Tag Archives: ONE

X-Box or Nintendo? It depends of your taste for violence.

X-Box or Nintendo? It depends of your taste for violence.

x-box vs wii

I am not a big fan of violent video games, so clearly I’m not about to support a company that produces a product that feeds into real life armed conflict. The question is not about which company makes the most violent video games, and the X-box or Nintendo question is no longer about which has the better graphics.  It’s about which company has a conscience and how much it bothers consumers that people across the world may be harmed in the making of the toy they are about to buy.

The Enough Project’s Raise Hope For Congo campaign wants to raise consumer electronics awareness in time for the Black Friday shopping frenzy. According to the  Conflict Minerals Company Rankings List  they have released the X-Box is the clear choice in this selection.  The consumer electronics products we use daily rely on certain minerals to function, the source of those minerals in some areas fund violent conflicts that have lasted decades. Companies are aware, and some have acted responsibly to make sure the resources they purchase are not part of the problem.

I only learned the truth about Conflict Minerals when listening to Photographer Marcus Bleasdale give his incredibly powerful National Geographic presentation at the Social Good Summit in NYC this past fall.  The images he showed opened my eyes to the source of elements of the very cell phone in my hand.  Suddenly I was connected to those people in the photographs.

Over 5.4 million dead. Over 2 million displaced. Congo is home to the deadliest conflict since World War II.-www.enoughproject.org

I can honestly say I never thought I’d feel the emotion of gratitude when thinking about my son’s X-Box habit, but now that I know what I know,  him playing the X-Box compared to the Nintendo, is a relief.  Turns out  according to the research done for the rankings, Nintendo is the worst company, dead last,  in terms of accountability along the supply chain. Basically, they don’t care where they get them, or who gets hurt along the way, as long as they can make and sell their products. Microsoft, the maker of the X-Box, on the other hand has a green light ranking on  The Conflict Minerals Company Rankings List   marking it as one of the companies that has taken proactive steps to trace and audit their supply chains, pushed for some aspects of legislation, exercised leadership in industry-wide efforts, and started to help Congo develop a clean trade.

Our consumer dollars give us the power to hold the quality of  lives of others in our hands. I am not talking about crushing fellow customers in the black Friday rush into Wal-Mart here.  I am talking about becoming aware of how things are made,  and choosing to be a conscientious consumer .  When we have money to spend, we can choose to spend it on those companies who are actually making a positive impact in this world, as opposed to those who are just out to make a buck.   You can see how the companies you are planning to buy from are rated here in this chart and then purchase accordingly, yes we do have a say in what goes on across the world. Our consumer dollars speak volumes on these issues, and the pressure on companies to take responsibility has turned the tide of the conflict in the Congo.

Last week, Alysha Atma of the Atma Foundation put it beautifully. We were on a conference call with ONE, ENOUGH Project, and JWW, all organizations working towards, preventing genocides, improving accountability and transparency from governments, and large companies.  Alysha told us she was inspired to make a difference by her young son, when she realized that every action has a personal story behind it.  she explained;

“He inspired me to put dinner table talk into action. I realized that every day is an opportunity to give back. I wanted him to learn that a responsibility comes with the good fortune of him having been born here.”

I love that sentiment, every day is an opportunity to give back. So what can we do?

-Share the message on Social Media to help raise awareness about the issue.

-Use the power of your consumer dollars wisely and with good conscience by check the The Conflict Minerals Company Rankings List  before you buy so you know if you want to support that company or not.

The Raise Hope For Congo movement needs your help to increase demand for conflict-free electronics products. As a consumer, you can influence electronics industry leaders as they weigh whether or not to invest in making their supply chains transparent and producing verifiably conflict-free products. Tell companies that if they take conflict out of their products, you’ll buy them.

Send an e-mail right now to electronics companies letting them know you care where they source their materials.

-Get involved in campaigns with organizations such as Enough, JWW, Atma Foundation and ONE that are working towards conflict free products in the Congo.

black friday copy

Click here to share on social media

The Global Team of 200 Trip to Johannesburg, South Africa 2013

The Global Team of 200 Trip to Johannesburg, South Africa 2013

The Author & Jennifer James in Soweto

It already seems like a dream that less than a week ago I was in Johannesburg, South Africa as a member of the Global Team of 200, for the #socialgoodmomsjoburg Insight Trip.  There I met up with Global Team of 200 founder Jennifer James who arrived by way of  Zambia where she had just spent the week with Malaria No More. She had been with them to report on the rolling out of their #PowerofOne campaign to provide malaria tests and treatments for children in regions of Africa, where Malaria claims a child a minute.

