Category Archives: Objects of Desire/Fashion

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.

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.



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.

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