Tag Archives: Fair Trade

Shop For Good With Indego Africa

Shop For Good With Indego Africa

fabric patterns on set of note cards

When I was in my early twenties I spent six months traveling through the African continent on a trip that  would shape me in countless ways. The previous year and a half had been consumed working on a television series in Boston called “Against The Law”, which was Fox’s first foray into a dramatic T.V. series starring Michael O’Keefe. I had managed to save most of my earnings working 12 hour days during six day work weeks on the show, so when it was cancelled, instead of deciding to do something practical, like put it towards a car, I decided that I wanted to use that money to go to Africa. When I began to research my trip I realized that I could not pick  just one region, such as the game parks of Kenya and Tanzania, or the Okavango delta, because it would be to miss out on so much else. I finally found a trip that satisfied my budget and my desire to get a good glimpse of the rich and varied landscapes, and cultures of the continent.  It was an overland trip that would take me through Morocco and the Sahara desert, the plains filled with big game, into the Jungles to track Gorillas.  We went to the Ngorongoro crater, the Okavango Delta, Zanzibar, the salt pans, and through countless villages along the way. The trip was run by a company out of London called Encounter Overland, and we drove through Africa in an old revamped Bedford army truck, shopped at local markets, cooked our meals over the fires we would build, and camped in tents along the way. All of my essentials fit into a 2×4 backpack as I set out on my adventure. I have been an Africaphile ever since, the people, the cultures, music,varying landscapes, art, patterns and fabrics, all touched my soul in a way that is difficult to articulate.

“When you see the skies of Africa, they are so huge and you almost look into the eye of God. I can’t explain it, there’s something that enters your soul.”- Nejma Beard in an interview by Alec Baldwin on wnyc radio

Since my trip, all things African have a special place in my heart and I also feel passionate about promoting social enterprise companies, so I was thrilled when I was invited by The Mission List to check out some of the products from Indego Africa.  Indego Africa provides training, education, and access to a global online market to Rwandan women artisans who create beautiful jewelry, housewares, and accessories. It provides opportunities for women so they are able to provide the basic necessities for their families and acquire a skill that will lend to sustainable income.


  • Indego Africa is an award-winning, design-driven 501(c)(3) nonprofit social enterprise that lifts women-owned businesses in Rwanda toward sustainable economic independence through access to markets and education.
  • Indego Africa partners with for-profit cooperatives of more than 400 women artisans in Rwanda and exports, markets, and sells their jewelry, accessories, and home decor (a) on its online store, (b) to more than 80 retail stores across the U.S. and Europe, and (c) at major brands like J.Crew and Nicole Miller through cutting-edge design collaborations.
  • Indego Africa then pools its profits from sales with donations to fund training programs – developed internally from the ground up – for the same women in management and entrepreneurshipliteracy,technology, and health.
  • Indego Africa hires top Rwandan university students from socially vulnerable backgrounds to administer its training programs.
  • Indego Africa has offices in New York City and Rwanda and is managed by a lean and diverse team with extensive experience in development, business, design, law, commerce, fashion, and Africa.
  • Indego Africa is a proud member of the Fair Trade Federation and the subject of a Harvard Business School case study.  – From the Indigo Africa website

My love of Africa is apparent in our home as well, in treasures that I brought back, and influences in our decorating style. The Indego Africa online catalog is full of the type of textured, colorful, and richly designed clothing, accessories and home goods that I love. Although I will most certainly go back for more (I’m looking at you batik top!) since we are in the process of decorating our home I selected an item from the housewares selection.  I chose a striking black and white woven bowl, and because I love the fabrics so much, I added a set of gorgeous handmade cards each with a different patterned fabric sewn on to my order.   I was surprised at how quickly my order arrived after it was placed. The bowl is amazing, and I will have a hard time actually parting with the note cards, so if you get one you know you are really special!  I am so excited to share this site with friends, and to have found a great new source for meaningful gifts that give back! To find out more about Indego Africa, the programs they offer, the impact they are having, and that you can contribute to, you can visit their website, like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter and enjoy the eye candy on Pinterest.

the pretty packet of cards

*I received a $75.00 Redeemable Gift Code to shop on the Indego Africa site for the purpose of this review. As always all of the opinions expressed in this post are my own and not swayed by outside influences. Indego Africa truly rocks.

Human trafficking: The Crime That Shames Us All

Human trafficking: The Crime That Shames Us All

Photo By Elizabeth Atalay

I am embarrassed to admit that prostitution was legal in Rhode Island until 2009, but still I remember my disbelief when I heard about the case of four young American women being held against their will as part of a human trafficking ring in Rhode Island last year.  I was driving in my car as the news came over the radio and when they mentioned the age of the girls involved I remember looking in the rear view mirror at my two daughters in the back seat.  They were not that far off from the ages mentioned, and looking at my own daughters’ young faces my chest clenched, these were children they were talking about.  No child should ever end up in that situation. Read the rest of this entry

Sea Of Glass

Sea Of Glass

When our boys were toddlers my friend Michelle and I used to let them walk along side us on the beach while we combed the sand to find beautiful treasures of sea glass. Two states and six years later, when Michelle decided to start a business creating jewelry made from sea glass, she ran into an interesting problem.  The now common practice of recycling has made Sea Glass increasingly more difficult to find.  Part of her desire was to create jewelry using environmentally friendly recycled materials.  When researching alternatives to sea glass she came across recycled glass beads made in Ghana.  She fell in love, and her Lollie Beads creations were born.

African glass beads have been made by tribes for centuries in areas such as Kenya and Ghana, but have seen a recent resurgence in popularity due to the global heightened desire for environmentally friendly products.  The glass beads have a similar texture and translucent look that is reminiscent to that of sea glass.  I love the fact that she only sources her beads from Fair Trade suppliers to ensure that the artists who make the beads benefit directly.  Fair Trade partnerships were created, and strive to ensure that the trade and retail of handmade creative products are produced in safe and fair practices.  Their goal is to continue to improve the working conditions of those in developing countries, to ensure fair trading partnerships between organizations and producers, and to sustain the economic growth of developing countries by linking producers to new trading avenues.

I had first seen Ghana glass beads when through social media I followed my sister-in-law on the ONEMoms trip to Ghana last spring. There ONEMoms helped to  usher in the inaugural vaccine program with the GAVI Alliance.  The ONEMoms team also visited a glass bead factory  on their trip  where they observed how they were made, and posted photos of the resulting gorgeous glass beads that I had never seen anything like before.

 I suppose part of my close bond with my sister-in-law and my friend Michelle comes from sharing the values of caring for the environment, and the desire to give back. It still felt like some amazing full circle somehow when within 6 month they both introduced me to these stunning beads, that had been around far before any of us, but that I had never seen before last spring.  I fell in love with the African continent when I spent six months traveling through it in my twenties. Ghana was one of the countries I did not get to go to, but I tend to gravitate towards anything made in that region, and love to support tradespeople there.  With the holidays approaching I scooped up a bunch Lollie Beads Bracelets to give as gifts, and of course a few for myself to wear too!  Michelle is now selling Lollie Beads at craft shows, a few boutiques, and they can be purchased at www.lolliebeads.etsy.com.  Sea Glass lovers rejoice!