5by20 Coca-Cola

5by20: How Coca-Cola is Empowering Women around the World

Author’s note: I received products from Coca-Cola’s 5by20 program; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. You know how much I love to share amazing gifts that give back and empower women. 

“All women, everywhere, have the same hopes: we want to be self-sufficient and create better lives for ourselves and our loved ones. When we invest in women, we invest in a powerful source of global development.  – Melinda Gates

Throughout my life, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel to some of the most remote corners of the earth. Through my travels and work as a social good blogger, I’ve witnessed inequality and injustice however I’ve also seen the tremendous opportunity to make the world a better place for all.

Today, millions of people in the developing world continue to live in extreme poverty, and the majority of them are women and girls. Women lack education, healthcare, water and sanitation, and most of all economic opportunities to lift them and their families out of poverty. Despite this seemingly depressing reality, there is an enormous amount of hope and opportunity to improve the lives of women around the world.

In the field of international development, it is a well-known fact that women are powerful agents of change and development. Studies show that women are likely to reinvest 90% of their income in food, education and healthcare for their children and their families.  Therefore empowering a woman and unlocking her economic potential can be the most influential force in breaking the cycle of poverty and creating long-term social and economic benefits for their family, their community and the world as a whole.  They just need opportunities to do so.

In 2010, The Coca-Cola Company launched 5by20, an initiative aimed at lifting 5 million women out of poverty by 2020, one woman at a time. 5by20 eliminates some of the critical barriers keeping women from entering and succeeding in the global marketplace by providing access to skills and business training, financial resources and peer-to-peer mentorship to women entrepreneurs around the world. 5by20 empowers and helps women to successfully grow their business and incomes. Their increase in earnings has a ripple effect throughout the community, bringing new prosperity not only to their families but to the community as a whole. Since 5b20’s launch in 2010, the program has reached more than 1.2 million women across 60 countries.

This inspiring short video, “Chain of Inspiration,” honors the strong women we work with the 5by20 initiative. 

Meet the artisans

From farmers to distributors, retailers to recyclers, these amazing women are part of the Coca-Cola Company’s 5by20 program. The women artisans create beautiful, one-of-a-kind handmade products such as jewelry, handbags and home decor from upcycled packaging, like Coca-Cola labels and pull tabs which are often discarded as waste, and in turn, elevate themselves, their families, and their communities.

Here is a slideshow of some of the 5by20 women artisans in the Amazon. 

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“If you want to see things happen at a global level, start at the village level. Give women the tools and education and they will drive the change”. – Melinda Gates

Simply put, women are the driving force of promoting change. They just need the opportunity. The Coca-Cola Company has found an amazing, impactful way to help woman at all stages of the supply chain.

Here is a short video introducing some of the wonderful women who benefit from the Coca-Cola Company’s 5by20 program: 

The 5by20 artisans are diverting packaging from landfill sites and improving the livelihoods of thousands of women. Here are some of the creative ways the women recreate beautiful products:

The Coletivo Piraquet Handbag (made in Brazil)

The scales of the ancient Pirarucu fish, found in the rivers and lakes of the Amazon, provided inspiration for this elegant bag. Recycled PET scales are hand seen onto mesh to create this delicate beauty.

The scales of the ancient Pirarucu fish, found in the rivers and lakes of the Amazon, provided inspiration for this elegant bag. Recycled PET scales are hand seen onto mesh to create this delicate beauty.


Bottle Cap Purse (made in Turkey)

5by20 Coca-Cola

Recycled bottle caps make this handy purse even more special.

Some of the products I received in my box from the Coca-Cola Company 5by20 program:

Acacia Creations Soda Can Giraffe (made in Kenya), The Classic Flower (made in Mexicao) and the PCF Narrow Ring-Pull Bracelet (made in the Philippines). All these products are handmade using recycled aluminum cans or ring-pulls.


This International Women’s Day on Wednesday, March 8th– and every day – let’s celebrates women and the extraordinary roles they hold in their communities, families and places of work.

Additional resources:

To learn more, please visit #5by20. To visit the 5by20 merchandise shop, click here.

