Category Archives: Global awareness

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.

These days other images from Haiti 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. 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.” –

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 sure 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!


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 ?


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

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.


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


 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.


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.


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


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.


Photo credit of Aisha and Ambassador Power to Aisha Yesufu.

Shaping The Narrative Of Global Health

Shaping The Narrative Of Global Health

I was thrilled to be asked to speak at this years United Nations Foundation Shot@Life Summit to a room of almost 200 champions from all over the country. I’ll confess that having never spoken to a group that large I was a nervous wreck, but I love a challenge, and it helps to speak from the heart on an issue you are emotionally invested in, and so this is what I said:


“Every story begins and ends with a woman, a mother, a grandmother, a girl, a child, . Every story is a birth”….- Ishmael Beah Author of Long Way Gone & Radiance of Tomorrow & UNICEF Advocate

As a storyteller, and a mother to my four children that quote by Ishmael Beah really touches me. Because before I was a mother, I was of course a daughter. And the story of why I am here speaking to you today begins with her. my mother was born in 1922 , she was 45 when I was born, and a polio survivor. She stood all of 5’2” at a tilt, since Polio had left her with one leg slightly shorter than the other.

Eventually I would come to tower over her at 5’9″, and now that I am a mother myself I muse at how odd it must have been to have ended up with a daughter so much taller. While I was still a daughter, and before I became a mother, I was a traveler. I still think about the mothers who approached me as a westerner in my early twenties and held out their babies to me asking for medicine or a cure. If those babies survived they would be in their mid-twenties now, and surely not all did survive. Knowing what I know now I wish I could go back in time with a bag of medical supplies and give them whatever they needed, because the pleading looks in those mother’s eyes haunt me to this day.

I never was a mother and a daughter at the same time. My mother passed away four months before my own first child was born. Though she had told me stories about having Polio as a child it never really resonated with me in the way it did once I became a mother myself. How terrified my grandmother must have been of losing her. And to be honest I hadn’t really reflected on those mothers I met as backpacker in my 20’s until I became a mother myself, and then I remembered that helpless feeling I was left with when I did not know what to do to help them. I was so grateful to join shot@life as a champion and finally have the opportunity to DO SOMETHING. To honor my mother’s legacy as a Polio Survivor, and to help the mothers that I know are out there in developing countries desperate for proper healthcare, for lifesaving vaccines for their children that every mother should have access to.


As excited as I was to join Shot@Life I have to confess that had I known that I was going to be visiting my government representatives on capitol hill that first year I attended the summit, I may never have joined. I would have been too afraid. Yet, the next thing I knew I was hoofing it around capitol hill (in the wrong shoes…I might add…( definitely take the comfortable shoe recommendation seriously ) advocating for Shot@life with my congressmen and Senators. I brought the messaging back to my community and realized how much work is still to be done just in terms of  awareness alone. There is so much misinformation and lack of awareness out there on vaccines. In this country we take it for granted that our babies will not die from a simple case of diarrhea, but mothers in countries where they lack access to vaccines have lost, or know someone who has lost a baby to a vaccine preventable disease. Every 20 seconds a baby dies from a vaccine preventable disease, mothers will walk for days to get vaccines when they can for their children. I realized there is a huge need to get the message out to the public.

vaccinesSo what can YOU do to make sure every child gets a fair Shot@life no matter where they are born?

  1. Become a United Nations Foundation Shot@Life Champion, as a Champion here are a few ways to reach out to make an impact in your community that can ripple around the globe:
  2. Contact or visit your local representatives and tell them that you care about their support of global health and global vaccines, and ask them to support these programs as well.
  3.  Hold a party to get the word out, if you don’t want to do it in your home there are so many companies that offer fun alternatives. In my community stores like Alex & Ani,  Pinkberry, and Flatbread Pizza will help you have a party on site to fundraise for your event.
  4. Speak to local clubs, a local new neighbors club, Rotary or General Federation of Women’s Clubs
  5. Hold an event at your child’s school or set up a booth during an international fair, take the opportunity to work the importance of vaccines into the broader issue of global awareness.
  6. Use social media as a messaging tool for good with this social toolkit.Write op-eds, letters to the editor, blog posts, or articles for your local paper or magazine. I had a profile run in my local town Magazine for example.

For World Pneumonia Day last November I was paired up with Dr Mkope from Tanzania and at the National Press Club in Washington, DC we did over 20 radio and TV interviews! It was a great feeling knowing that the message of the importance of vaccines, with real life proof of efficacy from Dr. Mkope, was being broadcast so far and wide. At shot@life we say “a virus is just a plane ride away”, and in a perfect example of this ever shrinking world, it turned out that Dr. Mkope is the pediatrician of the one friend I know in Tanzania.

This year might be the last year that Polio is a threat to any child in the world, with only 9 cases on record, and still known to exist in only two countries in the world, the World Health Organization predicts that, with vaccines, it will be eradicated soon.

Every story is a birth, for my mother who survived Polio, for the mothers I met in central Africa with the pleading eyes, for my children and my children’s children, what I have learned as a Shot@Life Champion is that we have the opportunity to shape this narrative on global health, together lets write this story to end with no child dying unnecessarily from a vaccine preventable disease.

#Advocate2Vaccinate #VaccinesWork


World Water Day

World Water Day



March 22nd is World Water Day and WaterAid has released a new report:  The Sate of  the World’s Water 2016.

There remain 16 countries in the world where 40% or more of their population does not have access to clean water – WaterAid 


What many of us take for granted, clean, safe water to drink, cook with, bathe in, and with which to wash our clothes, is an expensive luxury to hundreds of millions of people around the world. The cost is not just monetary.  Access to clean water and sanitation is a key element to breaking the cycle of extreme poverty. Women and girls are most effected by lack of access to water and sanitation. In many areas girls miss out on school because they spend much of their day walking miles to access clean water for their families. Those girls who do make it to school often drop out once menstruation begins if there are no private toilet facilities available. UNICEF reports that 6,000 children die of water related diseases every day. The most susceptible being children under the age of five. Access to clean water is a global humanitarian priority, and world wide awareness of water as a precious resource is needed to tackle the issue. Water is life.

“Clean, affordable drinking water is not a privilege: it’s a fundamental human right. This World Water Day, let’s celebrate the unprecedented progress that’s been made in helping more people than ever before gain access to clean water. But let’s also double down on our efforts so that everyone, everywhere can exercise their basic right to clean water by the year 2030.”-Sarina Prabasi, WaterAid America Chief Executive

Photo Credits: Elizabeth Atalay taken while on a New Media Fellowship trip to Ethiopia with the International Reporting Project to report on Newborn Health.