Category Archives: Global awareness

(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. – www.theredsari.com

 

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:

 LOVE, COMPASSION, JOY & UNDERSTANDING

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

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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.

Heading to Haiti: Destruction and Creation

Heading to Haiti: Destruction and Creation

img_4219I grew up with several Haitian bark paintings and pieces of metalwork decorating our home. One was a concave bark painting that depicted a turtle fighting a fish. As a child I asked my father the meaning of that piece. I only wish I could remember his answer. Funny how the image of that fish and turtle remain crisp in my mind while details of conversations with my father, who died when I was thirteen, have mostly faded away. Maybe I’ll find my answer next week when I peek into the Haitian art world, still it strikes me that this is the power of art, of images that stay in our minds long after words fade away.

As I embark on my first ever visit to Haiti other pictures of the country are being etched into our minds. Last week areas of Haiti faced yet another crippling natural disaster, and although we are bringing what we can to help, we are not going there to view the destruction. We are going to witness creation. What I do know about Haiti beyond what we see in the news is this; Haiti is a nation of Artisans with a rich cultural history of art and craftsmanship, and that is the reason for this visit. Though we are not going with the purpose of disaster relief (nor do I have qualifications to go for that reason) Macy’s Heart of Haiti program was initially founded in response to a natural disaster. Our Macy’s Heart of Haiti tour, in partnership with the Artisan Business Network ,was planned before Hurricane Matthew struck. The artists asked that we still come, and we have ensured that our plans will not hinder any critical relief efforts underway. The partnership with Haitian artisans was launched back in 2010 after the 7.0 earthquake that devastated the country. It has been working to help provide an outlet for the rich tradition of the arts in Haitian culture and sustainable income opportunities since.

After the earthquake in 2010 the Clinton Foundation had called on private firms to help resurrect the Haitian artisan economy. Macy’s responded by teaming up with Fairwinds Trading, BrandAid, and Haitian artisans to create home goods to be sold at Macy’s stores. The products are made almost entirely from recycled and sustainable materials. The “trade not aid” model of Heart of Haiti has employed 780 artisans since then providing them with an outlet for their work and in turn an opportunity to make a living , feed their families, and send their children to school. The success of the Macy’s program has opened up new opportunities for artists with other vendors as well. A Haitian American named Nathalie Tancrede partnered with Fairwinds Trading, and HAND/EYE Fund to found the Artisans Business Network that works to empower Haiti’s artisan culture to improve community wellbeing.

The Republic of Haiti is named from the indigenous Taíno name for the island, Ayiti, meaning Land of High Mountains.  Haiti occupies the western, smaller portion of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with the Dominican Republic.  It was the first independent nation in Latin America, and the first black-led republic in the world after gaining independence in the slave revolution of 1804.  According to the World Bank it is also the poorest country in the Americas and one of the poorest in the world. More than half of the population lives on less than $2.50 a day. Geographically prone to natural disasters, including the 7.0 in 2010, and after two decades of political turmoil and foreign interference, Haitians are working hard to rebuild and move forward. The World Bank reports progress:

“Six years after the magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, Haiti has moved from recovery to longer term development as it continues to improve infrastructure and strengthen institutions, work toward increasing access to and quality of education, health and other services, and stimulate investment.” – worldbank.org

In the book The Big Truck That Went By author Jonathan Katz  describes the frustration of developmental aid workers as they “confronted seemingly straightforward issues , only to find that dozens of interrelated problems made solving them alone impossible .” One thing that does work to improve quality of life, individual by individual, is employment, sustainable, long-term dignified jobs that provide fair wages.  One by one the individual lives of the talented artisans creating the products sold through Heart of Haiti have improved, and in turn, the lives of their families.

My appreciation for craft is deep and reverent. Growing up our home was filled with art from different cultures, and creating was part of our lives. My mother was a PhD. and my father a Doctor, but they both loved to create. In his basement workshop my father created stained glass and enamel pieces along with his constant woodworking projects. My mother was a painter and ceramic artist who had a second Bachelors degree from Mass Art.  Over the years I’ve enjoyed painting, making pottery, photography, and paper making, and it’s no surprise that my daughter chose the path of art major at her high school. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to visit the artisans in Haiti in their work spaces, to learn more about their country and culture, and to get to see the creative processes that produce the beautiful Heart of Haiti pieces carried at Macy’s.