Meet 5by20 Artisans Jocelyn and Marlene – An inspiring success story of how two women living in the Philippines and in Brazil lifted themselves out of poverty and improved their lives with the help of the 5by20 program.

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD
Jacmel Haiti

Last Minute Gifts that Give Back from Macy’s

Searching for that last minute holiday gift? Why not consider a beautiful gift that also gives back from Macy’s Heart of Haiti or Rwanda Path to Peace product line? Designed to improve and enrich lives, Macy’s extraordinary collection of handcrafted art makes change and hope possible in Haiti and Rwanda. Both programs were developed using a “trade-not-aid” model that connects Haitian and Rwandan artisans to the global marketplace, providing a sustainable income to reinvest in their families, health, education and lives.

I have written extensively about both initiatives before and even had the incredible opportunity to go to Haiti in February 2015 to meet the Heart of Haiti artisans in person. Haiti was a life-changing trip where I witnessed the deep love of the arts and creativity in a nation that had been hit by so many tragedies yet remains so incredibly resilient.

The situation in Haiti still remains dire. The devastating earthquake of January 2010 and the most recent hurricane in 2016, have made it virtually impossible for many Haitians to make a living. Out of a population of 10 million people, an estimated 400,000 Haitians are artisans who rely solely on their handcrafted goods as a source of income. Astonishingly, the arts is the largest sector of employment in Haiti. Haitians have a deep-rooted love and culture of many different forms of art ranging from metal work to sandstone carvings to paper-mache and painting.

Heart of Haiti was established after the 2010 earthquake as a way to help the Haitian artisan economy survive and access markets. The first collection of Heart of Haiti products was launched in the fall of 2010 by a partnership between the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund and humanitarian Willa Shalit, and the initiative has grown steadily ever since.

Today, Heart of Haiti employs 550 artisans providing a steady income that benefits an extended 4,500 family members. This means more people are able to repair their homes, pay school fees for their children, and feed and clothe their families. Steady income means better nutrition, improved education, and access to healthcare. Now entering its seventh year, the Macy’s Heart of Haiti program continues its goal of helping Haitian artisans achieve economic empowerment through the sale of their handcrafted goods. Artisans receive 22 percent of the retail price for each item in the collection.

This holiday season, why not consider purchasing a Heart of Haiti tree ornament?


Heart of Haiti Tree Ornament

Heart of Haiti Tree Ornament

Heart of Haiti tree ornament

Capture the true spirit of the holiday season with this fir-tree shaped ornament. Crafted with recycled metal and hand-painted by artisans from Haiti, this ornament can both decorate your Christmas Tree and help sustain fair trade opportunities for the communities that need it most. With a red organza ribbon attached for hanging, you can make your own unique winter wonderland. $13.00. To purchase this ornament, click here.

Other lovely products from Heart of Haiti include:

Heart of Haiti Soapstone Heart

Heart of Haiti Soapstone Heart

Heart of Haiti Soapstone Heart:

Shimmering in gold, the Soapstone heart can grace your home in a variety of different ways. This figurine, an unmistakable symbol of love, is covered with gold leaf on top. Each individual figurine is crafted with care by Haitian artisans who now have the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families. $16


I also really love the incredible metal art made out of recycled metal and the paper-mache. When I was in Haiti, I got to visit both metal artisans and paper-mache artists. It was amazing to see how they create such gorgeous works of art. Here are a few of my favorites below.


Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD

2016 Holiday Guide of Gifts that Give Back

What better gift is there than teaching your child the spirit of giving this holiday season!  Why not create a family tradition that gives back by supporting  one of these amazing organizations with holiday gifts that help people around the world?

A few years ago, I began highlighting different organizations that offer wonderful gifts that also give back to a cause.  Given how popular the posts have been, I created a permanent Gifts that Give Back page on my blog and last holiday season that page alone received 10,000 views in the months of November and December! I was thrilled to know that these amazing organizations and causes were getting more customers from my blog. Without further ado, here is my updated 2016 Holiday Guide of Gifts that Give Back. I hope you enjoy and please comment if you know of any I’ve missed and please share with friends. Happy Shopping!