So we met in Johannesburg, the second largest city on the African continent with a population of over 3.6 million,  its O.R.Tambo airport is the busiest in all of Africa.  I’ll be honest, it took us a few days to begin to figure out this massive modern city, that locals refer to as either Joburg or Jozi.  There are eleven official languages spoken in Johannesburg, and from our experience, no attempt at political correctness when talking about the three main racial categories its inhabitants are put into. People are plainly referred to as white, black or colored (lighter skin blacks or referring to Indian or Malaysians from what I gather). We were there to meet with Global Team partners and NGOs to get an on the ground look at the issues they tackle first hand.

From the surface Johannesburg could be any large American city, but the vibe is very different, and as Americans one of the first things we noticed was the lingering racial divide. It is also said to be the wealthiest province in South Africa, and while we glimpsed the luxury lifestyles in the suburbs from the outside, our work took us into the homes of the poorest of poor. We witnessed first hand the great disparity of wealth that  exists, and as an outsider to a country with so much wealth, is difficult understand at any level.

Johannesburg collage

Johannesburg also has a reputation as being one of the more dangerous cities of the world. Fortunately we never felt threatened in any way and of course used the same common sense we would have in any major metropolitan area.  Certainly the townships we visited for our work would be considered some of the most dangerous areas in the city.  As in most places, statistically the crime occurs at the highest rate within residents of communities themselves and not on visitors, aside from petty theft, but the warnings are still to be taken seriously.  While visiting with the women’s collective Rebecca’s Well we took a walk through Alexandra Township with a local woman from the organization as our guide.   Our greetings were met with smiles as people went about their daily lives.  The people we met in the township were friendly and some asked to have their pictures taken. When others noticed, they wanted their picture taken too, just to be able to see the images of themselves that I captured with my lens in the viewfinder, laughing or smiling in approval when they did.

One of the launching points for Jennifer’s social good work was her trip several years ago to Kenya as a ONEMom. Her experiences with ONE in Kenya made her realize how valuable the impact of seeing the things we write about first hand was, and that is the experience she decided to give her  Global Team of 200 members.  Documama is a ONE Moms Community Partner, so we were thrilled to have the opportunity to visit the ONE offices in Johannesburg that are the Headquarters for all of Africa.

South Africa has the highest AIDS rate in the world, so the work of one of our Global Team of 200 partner organizations, Marie Stopes , is critical here where it works to provide services to curtail the spread of the disease.  They also provide education and critical family planning services to underserved populations around the city.


In between visits with organizations we  toured the area to get a better sense of Johannesburg, and even had the chance to visit a lion reserve outside of the city. In Soweto we made sure to visit the Mandela house, and Hector Peterson square.  We got out into the suburbs to see the lifestyle outside of downtown and found areas with amazing restaurants like Melrose Arch and Parkhurst.  In Sandton and Rosebank we passed by large modern shopping centers, juxtaposing the Alexandra Township that we knew to be just down the street. It wasn’t until our last day in Joburg when we went to the Neighborgoods Market in Braamfontain, that we found the South Africa we had both expected, or hoped for. In a neighborhood undergoing gentrification downtown we witnessed the type of community interaction we had been looking to see all along. It struck us that apartheid fell just a short twenty years ago. People my age would have been in their mid-twenties already when it ended, and so the young hip crowd that populated the marketplace would truly be the generation to hopefully grow up and change the divided face of Johannesburg. Looking around the diverse crowd, they already are.


I can’t wait to share the insights from our trip and each of our NGO visits throughout the week , each one different, enlightening, and educational in vastly different ways. I hope you’ll join me!

global teamI travelled to Johannesburg, South Africa as part of The Global Team of 200, a highly specialized group of members of Mom Bloggers for Social Good that concentrates on issues involving women and girls, children, world hunger and maternal health.

Our Motto: Individually we are all-powerful. Together we can change the world. We believe in the power of collective action to help others and believe in ourselves to make this world a better place for our children and the world’s children.


Behind The Scenes At The ONE/FashionABLE/AnchorArtists Photo Shoot

Behind The Scenes At The ONE/FashionABLE/AnchorArtists Photo Shoot

A photo of Maren taken the same year we met

I will never forget the first time I laid eyes on my friend Maren. I was sitting in a classroom freshman year of High School.  My curly hair was probably pulled back by a painted barrett on each side, with my bangs straightened and curled under. Most likely I was sporting some chinos and a Lacoste shirt, just trying to fit in.

