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Unique Mother’s Day Gifts That Promote Social Good

Photo Credit: http://authoranandaleeke.wordpress.com/tag/heart-of-haiti/
Photo Credit: http://authoranandaleeke.wordpress.com/tag/heart-of-haiti/

Hi All!

Mother’s Day is almost here. Are you ready? Have you found a unique gift for your mother and/or the women in your life who are mother figures?

This year, I am giving my mother a gift that promotes social good: a handmade picture frame made by a Haitian artisan who creates beautiful work for the Heart of Haiti collection at Macy’s (see photo below).

Heart of Haiti picture frame
Heart of Haiti picture frame

The Heart of Haiti collection features more than 40 home decor items including qulits, metalwork, ceramics, and paintings made my Haitian artisans. The Heart of Haiti is a “Trade, Not Aid”initiative that was launched by artist and social entrepreneur Willa Shalit, The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, and Macy’s after the 2010 earthquake. The initiative provides Haitian artisans with an opportunity to make a living, feed their families, and pay their children’s school fees. To date, the initiative has employed 750 artisans resulting in financial benefits for an estimated 8,000 in Haiti. What a powerful way to give back and do social good!

In 2011, I traveled as a Heart of Haiti blogger ambassador to Haiti and met the artisans who make the metal frames and other home decor items. Seeing them create and talk about their artwork helped me truly understand how powerful “Trade, Not Aid” programs are.  Since then, I have continued my work as a Heart of Haiti blogger ambassador by using my blog and social media presence to raise awareness and celebrate the artistry and regrowth of my Haitian brother and sister artisans.

I encourage you to give back to the Haitian artisans by purchasing a Heart of Haiti gift for your mother and/or the mothering women in your life. Click here to explore the collection on Macy’s web site.  Happy Social Good Shopping!

DISCLAIMER: I am a member of the Everywhere Society and Everywhere provided me with compensation for this post. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own.

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#BlissDom12 Conference Blog Recap Part 5 – My Heart of Haiti Moments

Photo Credit: Everywhere Heart of Haiti photos

Some of my best BlissDom Conference moments were spent supporting and celebrating the Heart of Haiti Campaign, a partnership between Fairwinds Trading, Macy’s, and the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.  It was created to provide sustainable income to Haitian artisans impacted by the January 2010 earthquake.  Through the partnership, the artisans create artwork that is sold as the Heart of Haiti collection in Macy’s stores.  The sales from these hand-made products including quilts, metalwork, paper måché, painting and jewelry generate the sustainable income and provide trade instead of aid to the Haitian artisans.

Photo Credit: Everywhere Heart of Haiti Photos

As soon as I arrived and settled into my room at the Opryland Hotel on February 23, I tweeted the Everywhere team, Danica Kombol and Britton Edwards, to let them know I was ready to put on my Heart of Haiti Blogger Ambassador hat and support their Heart of Haiti booth in the BlissDom Handmade Marketplace.  When I saw the booth, I was in complete AWE! Why?  Because these ladies know how to make a conference booth attractive and fun to visit.  And it’s not hard when you have the beautiful Heart of Haiti collection to work with.  Danica and Britton gave me a brief update on the new items in the collection and showed me photos from the #Bloggers4Haiti trip to Haiti in January.  Check out the photos below.

Photo Credit: Everywhere Heart of Haiti photos
Photo Credit: Everywhere Heart of Haiti photos
Photo Credit: Everywhere Heart of Haiti photos
Ananda and Danica Kombol - Photo Credit: Everywhere Heart of Haiti Photos
Ananda and Britton Edwards -- Photo Credit: Everywhere Heart of Haiti Photos

While I was at the Heart of Haiti booth, I met and chatted with BlissDom attendees about my experiences as a Blogger Ambassador and February 2011 trip to Haiti.  Many of the attendees told me about their passion for using social media for social good and plans to support the Heart of Haiti.  Those conversations reminded me how important it is to tell people about the Haitian artisans who are using their creative gifts to make their lives and country better.  They also reminded me that I have got to get to Haiti in 2013!

Ananda and Emily FaliLv - Photo Credit: Everywhere Heart of Haiti Photos
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Ananda’s #HeartofHaiti Post – Fast Company Article on Mobile Technology in Haiti After 2010 Earthquake

Photo Credit: FastCompany.com

On Sunday, I was thinking about the Haitian presidential election.  Haiti was on my mind in a major way!  I found a great Fast Company article about the impact of mobile technology on Haitian people’s lives after the earthquake in 2010.  It reminded me of my recent trip to Haiti as a Heart of Haiti blogger ambassador in February.  Click here to listen to my audio blog about what I learned from the article. Enjoy!