The impact of Hurricane Matthew has of course added a new aspect to our trip. Many of the artists within the Artisan Business Network have been impacted by the Hurricane, some with devastating losses.  Our group will be bringing items requested by ABN to do the little bit each of us can to help them get back on their feet.  I will be collecting the below items to bring, so any donations by local friends are greatly appreciated!

  • SHEETS
  • FLASHLIGHTS
  • BATTERIES FOR FLASHLIGHTS
  • SMALL PORTABLE RADIOS
  • BATTERIES FOR SMALL PORTABLE RADIOS
  • DIAPERS
  • WIPES
  • FEMININE SUPPLIES: PADS ONLY
  • PERSONAL HYGIENE PRODUCTS
  • ANTIBIOTIC OINTMENTS, IBUPROFEN, ADVIL,
  • UNDERWEAR (MEN, WOMEN, KIDS – ALL SIZES)
  • SOCKS (MEN, WOMEN, KIDS – ALL SIZES)
  • CRAYONS, PENCILS, PENS, DRAWING PADS
  • PHONE CHARGERS
  • POWER STRIPS (2 & 3 HEADS)
  • CLOTHES AND SHOES (IN GOOD SHAPE OR NEW) FOR MEN, WOMEN, KIDS OF ALL AGES/SIZES
    NO WINTER CLOTHES – SHORTS, SKIRTS, T-SHIRTS, DRESSES, PANTS, SHIRTS, TANK TOPS
    FLIP FLOPS, HATS, BABY ONESIES, ESPADRILLE LIKE SHOES

Donations can also be made online directly to the ABN through HAND/EYE MAGAZINE or an Amazon wish list where items will be directly shipped to our trip leader Leticia. For more ways to help see Leticia’s blog post listing other trust worthy places to donate.  Edesia in Rhode Island is also accepting donations to help treat and prevent child malnutrition in the most hard hit areas of Haiti.

We will be sharing stories and photos along the way during our trip and you can follow us on Social Media on Twitter Facebook and at #giftsthatgivehope, #Bloggers4Haiti to see the beautiful creation that happens in Haiti and the meet the artists at work. You can also follow the Artisan Business Network  on Facebook and Instagram . Meanwhile, along with stories, I will be looking for some new pieces of Haitian art to display in our home for my own children to grow up with.

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.

What Is A Twitter Takeover ?

What Is A Twitter Takeover ?

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Sounds pretty dramatic, right?!? A Twitter Takeover is kind of dramatic, but it’s not about illegal hacking. A Twitter Takeover is when a brand or organization hands over their twitter account to a new voice to run temporarily. It may be a celebrity, spokesperson, or in our case for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization this week…. a bunch of moms…I mean social media influencers!  Twitter takeovers have become a great way for brands and organizations to increase engagement and reach audience populations they might not already have access to. They nurture a feeling of authenticity, and bring in fresh voices to followers.

That is where our group of writers, digital media producers, travelers, moms, and advocates come in. We deeply believe that all children should have global access to lifesaving vaccines.  I know you are still wondering WHY GAVI would let us takeover the @vaccines twitter account. Collectively between us we have nearly 44,000 followers comprised, in part, of many other moms who also care about child health, but who may not already follow the @vaccines twitter handle. This is an important demographic to reach on the topic of global vaccines because as long as a virus is a threat anywhere in the world, it is a threat to all of us.  We have the vaccines to prevent some of the most threatening diseases, but they only work if they are delivered. Our Twitter Takeover team of UN Foundation Shot@Life Champion Leaders is made up of myself, Nicolette Springer, Nicole Morgan, and Ilina Ewen. We were asked by GAVI to takeover the account to tweet from the Social Good Summit and UNGA, which are both taking place in NYC this week.  Our goal is to help spread the message that Vaccines Work. No mother should lose her child due to a vaccine preventable disease when we have the life saving vaccines available. All children deserve a shot at life.

Here is a snapshot of what our takeover has looked like so far. Be sure to follow us for the rest of the week @vaccines to keep up to date on new technologies, exciting reveals during the United Nations General Assembly, and moments from the field.

Learn more about how you can become a Shot@Life Champion and make an impact in global health!