The “new girl” who walked in the room had just moved East from California. She was as exotic to our East Coast high school as I imagined California to be. And she was spectacular. She had short red hair feathered to the side and was decked head to toe in purple, right up to her eye shadow!  I eagerly told her that I was going to California soon to visit my aunt and asked her what it was like. I had never met anyone like Maren, and knowing her is to understand the phrase “she has  je ne sais quoi” .  Dressing with such style, often in patterns, bright colors, designs made by her mother, and jewelry by actual artists, made it hard to fit in at our New England high school. Maren never wanted to, or tried to change to fit in, and this was one of the things I loved about my new friend.  She always remained confident and true to herself, and our peers liked her even more for that. She stood out as an individual. Being friends with Maren is similar to the way someone with a British accent is perceived to have a higher IQ.   It makes you feel that much more cool and hip, just by association.    Lord only knows why she took gawky little me under her wing, but she would meet me in the bathroom early before school and yank my unruly hair into tight French braids. We have been best friends ever since, and I continue to feel lucky to be graced by her friendship, and especially at this point in life, cherish the long shared history we have together.  She has made me a better person, taught me so much along the way, and continues to influence my style to this day. 

It is no surprise that by now she has spent over 25 years as a leader and style-maker in Boston’s fashion industry.  Maren grew up to become a stylist, Run an agency for stylists, and now is at the helm of her own company, Anchor Artists. Maren founded Anchor Artists out of her dedication to the success of clients and artists, and to use her unique creative vision to see them thrive.  Still willing all these years later to continue to help me with my own fashion challenges, I recently asked her advice on styling my gorgeous new ONE/FashionABLE Genet scarf.

This scarf, the Genet, is a collaborative effort between ONE, fashionABLE and the Alt Design Summit. Each Genet scarf is handmade, taking three days to make with the handiwork of three women. The Genet scarf design was created as a limited edition in honor of  Mother’s Day, and  is only available while supplies last through ONE.org or fashionABLE.  Each scarf purchased helps to support improving the lives of women and children in Ethiopia.

Photo by Hornick/Rivlin

Maren had immediately connected to the story behind fashionABLE and the Genet scarf. Her own mother, Joanne Rossman, had once been a single mother, like Genet, the woman for whom my scarf is named. Also, like Genet, she had supported her own children by designing, and creating scarves (along with some of the fabulous clothes Maren wore back in high school).  Instead of just showing me how she would style it, as only Maren could, she generously assembled a professional team of stylists, a hair and make-up artist and top photographers to take on the challenge, ultimately telling the story of Genet in a beautiful, visual way.  I visited the set on the day of the photo shoot to give you a peak behind the scenes!

Hornick/Rivlin were the photographers gracious enough to donate their day to beautifully capturing the stylists interpretations of how to wear the Genet scarf.   The Hornick/Rivlin Studio is a collaboration of 2 photographers, Rick Hornick and Sandy Rivlin.  They joined together in 1981, destined to make photographs which go far beyond commercial, toward a classic interpretation of picture taking enjoyed by the industries of home/interiors, lifestyle, portrait, apparel catalogue and still life.  They work in concert technically and aesthetically, and were both compelled by the story behind the women who create the FashionABLE scarfs to help make the shoot a success.

Photographers Sandy Hornick & Rick Rivlin at work

Of course to polish any photo shoot you need the perfect hair & make-up artist , enter Anchor Artists Kathleen Schiffmann, a true professional with a big heart.  Her talent is legendary and Kathleen is the artist of choice for many of Boston’s top photographers.  She has travelled the world on commercial and fashion shoots applying her magic touch to the worlds top models, able to produce just that right look for any photo situation, yet she remains  grounded and friendly in her attitude .

Hair & Make Up Artist Kathleen schiffmann puts the finishing touches on Alisa.


The Shoot location was at the home of Joanne Rossman, designer, one of the models, and Maren’s mom. Behind the scenes you can see her home studio where she creates her own line of goods to be sold at her store Joanne Rossman. Maren and her mom are both consummate foodies so of course they provided the talent and crew with an amazing food for sustenance. Rita Rose, Joanne’s Muse and often the subject of Joanne’s blog, acted like the diva she is lounging by the fire, while Maren’s pug Hugo looked on.