 

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Ananda’s #HeartofHaiti Post: Reconnecting with KOFAVIV’s Haitian Young Women

 

Young Haitian women painting picture frames at KOFAVIV in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Yesterday, the Haitian people went to the polls to elect a new president.  Throughout the day, I wondered about the young Haitian women I met at KOFAVIV, a Haitian women’s organization that serves women and girls who experience violence, during my Heart of Haiti blogger ambassador trip in February.  Before I left, we took a lot of photos together.  I took some time to look at our photos and noted the pride they displayed on their faces as they showed me their beautiful hand-painted picture frames (see photo- omitted the young women’s faces to protect them).  They were works in process that are probably finished by now.  I am hoping the young women will be able to sell them as a part of their work with KOFAVIV’s young women’s microenterprise program (funded by MADRE). Two young ladies asked me to keep in touch with them via email. So I sent them an email in French with the photos.  I hope they respond so we can begin a digital sisterhood connection. I know this email exchange will open the door to ways in which I can expand my support of KOFAVIV in 2011 and beyond.

 

Click here to listen to my audio blog about my email and the KOFAVIV young ladies.

FYI: This morning I also sent the KOFAVIV staff (listed on their Facebook page) an email about the photos so they would be aware of my communication with the young ladies.

 

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Ananda’s #HeartofHaiti Post: Croix-des-Bouquets Metal Artisans & Their Connection to Ogoun, Haitian god of metalwork (videos included)

 

Ananda holding a metal bowl by a metal artisan in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti

Croix-des-Bouquets is an amazing city bubbling with creativity in Haiti.  Creative genius Wyclef Jean, a Haitian musician, record producer, philanthropist, and former member of the Fugees who ran for president of Haiti in 2010, was born there.

Heart of Haiti metal jewelry created by Croix-des-Bouquets metal artisans
Croix-des-Bouquets metal artisans
Photo Credit: Ogoun's Veve by Catherine Beyer - http://altreligion.about.com/od/symbols/ig/Vodoun-Veves/Ogoun.htm

When I visited Croix-des-Bouquets and met the talented Heart of Haiti metal artisans during my blogger ambassador trip in February, I was reminded of Ogoun, the Haitian Vodun warrior spirit who presides over metal work, fire, hunting, politics, war, and the unemployed. Click here to listen to my audio blog. Check out more photos of the metal artisans’ work here.

Metal artwork featuring Haitian love goddess Erzulie's heart by J. Romy


Ogoun gives strength through prophecy and magic., and is known as the Father of technology and one of the husbands of Erzulie, Haitian goddess of love. Ogoun is also associated with healing and seen as a combat medic, thinker, strategist, and diplomat. His colors red and blue.

Ananda, Croix-des-Bouquets metal artisan J. Romy, and Fairwinds Trading Haiti Country Director Nathalie Tancrede
Ananda standing by metal mixed media sculpture by metal artisan J. Robert Jacques

Did you know many believe Ogoun planted the idea for the Haitian Revolution of 1804 in the minds of the enslaved Africans? Some say that he led and empowered the enslaved Africans to create Haiti as an independent nation. Others believe Ogoun is now called to help the Haitian people obtain a government more responsive to their needs. May Ogoun give the Haitian people the wisdom they need to vote for a new president on March 20!

After the March 20th elections, the people of Haiti will still need our support. One way you can support them is by purchasing the artwork of Heart of Haiti metal artisans at Macy’s. Their beautiful and decorative artwork will make great Easter and Mother’s Day gifts. They also serve as fantastic graduation, wedding, birthday, and Father’s Day gifts. Visit the Heart of Haiti collection on Macys.com.

PS: Here are several videos featuring the metal artisans.


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Ananda is speaking on 3/19 @ WOMANIFESTING IN ACTION in DC and will share lessons learned from Heart of Haiti trip.

Photo Credit: Womanifesting's Logo - http://www.womanifesting.org
Photo Credit: Ananda Leeke - Tracy Chiles McGhee at DC women in social media focus group in October 2010

Have you heard of Womanifesting a/k/a WOMA? WOMA is a DC-based non-profit organization established by attorney Tracy Chiles McGhee to develop and support  programs that foster self-empowerment, sisterhood, and service in the lives of women and girls.  Tracy and I met two years ago during a writers’ workshop and realized we shared similar interests – law, writing, women’s creativity and empowerment, social justice, and service.