Gifts that help women

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD
Bird + Stone

Bird + Stone: Meet the jewelry brand helping women and girls around the world

“Do one thing everyday that scares you” – Eleanor Roosevelt (Elana’s favorite quote)

I am amazed by the number of millennials who are not satisfied with the ordinary 9 to 5 job and instead have taken a chance to make a difference in the world. One such woman is Elana Reinholtz, the young social entrepreneur behind Bird + Stone. Elana left an aspiring career in finance in the heart of Manhattan to help single women in Kenya through her company, Bird + Stone.

Bird + Stone is a socially conscious jewelry company with mission aligned products designed to inspire, educate, and most importantly help shape the dreams of deserving women who aspire to be independent and financially stable. As a social enterprise, Bird + Stone uses jewelry as a funding vehicle for micro-loans and financial training, and invests in single mothers in Kenya to start farming businesses to help lift themselves out of poverty. It is a beautiful concept and has shown much success in changing lives.

Bird + Stone

Elana teaching business classes to women in Kenya

Today October 11th, in honor of International Day of the Girl, Bird + Stone is partnering with Girl Up, a campaign of the UN Foundation, to help fund access to and education for the 62 million girls out of school around the globe. Each bracelet will give $3 to Girl Up programs for girls to become leaders in their communities and get access to school.

To see the new Girl Up and Bird + Stone Bracelets launched today, click here. 

Bird + Stone

New Girl Up Bracelet by Bird + Stone

I had the opportunity to chat with Elana and meet her in person in NYC to learn more about the inspiration behind Bird + Stone and why she views micro-loans as a way of changing lives in Kenya. Here is what she had to say.

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD

Siestas for Fiestas: Beautiful Mexican blankets that provide a meal to a family in need

“Colorful yoga mat. Eye-catching home décor. Bohemian table runner. Comfy beach blanket. Each purchase provides a homemade Christmas meal for an impoverished family in Mexico.” – Siestas for Fiestas

Many people travel to enjoy the gorgeous beaches and resorts of Cancun, Mexico however few people think about the other side of Mexico often unseen behind the luxury. The countless number of Mexicans living in poverty, lacking opportunity to find sustainable employment, feed their families, and send their children to school. For Chris and Jesenia, a husband and wife team from Los Angeles, it took an unexpected and serendipitous move to Cancun to realize how much need there was in the community and how passionate they were to make a difference. 

It was there in Cancun where Chris and Jesenia met Pastor Arturo Guzman and his congregation at Fe, Amor y Esperanza whose passion for helping the community changed Chris and Jesenia’s life.  Upon returning to the US, Chris and Jesenia founded Siestas for Fiestas, a boutique blanket shop that sources textiles directly from Mexico and handcrafts all products in Los Angeles, CA. For each one sold a Christmas meal is provided to a family living in poverty in Cancun, Mexico.

I had the opportunity to speak with Jesenia and learn more about the inspiration behind their company and what their vision is for the future. Here is what she had to say.

Meet Chris and Jesenia, founders of Siestas for Fiestas. Photo credit: Mariel Hannah

Meet Chris and Jesenia, founders of Siestas for Fiestas. Photo credit: Mariel Hannah

Me:  Why did you and Chris move to Cancun?

Jesenia: We were leading busy lives working in LA and had always wanted to live in another country. I was working in the wedding planning industry when a short-term position opened up for me to work in Cancun, Mexico with a California-based company who wanted to expand internationally. Since both Chris and I are native Spanish speakers and had been to Cancun before and loved it, it sounded like the perfect opportunity to try something new. We moved to Cancun in January 2015 and stayed for about six months.  While we were there we met a Pastor that was working on an amazing project to help feed his congregation and we wanted to help.

Siestas for Fiestas

Chris and Jesenia with Pastor Arturo and the congregation in Cancun. Photo credit: Mariel Hannah

Me: How did you meet Pastor Arturo Guzman and get connected with church?

Jesenia: Chris and I had a woman taking care of my grandpa in LA and when I told her we were moving to Cancun, she asked me to deliver some things to her nephew, Pastor Arturo Guzman, who lived there and was a Pastor at  Fe, Amor y Esperanza. We met him and told him that we wanted to find a church to attend. We started going to Fe, Amor y Esperanza that very first Sunday and continued to go the entire time we were in Cancun. Pastor Arturo and his family became our family. We were so incredibly inspired by him and the work he was doing to help others.

