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

Macy’s Celebrates 10 years with Rwanda’s Path to Peace

Given the scale of trauma caused by the genocide, Rwanda has indicated that however thin the hope of a community can be, a hero always emerges. Although no one can dare claim that it is now a perfect state, and that no more work is needed, Rwanda has risen from the ashes as a model of truth and reconciliation. – Wole Soyinka

Where were you in 1994 during the Rwandan genocide and do you remember what you thought about it? I clearly remember where I was at that time. I was a student completing the last year of college at the University of Wisconsin. The world was my oyster. Nothing could stop me. Of course I’d heard the news of Rwanda and the mass killings but at twenty-two years old, I could hardly relate. It felt surreal and far, far away from the carefree lifestyle I had as a student in Madison, Wisconsin.

It wasn’t until years later when I began to follow my passion for international affairs and travel that I watched the tragic 2004 film Hotel Rwanda and read the 2009 novel by Gaile Parkin “Baking Cakes in Kigali” that I began to truly contemplate the sheer tragedy and horror of what surpassed in Rwanda. Even today, it is hard to believe that in just three months, nearly a million people, 20% of Rwanda’s population, was massacred when tribal hatred between the Hutus and Tutsis turned into ethnic slaughter. It was unimaginable. Neighbor killed neighbor in one of the worst genocides in human history.

Like in most cases with war and tragedy, women and children were the most severely impacted by the genocide. After the violence ended, many Rwandan women found themselves thrust into the unfamiliar role of being sole breadwinners for their families since their husbands, fathers and sons had been killed. Others saw their husbands jailed for committing unspeakable atrocities. If women were going to survive, it was up to them to take action and do whatever they could to improve their lives for their children.

After the genocide, Rwanda was looking for ways to move forward and many women embraced opportunities that would help them heal. It was around this time that an American woman named Willa Shalit, a social entrepreneur, artist and activist, visited Rwanda and vowed to make a difference to help the Rwandan women. She noticed that weaving beautiful baskets has been a part of Rwanda’s culture for centuries and that perhaps this tradition could become a way forward towards peace and reconciliation.

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In 2005 Shalit showed the baskets to executives at Macy’s (one of America’s largest retailers) who committed to sell the baskets through a program called Rwanda Path to Peace. Like her counterpart Macy’s Heart of Haiti (which I had the honor of seeing for myself last February), Rwanda Path to Peace is a trade not aid program that is not a charity but a business initiative. Women from both sides of the ethnic divide have come together to weave baskets,creating an industry supporting thousands of Rwandan women and their families. It has had a huge impact on the community lifting the women and their families out of poverty and giving them sustainable hope for the future.

Each Macy's Path of Peace basket comes with a story.

Each Macy’s Path of Peace basket comes with a story.

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD
Jacques Eugene Croix des Bouquet Haiti

Macy’s Heart of Haiti Creating Sustainable Income and Hope

This post is part of a series on my recent trip to Haiti as part of Heart of Haiti’s #Bloggers4Haiti trip. To read more in this series, click here. 

On January 12, 2010 the earth rumbled and shook. Although it only 30 seconds, the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti, devastated Port-au-Prince and killed an estimated 220,000 people. Already reeling from a series of natural, economic and political disasters, the earthquake was nearly catastrophic to the people, infrastructure and economy of Haiti. Although thousands of lives were lost, more were forever changed on that fateful day.

Pétionville Haiti

The “Gingerbread” homes and slums that raise up the mountains behind luxurious Pétionville.

As news poured into the United States and around the world, governments, aid organizations and humanitarians across the globe came together to help. One woman, American Willa Shalit, an artist, producer, writer and social conscious entrepreneur, came to the rescue. A pioneer in a growing social-entrepreneurial movement, Shalit’s company Fairwinds Trading joined forces with the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund and retailer, Macy’s. Together, they developed the mission of providing unique Haitian products to U.S. consumers while at the same time, creating sustainable wages for the Haitian artisans who make them.

Gifts that Give Back Global Issues Haiti SOCIAL GOOD TRAVEL TRAVEL BY REGION

Eye candy: A glimpse into the Painted Garden

Today I decided that I’d had it with winter. I picked my daughter Sophia up from Kindergarten and we headed to downtown Minneapolis for the Macy’s Painted Garden Orchid Show. It was exactly what the doctor had in order.

We stepped inside this tropical paradise on the 8th floor of the Macy’s department store and were transported into a tropical garden more likely found in India or Thailand. Of course, given how much I adore flowers I snapped away like mad and then we walked around the show another time so 6-year-old Sophia could take some shots.

Here is just a teaser of some of the gorgeous flowers we saw. Once I have a chance to process all the photos, I will for sure give you a full report filled with color….a post not to be missed.

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In honor of WordPress’ iPhonography month, all these photos were taken with my tiny iPhone and processed on Instagram. Hope you enjoyed them!