Category Archives: Lifestyle

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.

Nantucket Book Festival #ACKBookFestival

Nantucket Book Festival #ACKBookFestival

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My sixteen year old went to a three day concert festival earlier this month, and I imagine our girl’s weekend at the Nantucket Book Festival was to the six of us book lovers, what being in proximity to the rock stars were to my teen daughter. If it were socially acceptable I’m sure we too would have stood up and screamed as some of our idols took the stage, but in the subdued Nantucket Athaneum we surely would have been sternly escorted out out by a gentleman in a navy blazer.

That’s not to say that we didn’t have our wild moments of dancing to random bands in a dive bar…. or……ok, so maybe that was the one wild moment of the weekend….. but it was a thrilling weekend full of books and authors, great food, and friends, wild in the stories we got to explore .   The point is, if you are a book lover, a reader or a writer, or a lover of stories and those who tell them, then you should have been there too. The amazing storytellers who spoke had us in awe, throughout the weekend we were on the emotional rollercoaster that comes with the close study of human nature as told through narrative.

It all started with our gracious host, an island homeowner who had attended every Nantucket Book Festival since it’s inception four years ago and been raving to us about it ever since. Her wonderful blog CreativeWhimzy highlights the type of creative, thoughtful and energetic person our gracious host Jo is. We arrived to welcome gifts, mugs she had designed for all of us, each with a handmade tag, to enjoy our morning coffee in!IMG_8946

We were up bright and early on Friday morning for breakfast with Anita Diamant, best selling author of The Red Tent, who gave a talk about her recently released novel The Boston Girl, and her craft. I have found that writers are often great speakers, as natural storytellers they often know how to keep their audience humored and enthralled.


Anita Diamant


Following Anita Diamant, author of A Long Way Gone, Ishmael Beah spoke to us about his journey from child soldier in Sierra Leone to best selling author in New York City. He introduced his new novel The Radiance of Tomorrow and discussed his transition from memoir to fiction and his role in providing “the lost boys” of the war in  Sierra Leone a human face and insight to the rest of the world .


posing with Ishmael Beah


Leaving the athenaeum with our emotions piqued by the amazing authors we had just heard, we discovered the Typewriter Rodeo in the courtyard outside. We each got a poem typed out for us by the rodeo based on a word we gave. By then we were all practically in tears of overwhelmed emotions and the festival had only just begun!



Authors L to R: LaShonda Katrice Barnett, Bret Anthony Johnston, Belinda McKeon, Scott Turow, Azar Nafisi


What we have discovered is that authors are great story tellers, and each author captivated us with the behind the scenes of the stories they told. Breakfast with Jodi Picoult and Alice Hoffman was up close and personal, it was such a treat to get a glimpse of each of them outside of their writing, and the view from the Dreamland theatre event space could not be beat.


up close and personal with Jodi Picoult and Alice Hoffman



Our final morning of the Nantucket Book festival was magic despite the deluge. The White Elephant is impeccable, the event space, the brunch, and the service was amazing. Ishmael Beah was amazing as well. How he can infuse such heartbreak yet inspiration in one delivery is the true magic. His wisdom and insight into human nature are treasures, mined only as someone who has seen humanity at its worst and best could do.


The weekend at The Nantucket Book Festival felt like a dream. One where fairy tales and nightmares haunt your consciousness and leaves you on the other side of something intangible. It felt like gift that can be held and turned over in my mind for a long time to come.


#HappyNewYear #2015

#HappyNewYear #2015


Gifts That Give Back Guide 2014, Creating Change Through Economic Opportunity

Gifts That Give Back Guide 2014, Creating Change Through Economic Opportunity

In October I attended the ONE Girls & Women AYA Summit at the Google Headquarters in DC. One of the many powerful panels we heard from was entitled Change Through Economic Opportunity, and both major fashion companies and small start-ups weighed in on how they are impacting the lives of women through economic empowerment.  There are so many fantastic places to purchase gifts holiday season, but why not use the power of your wallet to also help to lift a woman out of poverty when you purchase them. I feel like this makes the giving even sweeter. Not only will the recipient love what they get, but you both will know it had a positive impact on someone else’s life somewhere in this world. To me it feels like giving twice. Here are my top picks this year to use my purchasing power for social good from the AYA Summit panelists and beyond.

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Vase from the Heart of Haiti line


Gorgeous clutch from the Kate Spade On Purpose line

Gorgeous clutch from the Kate Spade On Purpose line








Macy’s sells a line of goods called Heart of Haiti, designed to enrich and improve the lives of the artisans that create beautiful goods. Established after the massive earthquake in 2010, Heart of Haiti was created as a sustainable way to help repair Haiti’s fragile economy.









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I’ve been a huge fan of Kate Spade since she began so I was thrilled when I met Sydney Price and heard her speak about the Kate Spade On Purpose line at the AYA Summit panel on Change Through Economic Opportunity.   Each piece in this collection is handcrafted in Rwanda creating sustainable economic opportunities for women and reshaping their community.


Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 9.54.08 AMScreen Shot 2014-12-11 at 11.00.42 AMI also met Jane Mosbacher Morris at the AYA Summit where she participated in the panel on Change Through Economic Opportunity. I love her story from policy to retail and was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview her a few days ago and get more insight into her path to founding To The Market. To The Market is a marketplace for survivor made goods, whether it is from war, disaster, or abuse, To The Market provides a market for the beautiful handcrafted goods that give women survivors a chance to support themselves and their families.

fashionable copyScreen Shot 2014-12-11 at 11.03.40 AMI had the pleasure of visiting the FashionABLE factory in Ethiopia this past summer and have been writing about and wearing the gorgeous scarves made in Ethiopia for years. That made it such a thrill to finally meet founder Barrett Ward at the AYA Summit this past fall where he participated on the Change Through Economic Opportunity panel as well. They are now expanding operations to include products made in Kenya and a beautiful line of leather products, all while providing social service programs of health care, education in a trade, and assistance with child care for their artisans to help them build better lives for themselves and their families.

Photo by Heidi Reed

Photo by Heidi Reed

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 11.05.10 AMFor the person who has everything that you still want to let know you are thinking of them, there are many non profits where you can gift a gift in a loved ones name.  Often the non-profit will send them a certificate or note saying that you did so. This year I am supporting the non-profit Edesia, based in Rhode Island, that provides nutritional supplements for prevention and treatment of malnutrition in children. Edesia products are specifically created to treat babies and children during the critical first five years of life. If they do not get proper nutrition within those first five years, and most critically the first thousand days of life, they may be stunted and never reach their full potential. If you make a donation on the Edesia website in the notes section and list name of the person in whose name the donation is being made and their address, Edesia will send them a post card letting them know.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 11.38.48 AMScreen Shot 2014-12-11 at 11.27.50 AMOh, and how can I forget wine!? One Hope Wine where 1/2 of the proceeds goes to educating girls, which we know is key to global development. When a girl is educated she will tend to get married later, have fewer children, and contribute economically to her family.

 For more ideas on gifts that give back check out my past gift guides from 2012 (That includes Heifer International), 2013 and for foodies