What inspired you to start Siestas for Fiestas?

Jesenia:  Pastor Arturo shared with us an especially personal and heartfelt mission: The church’s ongoing Christmas project to feed families living in poverty. We were inspired by his heart for this project and began brainstorming ideas on how we could help. One day we were out shopping and saw beautiful Mexican textiles and I thought “Why not use the colorful textiles of Mexico to make and sell blankets?” I bought some materials and made 16 blankets thinking I would sell them to friends to raise money for the project. I ended up selling all the blankets instantly and little by little, kept making and selling more. Before I knew it, Siestas for Fiestas was launched and we have been making blankets ever since.

Chris and Jesenia hold up one of their blankets.

Chris and Jesenia hold up one of their blankets. Photo credit: Mariel Hannah



 Me: What is your vision and mission?

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD

A Mother’s Day Guide of Gifts that Give Back

This Mother’s Day, why not consider a unique gift that also gives back to a mother in return? I have compiled a fabulous list of ideas that include beautiful products handmade by women as well as donations that support mothers around the world.

Here are some of the loveliest gifts that give of the season for that special mom in your life.

Beautiful handmade products that give back to mothers

Bloom & Give

Bloom & Give sells beautifully handcrafted scarves and bags made in India using techniques passed on from generation to generation. Each product is designed in the US by one of Bloom & Give’s designers, and made in India with love. Bloom & Give donates 50% of their profits to support girls education programs in India through their partner Educate Girls to improve the lives of girls in Rajasthan. Here are a few new products:

Mother’s Day Special: Bloom & Give has graciously offered my readers a 20% discount off their purchase. At checkout , please enter the code: THIRDEYEMOM.



Designing Change Stitch by Stitch” Anchal creates absolutely stunning scarves, pillows and quilts each handmade out of recycled saris by Indian women rescued from prostitution. Here are some of their latest products:

Traditional Square Scarf, Bandana and Small Pouch as shown below.
Infinity Scarf  ( we are loving the fuchsia over-dyed version)
Grid Square Scarf  (over-dyed in black or indigo)

Large Pouch  (comes in traditional or overdye)

To view a complete product guide, click here. 

Connected in Hope

Connected in Hope is a nonprofit social enterprise & lifestyle brand that empowers vulnerable women and families in Ethiopia to rise above poverty.  Connected in Hope currently employ 80+ artisans, providing them with sustainable, predictable incomes. One hundred percent of the profit generated from product sales is reinvested in programs that benefit the artisans and their families. Profits fund Connected in Hope’s innovative preschool and kindergarten, adult literacy classes, community education events and health care programs.

Mother’s Day Special: Connected in Hope is offering free shipping on all Mother’s Day orders over $100 with coupon code:  FORMOM. To view special products for Mother’s Day click here. 


All Across Africa

All Across Africa currently works with over 3,000 artisans in Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, paying artisans up front for the goods at many times what they could sell them for in a local market. This sustainable income allows them to send their children to school, feed their families and even create savings accounts. In addition, money goes back into the communities in the form of education and training programs. All Across Africa believes that job creation is the solution for the rural poor in these countries. Check out their beautiful handmade and fair-trade goods here. You are bound to love the products and the amazing work All Across Africa is doing.

Here are some of their beautiful products that would make lovely gifts for your mom.

Humanity Unified

Humanity Unified is a for-profit enterprise that donates 100% of net profits to Humanity Unified International, a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to lifting vulnerable populations out of poverty. Together with local NGO, Aspire Rwanda, they are developing a food security project that will benefit 100 women living in poverty. The project will provide a women’s farming cooperative with the education, tools and training necessary to generate livable incomes, so that they can be self-sustaining and provide for their families after one year. These beautiful Mala bracelets are a wonderful gift for your mom.

Special Mother’s Day Discount: Humanity Unified is offering 10% off any item. Just enter the code: 4mom when checking out.