Last fall, I invited Tracy to participate in a focus group that discussed how social justice and nonprofit women leaders use social media. She stepped up to the plate and shined her wisdom and insights during the focus group.  She also supported my Digital Sisterhood Network and Kickstarter book fundraising project.  Her commitment and support to women and girls is above and beyond the call of duty. That’s why it was so easy for me to accept her invitation to participate as a panelist for WOMANIFESTING IN ACTION: How Local Women Leaders Make A Difference Through Community Building, Collaboration and Social Activism on March 19 from 2:00 pm to 4:30 pm at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G St., NW, Room A-5, Washington, DC. During the discussion, I will share some lessons learned from my recent trip to Haiti as a Heart of Haiti blogger ambassador and work with the Digital Sisterhood Network.

Check out the dynamic women who will be speaking at the event below.

Discussion Moderators:

  • Marita Golden, Acclaimed Author, Master Literary Teacher and Co-Founder of the Hurston/Wright Foundation
  • Nikita Mitchell, Gen Y Writer/Blogger,  who was recently named one of the Top 10 Nonprofit Bloggers to Watch in 2011

Keynote Speaker:

  • Yasmine Arrington, a DC high school student who started a college scholarship fund for aspiring college students with incarcerated parents

Program Participants:

  • DC Councilwoman Muriel Bowser
  • Patricia Nalls, Founder & Executive Director, The Women’s Collective, 2010 Washingtonian of the Year
  • Carrie L. Ellis, Director of Project Management, KaBOOM! & Board Chair, Teaching for Change
  • Shannon and Chai, Co-Founders  of Holla Back DC
  • Marielle Mariano, East Coast Coordinator, Chalk4Peace
  • Jessica T. Solomon, Founder, The Saartjie Project & Chief Visionary Officer, Spark Creativity
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Ananda’s #HeartofHaiti Post: Next Haitian President Could Be A Woman – Mirlande Manigat

 

Poster of Haitian Presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat in Jacmel, Haiti


While I was visiting Jacmel, Haiti during my Heart of Haiti blogger trip in February, I saw posters of Rally of Progressive National Democrats’ Presidential candidate Mirlande Manigat, a 70 year old politician, legal scholar, former Senator, Sorbonne-trained academic, mother, grandmother, and wife of former Haitian President Leslie Manigat.  Guess what? In three days, the former First Lady and vice rector of the Université Quisqueya in Port-au-Prince could make Haitian women’s history by becoming the first woman President of Haiti. Click here to learn more about her.

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Ananda’s #HeartofHaiti Post: Sending Haitians Positive Energy on Their March 20th Presidential Election

 

Yesterday I listened to a discussion about former Haitian President Jean-Betrand Aristide’s plans to return to Haiti after a seven-year exile in South Africa on NPR’s Tell Me More. Tell Me More host Michel Martin and Jacqueline Charles, the Caribbean correspondent for the Miami Herald, engaged in a lively discussion about the impact of Aristide’s return on Haiti’s presidential run-off election on March 20. Click here to listen to the show.  Former First Lady Mirlande Manigat and pop singer Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly are the presidential candidates.

Martin and Charles’ discussion reminded me of the many presidential candidate posters I saw on houses and buildings during my recent trip to Haiti as a Heart of Haiti blogger ambassador in February.  Sweet Micky”s posters appeared to dominate Port-au-Prince, Croix-des-Bouqets, and Jacmel. No matter who wins the election, I hope and pray Haiti’s next president will help stabilize, heal, and rebuild Haiti and the lives, families, and businesses of her daughters and sons.

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Ananda’s #HeartofHaiti Post: Mardi Gras and Masks in Jacmel, Haiti

Photo Credit: http://www.nomadnessmasks.com
Haitian people wearing masks at Jacmel, Haiti carnival in February 2011

New Orleans is one of my favorite places to visit. It is magical. It is filled with feathered masks, crepes,

Mardi Gras beads, and Vodon spirituality.  I fell in love with the Crescent City during my first visit in 1978.  It was a family vacation attached to my mother’s sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.’s national convention (my sorority too)! N’awlins got underneath my skin and stayed there until I visited again in 1997.  That trip transformed my life. I thought I was there to get my groove on, but NOLA knew better.  Turns out I was summoned by Spirit and the characters in my debut novel Love’s Troubadours – Karma: Book One.  They led me to the Essence Music Festival and dropped me in the middle of the French Quarter with one instruction: be open.  So I walked in and out of shops, made small talk with local folks, followed the NOLA yellow brick broad to various neighborhoods, bookstores, and cafes.   The end results were a collection of Mardi Gras feathered masks and a few pages of dialogue from characters with New Orleans roots.

Ananda posing in her New Orleans Mardi Gras mask as Sapphire, one of her archetypes
Ananda wearing paper mache mask during Jacmel, Haiti Carnival
Ananda wearing a paper mache mask at Jacmel, Haiti Carnival

Fast forward to today where I am thinking about the power of masks in Mardi Gras, the Jacmel, Haiti Carnival, and my own life.   Whenever I see or wear a Mardi Gras mask, I am transported to a mystical, magical, and mysterious place that lets the good times roll all day long!   I am also reminded of how colorful and creative masks can be.  The paper mache masks that I saw and purchased recently during my Heart of Haiti trip in Jacmel, Haiti, were so animated.  They came to life on their own.  They provoked storytelling in my mind. Now that’s a powerful set of masks!

Paper Mache Masks Made in Jacmel, Haiti

 

Paper mache masks in Jacmel, Haiti

 

 

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Ananda’s #HeartofHaiti Post: Developing Digital Sisterhood Bonds in Haiti

Nathalie Tancrede, Deana Jirak, Willa Shalit, Sloane Berrent, Ananda, Juliana Um & Johnica Reed

Today is Digital Sisterhood Wednesday on Twitter.  That means the Digital Sisterhood Network is in full force  —

Ananda & Pascal Faublas, Jacmel Director for Fairwinds Trading

celebrating and promoting their digital sisters by tweeting about their businesses, wisdom, creativity, blogs, Facebook pages, causes, videos, and web sites.  I created #DigitalSisterhood Wednesdays during the 2010 Blogalicious Weekend Conference and  launched the weekly Twitter celebration to  give women in social media a weekly opportunity to build and strengthen their communities. Each week women are encouraged to celebrate and promote their digital sisters by using the #FF (Friday Follow) format.  This weekly celebration gave birth to Digital Sisterhood Month and the Digital Sisterhood Network in December.  One of the lessons I learned during Digital Sisterhood Month was that Digital Sisterhood is more than a weekly or month-long celebration. It is a movement that has a life of its own.  It is living and breathing on and offline.

Heather Whaling, Sloane Berrent & Ananda

Did you know Digital Sisterhood traveled with me when I left Washington, DC and landed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on February 25?   I had no idea she packed herself in my luggage with plans for developing digital sisterhood bonds with 11 amazing women I met through the Heart of Haiti campaign.  See the list of digital sisters below.  Click here to see more photos of the Heart of Haiti‘s Digital Sisterhood.

Heart of Haiti Digital Sisters

  • Sloane Berrent, Humanitarian, Kiva Fellow, and Founder of The Causemopolitan,
  • Laura Ciocia, Senior Digital Strategist at Everywhere,
  • Pascale Faubas, Jacmel Director, Fairwinds Trading
  • Deana Jirak, Designer and Photographer,
  • Danica Kombol, Managing and Founding Partner at Everywhere,
  • Johnica Reed, Travel Tastemaker, Writer, and Founder of leisureStrategy,
  • Willa Shalit, Artist, Author, Co-Founder of V-Day, CEO of Fairwinds Trading, and Founder of Touch Foundation,
  • Nathalie Tancrede, co-founder of Fondation d’Ayiti Soleil, a Haitian organization that helps educate Haitian girls and women, and the Haiti Country Director for Fairwinds Trading
  • Juliana Um, Creative Director, Fairwinds Trading
  • Heather Whaling, PR/Social Media Expert and President of Geben Communication.
Laura Ciocia, Deana Jirak, Sloane Berrent & Ananda
Johnica Reed, Ananda & Danica Kombol

I learned so much about these ladies in four days. We talked about many issues as we toured Port-au-Prince.  Stories, insights, reflections, and lessons learned danced in and out of our daily adventures.  Laughter, silent pauses, a reflection and prayer circle, yoga before sunrise, Reiki healing touch sessions, blogging and tweeting in the hotel restaurant, filming video interviews, taking photos everyplace we stopped, late night girl weekend conversations, dancing and eating plantains at Jacmel’s Carnival, and chit chatting at the cafe in Toussaint Louverture International Airport are just a few of the ways Digital Sisterhood created bonds between me and these women.

It’s hard for me to fully describe the Digital Sisterhood bond that happened in Haiti.   I guess I am still basking in the beauty and blessing of connecting with 11 dynamic women.   So I will leave you with two of my favorite Kreyol words and video interviews of Willa Shalit and Heather Whaling.  The Heart of Haiti Digital Sisterhood is “belle bagay” (a Kreyol word that means fabulous)!