorite discoveries this year. The Red Sari creates sustainable jobs for women in Nepal while also providing skills training and leadership workshops for Red Sari team members.


The Vintage Sari Collection, our signature line, is a result of our collaboration with a woman’s felting group in the Kathmandu Valley. Together we discovered the process of fusing wool fibers with vintage silk saris resulting in beautifully textured scarves and one-of-a-kind handbags and accessories. –


Holiday Accessories from The Red Sari

Holiday Accessories from The Red Sari

4. Zesa Raw

The Foodies in your life will love gifts from Zesa Raw:

Zesa Raw products are responsibly sourced from small-scale farmers in Haiti and the Dominican Republic with the belief that pure, natural, simple, and raw crops are better for our health and for our environment. They make beautiful gifts too!

Zesa Raw Gift Pack

Zesa Raw Gift Pack

 Zesa Raw was created out of a continuing commitment to the agricultural production of sustainable crops by small-scale farmers, thereby improving the quality of life in rural farming areas of the Caribbean and the Latin America basin. – Read more from the Zesa Raw Social Mission 

5. World Moms Network

All of the products in the World Moms Network mini-shop are sourced from women’s cooperatives that provide jobs for sex trade survivors. Proceeds from the shop benefit World Moms Network and help to keep the site running! Providing voices for women around the world is important and purchasing items from the WMN Mini-shop not only helps to support that mission but provides economic opportunities for the women who make the items.

From the World Moms Network Mini-Shop

From the World Moms Network Mini-Shop

Most importantly the best gifts to give are free, so give generously:


Searching the (he)ART of Haiti

Searching the (he)ART of Haiti
"Home Is Home"

“Lakay Se Lakay” / “Home Is Home”

When I travel to a country for the first time I usually try to do some homework in preparation for my visit. I love the way that travel brings history, geography, and humanity to life, and provides a deeper understanding of the world. Still, sometimes I visit a place like Haiti, that is so enigmatic and full of surprises, that I realize no amount of advance preparation could have fully primed my understanding of the place. I loved the way Haitian Fashion Designer of Rapadou, Marie Therese Hilaire who goes by “Tetes”, expressed it:

“We have a country that has a feeling, se la pu la, You have to be there to understand it“.

It took less than two hours to fly there from Miami, but could not have felt more worlds away.

Packets of fried plantain snacks for sale

Packets of fried plantain snacks for sale

The art of any country always provides insightful cultural cues. In a country like Haiti, which is deeply infused with a visual arts culture, it can be a primer into the ethos of the population.  As a first time visitor to Haiti it was thrilling to meet a varied cross section of artists and artisans who make their living through their craft.   The “studios” of the  Artisan Business Network artists we visited ranged from outdoors spaces on the ground in remote villages to high-end designer studios in the capitol. I was impressed that despite these variances the finished pieces of art produced in each setting were beautiful and polished works. I also noted that even the most high end designer we visited used some repurposed materials with which to create.  I marveled that the rubber from old tires, empty discarded cement bags or metal barrels could be transformed into such amazing objects. Many of the artisans we met create products for the Heart of Haiti line of goods sold on-line and in Macy’s stores in America. Having bought pieces in the past from  Heart of Haiti  that decorate our home made it all the more powerful to meet the artisans actually creating these pieces by hand. Heart of Haiti began it’s partnership with the Artisan Business Network after the 2010 earthquake in an effort to provide sustainable jobs for as many Haitian artisans as possible to aid in economic recovery.  Everywhere you look in Haiti you find art,  from colorful TapTap buses to the murals on the cement walls around the city, color and creation seemed to saturate Haitian life.

A Tap-Tap bus in Port-au-Prince

A Tap-Tap bus in Port-au-Prince

The same artists in the below video about Heart of Haiti that was made a couple of years ago are the ones that we visited during our October trip this year. They are still working today and able to support their families, and send their kids to school because the pieces they create are in demand in the Macy’s stores.

Each region we visited seemed to have a creative specialty, we were often given demonstrations and able to observe the artists process of creation. This was amazing. We visited paper mache artists in Jacmel, stone carvers in Leogane, and metal workers in Croix des Bouquets. We watched the exquisite beadwork of Jean-Baptiste in Croix des Bouquets and the soap making process at a women’s collective in Mirebalaise. Even the embroiderers in Camp Perrin, recently hit hard by Hurricane Matthew, were busy rebuilding, creating, and getting back to work.

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Made for Heart of Haiti by metal workers in Croix Des Bouquets, stone carvers in Leogane, and embroiderers in Les Cayes

Paper Mache by Pierre Edgar Satyr

Paper Mache by Pierre Edgar Satyr


Beaded bottles by Fougete Cherisme in Les Cayes








“Haiti’s visual arts are unmatched in the caribbean. Much of this can be put down to the influence of Voodoo, with its rich visual language of veve symbols and painted temples” –Paul Clammer

I love the widespread use of veve, or religious symbols representing voodoo spirits, in every type of art that we saw. I felt like the pieces decorated with Voodoo symbology were  imbued with a mythical presence, making it more than just a beautiful object, but one with deeper meaning and symbolism. Of course, each piece that is produced for the Artisan Business Network and Heart of Haiti is more than just a beautiful object, to the artisan it is their life blood, their independence, and pride. Each piece represents the opportunity to earn a good wage, in a country that faces many obstacles at the moment to doing so, it is also a chance for Haiti to maintain its rich and unique arts culture that is a gift to the world.  Spoiler alert for friends and family…..I returned home with a huge duffle bag packed with gorgeous gifts for this holiday season, along with some more amazing pieces for our own home! If you are interested in purchasing gifts that give hope from Haiti this season you can find all sorts of wonderful creations, home goods, jewelry, and tastes  of Haiti at Macy’s . Items can also be found for purchase, or to order to carry in your own shop on the Artisan Business Network site. Over the next few weeks I can’t wait to share stories about some of the artisans that we met and the gorgeous items that they make!

Sitting on the mosaic stairs in Jacmel with fellow travel companions

Sitting on the mosaic stairs in Jacmel with fellow travel companions


I received a scholarship from Everywhere to help cover some of my trip expenses to Haiti to visit Artisan Business Network artists who create products for the Macy’s Heart of Haiti line. It was an incredible experience and as always on this blog, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

LOVEly Gifts for Valentine’s Day

LOVEly Gifts for Valentine’s Day



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Wine, Chocolate, Jewelry and heart! We’ve got you covered with this list of a few of our favorite Valentine’s Day gifts this year.

My absolute favorite Valentine’s Day gift pick is the Alex & Ani special edition Product (RED) bracelet where 20% of the proceeds go to the Global Fund to help fight AIDS. I also happen to also be obsessed with the arrow rings and bracelets the just came out with!!

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Olive & Cocoa is the place to find updated versions of Valentine’s Day flowers, chocolate and gifts.

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I love this “bundle of love” that FEED came up with for Valentine’s Day this year where each purchase provides 35 meals for school children around the world!

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Wine always makes a wonderful gift, especially the wines from One Hope because they each give back to a different cause. These wines are perfect for Valentine’s Day the purchase of the glittery pink bottle filled with Chardonnay goes to fight Breast Cancer and the glittery red bottle of Pinot Noir that  helps fight Heart Disease. There are also some fun for the holiday gift packages like the All You Need is Love Gift Box, the Baker Gift Crate or the Birthday Babe Gift Box.

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Heart of Haiti  Fair Trade products found in Macy’s Department stores are produced in collaboration with Full Circle Exchange and help Haitian Artisans to support their families with their beautiful hand-made crafts.

PicMonkey Collage6In my mind life is all about love.  Valentine’s Day is a perfect day to spread the LOVE, whether it be romantic, love between friends or the love of family. It is a great opportunity to let them know you care. Making someone feel special doesn’t have to be with a gift. The gifts above are fun suggestions, and some of them even give twice by contributing to a good cause, but sometimes a simple note or gesture can make someone feel just as special. I’m wishing you all days full of love, and a Happy Valentine’s Day!




Social Good Gifts 2015

Social Good Gifts 2015

PicMonkey Collage9Each year during this frenzied shopping season I aim to find a few social good gift options to share that not only please the recipient, but that are gifts that give back in some way. I know I’m not the only one who appreciates the meaning behind a gift as much as the gift itself. Here are some ideas, and links to others that all have great stories behind them. Let’s spread goodness, hope and cheer this holiday season!

Social Good Gifts
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My friend Nicole keeps an incredible list of gifts that give back on her blog and this year she added and introduced me to Bloom & Give. I immediately bought one of their beautiful block printed tote bags that helps to send a girl to school in India. Their designs and quality are as beautiful as the mission.


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I love the whole concept of the 100 Good Deeds bracelets and the idea of gifting them, especially to my children, as an inspiration to do more for others. It’s a great story and it goes like this:

Mary Fisher—artist, author, advocate—spent a decade partnering with vulnerable
women in Africa, designing jewelry made by the women to earn a dignified livelihood.

She had just released her memoir, Messenger, a story of discovering joy in service, when she met Thomas Morgan, filmmaker and father, who created the 100 Good Deeds game with his family. Read More – from



Last year I had Heart of Haiti gifts on my list of Gifts That Give Back 2014 and through learning about that program, run by Macy’s, I also learned about the Path to Peace Rwanda Baskets program. I had the honor of attending the 10 year celebration for the Path to Peace Rwanda baskets this fall at Macy’s Herald Square in New York City. It is the longest running “trade not aid” program of its kind, and that night we heard first hand about the transformations that have taken place over the past decade within the communities of the basket weavers working on this project. Both programs are helping to revive communities that had suffered the trauma of natural disaster and conflict.

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The most adorable knitwear for babies by Misha and Puff also happens to help women to support their families in Peru. The knitting center in Peru provides meals and day care for the knitters, and the pieces are all made from hand dyed natural fibers of soft baby alpaca. Adorbs!

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Life is full of joy and sadness, and we can all relate to its highs and lows. I hope that lokai will remind you to stay balanced and centered along your journey.
-Steven Izen, Founder of lokai

My daughter and all of her friends are loving the Lokai bracelets, and I’ve noticed them on the wrists of some celebrities as well. Said to contain mud from the Dead Sea in the black bead, and water from Mt. Everest in the white, the symbolism is to remind us to stay balanced. For the month of December when you purchase the red  Lokai Bracelet $1.00 will be donated to benefit Save The Children.


Mindful Giving in a book. Simple Giving is a beautiful book is full of inspiring stories of ways to give back every day. It’s lovely to think that by giving this book you are not only helping one person through your purchase, but providing tools to continue the cycle of giving back.

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Photo Credit: Heidi Reed

Still looking? Did you know that everything you purchase online by shopping through Amazon Smile is an opportunity to give? Just pull up the AmazonSmile page and choose the charity where you would like your donations to go. Continue to log in with your own account information and a portion of the purchase price of each eligible item will go to the organization of your choice.  Through my Amazon Smile account I choose to support Edesia, a non-profit based right here in Rhode Island that produces nutrient rich ready to use therapeutic foods to treat and prevent malnutrition for the most vulnerable children in the world.

You can also check out the fabulous items that give back featured in past lists :

10 Mindful Gifts To Give, Mindful Gift Guide for the Foodie, or Mindful Giving Guide 

Wishing Peace and love to all this holiday season!

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.