Kurandza is a purpose-driven fashion company that creates handcrafted jewelry and accessories with women in Mozambique. Their mission is to empower women, the majority of whom are HIV positive, through education and employment opportunities. In addition to receiving fair wages for their work, profits from sales go back to this community to fund development projects.

Currently Percina Miocha, the Director of Kurandza in Mozambique, is currently visiting the United States for the first time! It’s been her dream to visit the U.S. since high school, and she’s finally realizing this goal. She’s preparing to return to Mozambique this week and will bring new skills and lots of memories back with her! She’s enjoyed her time so much that she plans to come back every year.

Here are some new products for your mom.

Special Mother’s Day Discount of 10% off with code “thirdeyemom” on orders placed before Mother’s Day.



Your purchase of a fashionABLE scarf creates sustainable business for women in Africa.  Our commitment as a non-profit is to the development of people — fashionABLE works with women who have been exploited due to the effects of poverty.  So, when you purchase a scarf you are providing jobs, and then we send the net profits back to holistically rehabilitate more women. I had the opportunity to visit fashionABLE in Ethiopia and it is an amazing program!

This Mother’s Day, why not honor your mom with a gorgeous Tirhas leather Saddlebag?


Thistle Farms

Thistle Farms is a social enterprise of women survivors of prostitution and drug addiction that would provide an opportunity for a sustainable income and life for the women. Based in Tennessee, Thistle Farms houses a natural bath and body care company, Thistle Stop Café, a paper and seeing studio and a global marketplace called Shared Trade. Today, Thistle Farms employees more than 50 survivors and benefits over 700 women a year.  Proceeds support Thistle Farms and the residential program, Magdalene. The community provides housing, food, healthcare, therapy and education for two years, without charging residents or receiving taxpayer money.

Here are some of their wonderful products for your mom including such lovely ideas as the Thistle Farms Bug Free Candle (Made with nature’s best ingredients for repelling insects – organic rose geranium oil, geraniol, cinnamon leaf oil, citronella and clove bud oils),  the Lilly Gift Set (Uniquely handcrafted planters from Freedoms Promise in Cambodia. Freedom’s Promise seeks to combat human-trafficking in Cambodia by providing fair wages and safe working environments for women artisans), and the Blessed Hope Nepal Bracelets (Their new roll-on bracelets from Thistle Farms’s Global partner in Nepal, come in an array of vibrant colors and feature hand-crocheted beads in intricate patterns).

To order any of these products from Thistle Farms, click here.

For the mom who has everything but wants to give something special:

The Miracle Foundation:

There are millions of orphaned children in the developing world, many of whom languish in sub-standard institutions without access to basic food, clean water, clothing, schooling and medical care.  That’s why The Miracle Foundation, a non-profit organization that empowers orphans to reach their full potential by turning orphanages into places where children thrive, is launching its unique Mother’s Day campaign.  The 501(c)(3) charity, which revolutionizes the way orphanages are run, funded and managed, hopes to raise funds by May 8th to pay the annual salaries and room & board of the housemothers working in its orphanages.

Each of Miracle’s housemothers acts as a mom to the 20 orphaned children in her care, creating an environment where they can truly thrive. These incredible women raise the boys and girls the charity supports into smart, strong, compassionate and self-sustaining men and women.

This Mother’s Day, instead of giving her flowers, candy, or dinner at a nice restaurant, we invite you to honor your mom by spending the same amount of money in a much more meaningful way,” said Caroline Boudreaux, Founder of The Miracle Foundation. “Participating in our campaign will engage both of you in the lives of less fortunate children in the developing world. What better way to pay tribute to your mother than by helping provide a mom to those who don’t have one?

The Miracle Foundation

Caroline Boudreaux, Founder of The Miracle Foundation, in Delhi. Photo Credit: Lynne Dobson

Here’s what your Mother’s Day gift can do:

  • $25: Feeds a housemother for one month
  • $60: Funds a housemother for one month, including food, salary and room & board
  • $180: Funds a housemother for three months
  • $720: Funds a housemother for an entire year!

To donate, visit www.miraclefoundation.org/mothers.