Follow us each individually on Twitter at @IlinaP @endlessprojects @thesistershood and @elizabethatalay

When Moms + Social Good Come Together

When Moms + Social Good Come Together

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The first week of May I was in New York City for the 4th annual Moms + Social Good conference at the New York Times Center.  When Moms + Social Good come together, great things are bound to happen.  I gathered there with some of my “tribe”, like-minded friends from World Moms Blog, the United Nations Shot@Life campaign, and the Social Good world.  The one day event was hosted by The United Nations Foundation and Johnson & Johnson, with support from BabyCenter, Global Citizen, Fatherly, and Charity Miles. The goal of the Moms + Social event, in honor of Mother’s Day, was to highlight some of the greatest challenges women and children across the globe are facing today.

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The buzz word that came up in almost every panel and topic of conversation, whether the discussion was on the refugee crisis or the importance of global vaccines, was EDUCATION. The importance of education to rise above any circumstance was underlined again and again.

“For refugees we need to focus on quality #education for girls and women.”- Mari Malek

Mari Malek, Model/DJ/Advocate/Founder Stand4Education and former refugee

Mari Malek, Model/DJ/Advocate/Founder Stand4Education and former refugee

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 Save The Children usually conducts a State of the World’s Mother’s Report released around U.S. Mother’s Day, but the surprising statistics on maternal and child health in the USA in last year’s global report (The US ranked number 33 worldwide) inspired the compilation this year of The Shriver Report Snapshot: Insight Into The Resilient American Mother instead. The Save The Children special report was especially impactful to us as moms in the USA. The study polled 1000 mothers in the United States of various backgrounds. The findings were surprising.

  • Overall 85% of American mothers polled think that the US is becoming a worse place to raise a child.
  • Despite this alarming finding, almost all moms, also said they are optimistic about their future and their children’s future.
  • 6 in 10 said that the US business culture makes it “nearly impossible” to balance work and family.
  • The top stressors for American moms were bills and expenses.
  • American moms are conflicted whether technology and social media do more good than harm for their children.
  • When it comes to helping kids, American mothers overwhelmingly want the next president to focus on education.

World Moms Blog Founder, Jennifer Burden had the opportunity to interview Save The Children CEO Carolyn Miles about the report. (go to World Moms Blog to find the interview soon!)

World Moms Blog Founder, Jennifer Burden, interviews Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children at the Moms + SocialGood event in NYC on May 5th, 2016.

World Moms Blog Founder, Jennifer Burden, interviews Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children at the Moms + SocialGood event in NYC on May 5th, 2016.

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Gene Gurkoff and Elizabeth Atalay

Gene Gurkoff and Elizabeth Atalay

I first met Gene Gurkoff,, Founder and CEO of Charity Miles, three years ago at Moms + Social Good. Charity Miles is an app that lets you donate to the charity of your choice when you work out, and I’ve been logging in my Charity Miles ever since.  In the mean time it had been exciting to watch his company grow and do more and more good in the world each year.

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US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power led a panel where she spoke about working hard to take out Boko Haram, and the importance of education.  Just last month, Ambassador Powers was in Abuja, Nigeria visiting with the mothers of the Chibok Girls. There, she met fellow World Moms Blog contributor, Aisha Yesufu, at the sit in, and World Moms Blog Founder was excited to get the opportunity to tell her about the connection to Aisha, and our support for the moms in Chibok! 

US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power with Jennifer Burden, Founder and CEO of World Moms Blog, at Moms + SocialGood in NYC May 5th, 2016.

US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power with Jennifer Burden, Founder and CEO of World Moms Blog, at Moms + SocialGood in NYC May 5th, 2016.

 

Ambassador Power a few weeks earlier in Abuja Nigeria side by side with World Mom, Aisha Yesufu! 

2016 Aisha Yesufu and Ambassador Power 600

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As good friend and fellow Shot@Life Champion Leader Ilina Ewen said on her panel, From local to global challenges: Focus on the whole child, “The sisterhood of motherhood is universal”. This is what keeps me coming back to Moms + Social each year. I believe in the power of mothers when we come together for a better future for not jus our own children, but for all the children of the world.

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Photo credit of Aisha and Ambassador Power to Aisha Yesufu.