Photo of Joanne & Rita Rose by Hornick/Rivlin

Check out the fabulous results of the day, and see the styles created by Anchor Artists Anna WallackJenny Wilson, and Alisa Neely  that were posted on the ONEMoms website.

The REAL Reason Ben Affleck Received An Honorary Doctorate Degree From Brown University; The Eastern Congo Initiative

The REAL Reason Ben Affleck Received An Honorary Doctorate Degree From Brown University; The Eastern Congo Initiative

Photos by Elizabeth Atalay

Not long after I returned home the afternoon of the Brown University Graduation, where I proudly watched  my husband  receive an honorary Masters Degree, I went to check my e-mail. One of the first headlines on Yahoo to grab my attention was that Ben Affleck had received an honorary Doctorate Degree from Brown University that same day. Of course I had been sitting only a few rows away from where Ben and my husband sat up on the stage, so I knew that.  What caught my attention in that brief blurb was that the reason they gave for him receiving the honor was simply that he had won an Oscar for Argo, and his work in film. I looked for other articles online about his Doctorate and there were plenty, but NONE of them mentioned one of the real reasons that ben Affleck was honored that day.  This made me mad.  Not only has he achieved a level of great success in the film industry, but even more admirable to me, and the reason he truly deserves his honorary Doctorate Degree, is that he has taken his celebrity, and used it for a higher global purpose.  Ben Affleck is a passionate  humanitarian who traveled to Tanzania with ONE in 2007,  has written for the ONE.org blog, participated in the Live Below The Line campaign, most significantly he founded  The Eastern Congo Initiative in 2010. That is a huge part of why he was honored by such a prestigious University, and I feel needs to be highlighted. This excerpt is from the Brown university Commencement program:

“In addition to his successful film career, Afleck is a passionate advocate and philanthropist.  In March 2010, he founded the Eastern Congo initiative, the first U.S.-based advocacy and grant-making initiative wholly focused on the mission of helping people of eastern Congo support local community-based approaches that create a sustainable and successful society in the long-troubled region.  Affleck is also a long time political activist, as well as a strong supporter of many charitable organizations, including Feeding America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, A-T Children’s Project and the Jimmy Fund.” – The Two Hundred and Forty-Fifth Brown University Commencement Program 2013

I had no intention of writing about Ben Affleck receiving his honorary doctorate Degree from Brown University on my blog. It’s not that I am not a fan of his work, I am a huge fan. I am also a proud Bostonian, but I’m not exactly a celebrity gossip blogger.  However; I am a humanitarian and global awareness blogger, so was angered that the media missed out on this valuable opportunity to highlight an important cause, and the positive impact on humanity that this celebrity supports.   Back when I travelled through that area of the world, what is now called the Democratic Republic of Congo was then called Zaire.  When people ask me where my favorite place that I have ever travelled of the over 50 countries I’ve been to, I will often choose the DRC.  It took us a month to travel through on the main “highway’ that often turned to mud by heavy rains, but I loved the strength of nature, and the great attitude of the people we met along the way.  I was devastated several years after my amazing experience falling in love with that region, when the violence began to rip the area apart.

Photos by Elizabeth Atalay

The Eastern Congo Initiative aims to increase investments to support community-based and sustainable programs in the eastern Congo, increase public awareness, and involvement in advocacy, and to drive policy changes, and U.S engagement in Congo.  That is an additionally important reason why Ben Affleck received an honorary Doctorate Degree from Brown University.  To find out more about The Eastern Congo Initiative visit the website, Like the Facebook page, follow ECI on twitter , donate funds to the programs supported by the initiative or you can even buy TOM’s shoes in partnership with the ECI. To find out why Ben Affleck founded the Eastern Congo Initiative you can watch the below video.

Congratulations Ben, you deserve to be recognized for the great work you are doing both in film and for humanity.

ONE Sweet potato Day

ONE Sweet potato Day

Photo Source ONE.org

Today I am sharing my favorite Sweet Potato Recipe along with a group of bloggers in conjunction with ONE to call attention to the star of their global nutrition campaign, the Sweet Potato.

Why The Sweet Potato?

Although more than 7 million tons of sweet potatoes are produced each year and are widely eaten in Africa, they’re not the kind that have essential nutrients. They’re white in color and low in vitamin A, a vitamin that helps prevent blindness and infant mortality. Read the rest of this entry