The Adventure Project

The Adventure Project is a non-profit that “adds venture” to offer education, tools and resources for people to become entrepreneurs and change their lives. The Adventure Project partners with some of the leading non-profit organizations on the ground, focusing on the world’s greatest issues affecting people in poverty such as the environment, health, hunger and water.

Currently The Adventure Project is running a campaign to provide safe, clean drinking water to women in Uganda.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 8.07.21 AM Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 8.07.15 AM

To make a donation to The Adventure Project, click here.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there! Feel free to check my entire list of Gifts that Give back here. 

Gifts that Give Back

WO Design: Creating Change for Widows and Orphans in Ethiopia

“There are 4.5 million orphans in Ethiopia. What if we each helped them in a small, tangible way? The total effort would be substantial.” – Josh Allen, founder of WO Design.

It was during a life-changing service trip to Ethiopia in the fall of 2012 that Josh Allen, a young dad from Bozeman, Montana, was exposed firsthand to the hardship faced by widows and orphans in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Josh went to Ethiopia as a delegate with the Global Leadership Summit and was introduced to various non-profit organizations around Addis Ababa, the nation’s capital.  He spent a day with Bring Love In, a non-profit organization that helps to provide orphans and widows with a loving, stable home. Josh was instantly moved by the program and the amazing success they had in giving both unwanted orphans and widows a second chance at life and love.

He returned home to Montana driven to make a difference and help support the orphans and widows he met at Bring Love In. Already a successful retailer Dee-O-Gee and developer of dog toys, Josh found a way to bring his expertise and desire to help orphans and widows together by the creation of his company, WO Design (which stands for Widows and Orphans Design).

In the fall of 2014, Josh launched WO Design with his first product, the WO Bone, that is made in his hometown of Bozeman, Montana. For each dog toy purchased, two meals are provided to widows and orphans at Bring Love In in Ethiopia. Nine months later, he added another product, the WO Disc and by the end of 2015, over 5,000 meals have been provided to widows and orphans at Bring Love In. 

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD
Humanity Unified

Humanity Unified: Empowering Women and Providing Hope

“We empower communities to rise out of poverty through education, food security projects and economic opportunities. We start by investing in women”. – Maria and Anthony Russo, co-founders of Humanity Unified. 

It all began with a trip to Rwanda. In 2014, Maria Russo and her husband Anthony, the creative minds behind the award-wining online media platform for travel and social good, The Culture-ist took a leap of faith and went to Rwanda in search of opportunities to start a non-profit organization. As world-travelers who over the past 12 years have visited over 35 countries, Maria and Anthony both felt compelled to give back and help the amazing people and cultures they had seen.

For a few years prior to going to Rwanda, the pair had been running The Culture-ist, an online media platform for social good that revolves around a community of storytellers, travelers, creatives and change makers who aspire to make the world a better place. Although The Culture-ist has seen extraordinary success, Maria and Anthony yearned to do more. They had tossed around different ideas in their head on what else they could do to make a difference and impact change when they connected with the founder of Kula Project who invited them to go to Rwanda and see the work they are doing. The trip was in three months.

Humanity Unified

Maria and Anthony in Rwanda.

It was in Rwanda where Maria and Anthony met an amazing Rwandan woman named Peace. Peace’s story was heartbreaking and filled with hope. Peace’s family fled to Kenya in the 60’s when civil conflict erupted in Rwanda, and spent several years in Kenya where she opened her home and her heart to women survivors of the Rwandan genocide. Many of the women have suffered unimaginable trauma and are widows or single mothers, illiterate and unskilled, HIV positive, and victims of domestic abuse. The women were poor with little opportunities to support themselves or their children. Peace’s home became a place of support, empowerment and hope for over 300 women.

In 2009, together with Sophie McCann from the non-profit Network for Africa, Peace co-founded Aspire Rwanda, an organization that equips Rwandan women with literacy, vocational skills, and training in sustainable agriculture, health and human rights that helps lift them and their families out of poverty.  Aspire’s mission is founded on the belief that the promotion of human dignity and women’s rights will lead to sustainable community development and strong and lasting grassroots reconciliation.  Aspire Rwanda also provides counseling, nutrition, family planning services and childcare for young children so the women can attend the 12-month training program. After graduation the women join a cooperative where they work and support themselves, contributing to a self-sustaining and peaceful community. In the last five years, Aspire has helped 450 vulnerable but resilient women rebuild their lives in the aftermath of Rwanda’s genocide.

“Aspire helps to give resilient, hard-working women the skills and confidence to make their own choices, become self-sufficient, and take control of their lives.”

Humanity Unified

Mamerica, one of the 100 women enrolled in the farming cooperative project, working in her community garden. Photo by Arnelle Lozada


When Maria and Anthony heard Peace’s story, it felt like fate. Aspire Rwanda was the organization that had captured their hearts and was the perfect partner to launch their first project with through their soon-to-be non-profit organization. “We will work together” Peace smiled as she held Maria’s hand. Serendipitously the opportunity that Maria and Anthony had been looking for was right before their eyes.

Humanity Unified

Dativa, 75, one of the 100 women enrolled in the farming cooperative project. Photo by Arnelle Lozada

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD Women and Girls
Goodbye Malaria

Gifts that Give Back: My pick for best Valentine’s Day Gifts

I am a huge supporter of giving amazing gifts that also give back to those in need. Thankfully over the past few years, more and more companies have realized that they too have a responsibility to make the world a better place and consumers are craving to make purchases that make them feel good. From non-profit organizations to benefit corporations (companies that are for profit and also donate a percentage of sales to charity) and the “buy one give one back for free” model, there are many ways to make a difference.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, a time when millions of dollars are being spent on flowers, chocolates and cards, I thought it would be great to compile a list of my favorite gifts that give back. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some of the enormous profits going to Hershey’s, Victoria Secret’s and Hallmark, go towards people in need? Call me idealistic but everything helps.

Here is my list of favorite picks. To see all my Gifts that Give Back, please click here.

For Her

Jewelry from Songa Designs International

Songa Designs International celebrates the empowerment of women around the world. It is typical for many women in developing countries to depend solely on their husbands for financial needs, but Songa is changing this dynamic. With Songa, under-resourced  women have the opportunity to achieve economic independence by using skills acquired through everyday life to make a living. Defined as “the path forward” in Swahili, Songa is synonymous with the journey towards economic empowerment for women in developing countries. To see all their gorgeous jewelry, visit their shop here.

Songa Designs

Marchesa Necklace

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD

Cotopaxi: An Adventure Gear Company that is changing the world

“Cotopaxi strongly believes in the power of business to drive social change and the power of adventure to connect the world”. 

As an avid hiker and adventurer who is passionate about giving back, I’m always on the lookout for innovative, unique companies that create amazing products while also giving back. Cotopaxi is a company that creates outdoor adventure products while also funding sustainable poverty alleviation around the world and inspiring people to be adventurous and do good.

Founded in 2013 by Davis Smith and Stephan Jacob, Cotopaxi was inspired by Davis’ childhood growing up at the foot of Cotopaxi in Ecuador where he spent his youth hiking and exploring his magnificent environment. He also saw the devastating impact poverty had on communities and people. After years of running several successful eCommerce websites in South America, Davis wanted to start something different that would incorporate his passion for adventure along with his desire to give back and make meaningful strides towards reducing global poverty. Together with fellow Wharton business-school graduate Stephan Jacob, Cotopaxi was born.

Cotopaxi is unique because it is the first company to incorporate as a “Benefit Corporation” and then receive venture funding. Benefit Corporations are a new type of business that allows for-profit entities to pursue social and environmental goals while also focusing on maximizing profits. Receiving venture capital from investors demonstrates the strong belief that this is a company that can make both a profit and a difference.

Gifts that Give Back Global Issues Poverty SOCIAL GOOD

GIFTS THAT GIVE BACK: Introducing Bloom and Give

“Not many people have the opportunity to do work that they love and are passionate about” says Partha Raghunathan, co-founder of Bloom & Give. “I feel very fortunate to do this work”. 

Have you ever wondered how you could make your life more meaningful and find a way to give back to do good? It is a question many of us have asked ourselves yet few have dared to do. For Partha Raghunathan and Madhu Rajendran, two Indian-born men living in Texas and working in the tech field, it was the desire to do good and help others that eventually lead them both to leave their comfortable positions as engineers at a tech company and start a new socially minded business together called Bloom & Give.

Bloom & Give sells beautifully handcrafted scarves and bags made in India using techniques passed on from generation to generation. However, what makes Bloom & Give so unique is their mission: To change girls’ lives through education in some of the most gender inequal areas in India. Although both Partha and Madhu are Indian, they have lived in the United States for over twenty years and confessed they are a bit removed from some of India’s social issues. It took a trip to India with a good friend to the state of Rajasthan to seal their fate.

I had the opportunity to speak with Partha and Madhu to learn more about their amazing business and journey together to change girls lives in India. It was a fascinating conversation with lots of laughs as well as delightful inspiration to hear how they were able to find a higher meaning and value in their work. Here is their story.


It all began during a visit back to India with one of their good friends, an American textile designer named Hallie Gray. Partha and Madhu, friends for over twenty years and fathers of daughters, traveled to Rajasthan to help Hallie source her products. During the trip, they had their first exposure to block printing, an art that had been around for over 5,000 years and is still practiced today.  It was breathtaking to watch and life-changing for Partha and Madhu.

While spending time with the artisans, they learned more about their lives and realized that girls education was a huge issue in that region of India. Both fathers of daughters, they realized how fortunate their girls were to be receiving a good education in the United States while many girls in India do not have the same opportunity. It was a pivotal moment that eventually lead to the creation of Bloom & Give.

The breathtaking Jaipur Jal Maha. Photo credit: Bloom & Give

The breathtaking Jaipur Jal Maha located in Rajasthan, India where Bloom & Give sources their product and supports girls education. Photo credit: Bloom & Give

Partha and Madhu were at first nervous about entering this new space of creating products for women and giving back to girls education. Typically owners of such companies are women, not men. Yet after much thought they realized that creating Bloom & Give would be a way for them to give back and truly change things in India. 

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD
Seattle Chocolates

2015 Gifts that Give Back Holiday Guide

As today marks Black Friday in the US and people are scrambling about for the perfect gift for the holidays, why not consider a beautiful gift that also gives back to someone in need?  I have worked hard over the years curating an ongoing list of Gifts that Give and even keep a permanent page on my blog under the same name. Why? Because I know people like to give gifts year round, not only for the holiday season, and why not give a gift that also helps someone in need.

The following list includes some of my absolute favorite gifts, many of which I’ve given myself and have supported. There are many gifts that I have already featured on my blog too. New additions this year include beautiful products from : Bloom & Give, Kurandza, Society B, Mission Belt, Seattle Chocolates, Rwanda Path to Peace, Sevenly, and Thistle Farms. 

As this list is continually growing please let me know if you have any gifts that give that I should include. Thank you!

“For it is in giving that we receive”. – Francis of Assisi

By selecting to purchase a gift from one of the organizations below, your gift will not only give delight and joy to the recipient, it will also give back to someone in need. I can’t think of a better way to give than that!

Here is a list of some of my favorite gifts that give! Feel free to contact me if there are other organizations that should be included in this ever growing list.

Products that help women and girls:

fashionABLE (scarves and leather goods)


“Your purchase of a fashionABLE scarf creates sustainable business for women in Africa.  Our commitment as a non-profit is to the development of people — fashionABLE works with women who have been exploited due to the effects of poverty.  So, when you purchase a scarf you are providing jobs, and then we send the net profits back to holistically rehabilitate more women”. 

To read my post regarding my visit to fashionABLE click here. 

Anchal (scarves, pillows and quilts)


Designing Change Stitch by Stitch” Anchal creates absolutely stunning scarves, pillows and quilts each handmade out of recycled saris by Indian women rescued from prostitution.

Bloom & Give


Bloom & Give sells beautifully handcrafted scarves and bags made in India using techniques passed on from generation to generation. Each product is designed in the US by one of Bloom & Give’s designers, and made in India with love.Bloom & Give donates 50% of their profits to support girls education programs in India through their partner Educate Girls to improve the lives of girls in Rajasthan.

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD