WORLD VOICE: Exploring the (he)ART of Haiti

“Dye mon, gen mon.”

I drew in my breath with awe as the beauty of the verdant mountain range came into view. We had Emerged from the congested streets of Port-au-Prince where we watched fathers precariously navigate the heavy traffic holding the tiny hands of their little girls in school uniforms and hair-bows. Street side sellers had perched water or dried plantains atop their heads as they skillfully wove through the crowd. The street art that brightened cement walls was half covered by myriad posters for presidential candidates. Heading out of the city we’d passed glimpses of the ocean peeking through breaks in the tree line or the walls, and then the view opened up to the majestic green mountains undulating off into the distance as far as we could see. Having read that Haiti has the highest deforestation rate of any country in the world with only 2% of it’s original forests remaining, it was greener than I had expected. During my week in Haiti I came to a deeper understanding of the Haitian proverb I had heard , “Mountains Beyond Mountains”, but this was my first literal interpretation. The mountains beyond mountains of this gorgeous view.

We came to Haiti to visit artisans with the Artisan Business Network who create products for the Heart of Haiti line of goods sold on-line and in Macy’s stores in America. Heart of Haiti began it’s partnership with the Artisan Business Network after the 2010 earthquake to aid in economic recovery by providing sustainable jobs and a market for the rich arts culture of the country. Art is everywhere you turn, from the walls of Port-au-Prince lined with steel art and hung with paintings,  graffiti decorated buildings, to the colorful TapTap buses. Each region seems to have a creative specialty and our tour took us to several areas where we were able to watch the artisans at work, and follow their process of creation from start to finish.

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Jacmel

The coastal town of Jacmel is known for it’s arts and charm. Mosaics like the stairs pictured above decorate public areas and historic French architectural influence reminded me of New Orleans. There we visited Paper Mache artists who demonstrated their craft using recycled materials such as discarded cement bags and layers of cardboard boxes which they seemed to magically transform into gorgeous works of art.

Paper Mache heart ornaments

Paper Mache heart ornaments

We met the women of the PWOFAPLAS  soapmaking collective in Mirebalais, who banded together to use their creativity to generate economic opportunities for themselves in an area without many options for women.

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Making soap

In Leogane, which was the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake, we visited the river where soapstone is sourced. We then watched as the Heart of Haiti soapstone carvers transformed the rough rocks by hand-carving them into smooth hearts and bowls.

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Carving soapstone

Carving soapstone

In Croix des Bouquets we were shown how a repurposed steel metal drum was cut, flattened, and worked into a delicately carved metal tray, christmas ornaments or wall art.

Every new area we visited exposed us to a new craft, but the ingenuity was pervasive throughout each art form. The goods created and sold provide economic empowerment through sustainable incomes enabling the artisans to provide for their families and send their children to school. It is inspiring to see that many of them are also teaching the next generation their craft.

Just a few weeks prior to our visit Hurricane Matthew, the strongest hurricane to hit Haiti in fifty years, had barreled down with 145 mile an hour winds.  An estimated 1,000 lives were lost, regions destroyed, homes, livestock, and crops all gone. The rainy season has continued to flood areas affected by Hurricane Matthew, and I realized why the mountains were looking so lush and green at the moment. In Camp Perrin we visited Artisan Business Network embroiderers who were greatly impacted by the hurricane. The damage became increasingly clear as we neared the town and artists we visited had lost roofing and a season’s worth of embroidery work in the storm. When we arrived the artisans we met were eager to get back to work and busy rebuilding their lives, and their homes.

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The Macy’s Heart of Haiti program currently employs 550 artisans, and by extension positively impacts the lives of their families. It is important to know that when you purchase their art and their work you are truly making an impact in the lives of the artisans and their families.

I feel incredibly grateful to have gotten a glimpse into the creative heartbeat of Haiti. It is tough for me to encapsulate the range of emotions upon visiting for the first time. It is such a tenuous time of political and economic uncertainty, compounded by natural disaster, yet seeing firsthand the raw beauty of this country, the richness in creativity and spirit of it’s people, and their passion for their homeland despite it’s flaws, I have to say I kind of fell in love. The proverb “Dye mon, gen mon.”, “Mountains Beyond Mountains” speaks to the peaks and valleys sure to come with life in Haiti, but really could work to some extreme for all of us, no matter where in the world we live.

Jalousie

Have you been to Haiti?

This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Elizabeth Atalay.

Photo Credits: Elizabeth Atalay

Elizabeth Atalay

Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.

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GLOW: #Heartfulness – Inspiration Through Meditation by #WorldMom Sophia

I ask my one year old son: “Who is Wesley?” His eyes brighten up as he remembers this question, and he happily and proudly answers “I”. He seems happy and proud because he knows our reaction to his showings of intelligence; not because he really understands that he is … himself.

That seems to be the question that many of us have, isn’t it? Who am I? What am I doing here? What am I doing in life?

Through the years, my life has made for a very interesting journey. I have learned, unlearned, thought that I unlearned, and have forgotten some things I thought were really important aspects of the type of life I wanted for myself, and my family. I have survived and I have lived, and I continue to be amazed at how much there is to understand about our experience in this physical realm. During my formative years I was raised within a religious structure, and I won’t name it only because I don’t want to provide a filter with which to read this article. Also, my ideas are just that: mine, and not a representation of any religion or belief system.

After conversations with people young and old, from here and there, and after experiencing energies that I couldn’t really explain within the context of religion, I have slowly come to believe in God a little differently. Maybe I should say it’s very differently because now I consider the possibility of God being she, and not he; or God being ____ and not anything we even understand. And that is way different than the solidified He that we often use in our speech.

On this part of my journey, which I should say started in 2009, I have become more aware of myself as a part of the universe. This has manifested most dramatically in my painting, and the connected-ness I feel whenever I let myself tune in to all that surrounds me.

If you have the opportunity to watch the movie, The Last Mimzy, I suggest that you do if for nothing else, just to see one scene: A little girl puts her hand in this space that is controlled by a force that is from out of this world *(literally). When she does this, her hand separates into millions of particles. It is absolutely beautiful and astonishing. When I saw this it made me think of a thought I once had. That scene was exactly what I was thinking – that creation exists as star matter gathered in different ways, to have different functions, but we (as in everything that exists) are all the same thing. Seeing that movie put into visual what I had in my mind.

So, where am I going with this? It is this – since 2009 I have allowed myself to be curious about life and creation, and to find the connection among God-based answers, soul-based answers, mind (consciousness)-based answers, and scientific answers. By doing so I have been able to experience the world differently. Some things have made me wonder if I am making things up. Could I have felt the presence of ancestors watching my husband and I when we were only friends? Could I have felt that good an energy when I put finger to canvas and painted an abstract, but soulful picture? Could I have dreamed of a place I had never visited, but upon describing it to a friend I hadn’t seen in 15 years and whom I just reconnected with a few months prior to the dream, she would finish describing the place of which I dreamed, and knew exactly where it was? Could I have climbed a mountain successfully by talking to all the elements, acknowledging their power along that of the mountain, and asking them to let me experience a safe climb? Was it coincidence that the climb was as peaceful and safe as it was?

I have had so many experiences that if you don’t believe in universal inter-connectivity, then it will just sound like craziness.

In 2009 I was not meditating. I thought about starting doing so for years, but never have. Now that I have started I understand it is not something I should force, and am content with the fact that I never did force it; it must have not been a part of my journey at that time. I started meditating only a few months ago and it has improved my life considerably.

Early this year I considered taking anti-depressants. It had been a battle to even acknowledge that I might actually need help chemically, and that went along with battling whatever the things were that I felt so badly about. I won’t go into details, but I will say that my children are awesome. They are being children perfectly. My husband is my friend, my love, my silent rock and I love him to the ends of the multiverse (forget the moon & back. I’m just loving him beyond infinity). So it wasn’t about any of that. It was that I would start feeling down and would start spiraling. I would watch the spiral and knew I didn’t want to go down in it, but it was so hard to stay out of it. I would watch canvas and paint. I’d just pass it sometimes like it wasn’t there. I’d look at my camera and not want to take photos. I’d not want to write any poetry, and would make myself focus on the many blessings, so I could write a blog post or two. However, making myself see these blessings, and actually acknowledging them are two different things, to me.

I noticed that when I meditated more and more, that more and more I would feel better.

I would believe that I could be a part of the art community. Why not? Why not I? Who was I anyways? Wasn’t I someone whose work could be displayed somewhere?

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Meditation helped me (here comes a cliché) get centered. Cliché or not, it is absolutely true.

I decided to meditate instead of the anti-depressants and I have done so since February.

I don’t always feel great, and don’t expect that that is how it works. I think we learn from feeling down and from being jubilant. I do, however, see the difference in myself, and hear it in what my children say about how they feel about mommy (completely out of the blue “I love my mommy” “My mommy is nice” statements to random people).

Meditation inspires me to be happily alive. Not only does it inspire my creativity by unlocking … artist’s block (like writer’s block), but it also helps me so that I am not taken by life’s little trials.

I see it this way: small trials can be ignored, but sometimes this is done in a way that is like unto filling an hourglass with grains of sand. Each grain is a small trial. Then, before you know it, the hourglass has passed the last grain and you can’t take it anymore… you react, upset about too many things to remember, but you didn’t truly processed them so they piled up and filled you up in a negative way. Through meditation, I feel like I am learning to really regard small trials as just that. There is still an hourglass, as habits are hard to break, but it isn’t getting as many grains of sand in it.

I will share that since beginning meditation I have exhibited my photography at a local event once; I have painted new pieces and exhibited them in two cities in a neighboring State; I am working on a two-country anthropology project to bring children closer to one another, and it will exhibit in the next few months at a local museum or gallery; and I will participate in a really funky (good) art exhibit that fills a tunnel up with colorful chalk designs.

To say that I am feeling better and better about myself is an understatement. I sincerely believe that meditation is helping me tap into my subconscious and bring out my potential so that it can transform from potential, to actualized and tangible reality.

The last thing I would like to say to you, is that if you do decide to give meditation a try, to keep a journal about your experiences. Do this faithfully. When you look back at your journal in six months, or one year or more, I think you will be surprised by your journey. A journal will solidify the fact that you have made your life better by forming the habit of meditation and making it an integral part of your lifestyle.

This Friday, October 7th, at 9:30 AM EST, join me by registering here for a chat and a Heartfulness Relaxation and Meditation session, as part of the GLOW webinar series.

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If you have questions for me, send them to glow@heartfulness.org. Judith and Purnima, our very own in-house #Heartfulness Trainers are hosting me for this webinar, and I shall be chatting with them, and with you.

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Keynote Speaker, #WorldMom Sophia

Sophia Neghesti-Johnson is a photographer, painter, and a pencil artist. She is a children’s book writer with her main focus being educating the reader on the tribes of Tanzania. Sophia uses her photography to fund girls’ education, and is currently pursuing her higher education goals as well. Sophia is mother to three children. She has an amazing & astute teenage girl, a clever &sassy three year old girl, and a sweet & musical boy who is almost two years of age. She tries to be a good mom, a good wife, and a good person to others and herself. Sophia has been practicing Heartfulness Meditation for about 8 months now. In her spare time she loves to go for a hike or a jog: it’s like meditation on the go in the midst of creation in motion. Sophia writes on her blog at ThinkSayBe.wordpress.com, and also contributes to WorldMomsNetwork.com

GLOW Webinar Series – Inspiration through Meditation – this week with …!
#WorldMoms Sophia, Purnima, Judith

#WorldMoms Sophia, Purnima, Judith

ThinkSayBe

I am a mom amongst some other titles life has fortunately given me. I love photography & the reward of someone being really happy about a photo I took of her/him. I work, I study, I try to pay attention to life. I like writing. I don't understand many things...especially why humans treat each other & other living & inanimate things so vilely sometimes. I like to be an idealist, but when most fails, I do my best to not be a pessimist: Life itself is entirely too beautiful, amazing & inspiring to forget that it is!

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USA: The Santa Talk

USA: The Santa Talk

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My son turns 10 years old this fall. At the start of the summer, I told my husband that before school reconvened, I intended to have the talk with my son about Santa. While my son has never pushed for answers regarding holiday magic, he is in a multi-age program at school with older, brainy kids. My gut has been telling me that this is the year that Santa’s cover would be blown. I also know my son well enough to know I wanted to control the conversation and not have a big talking fifth grader accidentally ruin Christmas at the last minute. I wanted to work through this far enough away from the holiday so we could all get used to the idea. I knew if I framed things the right way, my son would still be able to welcome the upcoming holiday season. I was resigned to move ahead. (more…)

Tara B. (USA)

Tara is a native Pennsylvanian who moved to the Seattle area in 1998 (sight unseen) with her husband to start their grand life adventure together. Despite the difficult fact that their family is a plane ride away, the couple fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and have put down roots. They have 2 super charged little boys and recently moved out of the Seattle suburbs further east into the country, trading in a Starbucks on every corner for coyotes in the backyard. Tara loves the outdoors (hiking, biking, camping). And, when her family isn't out in nature, they are hunkered down at home with friends, sharing a meal, playing games, and generally having fun. She loves being a stay-at-home mom and sharing her experiences on World Moms Blog!

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SOCIAL GOOD: Gifts For Him

SOCIAL GOOD: Gifts For Him

Here in the United States of America, on Sunday, June 21st, we will celebrate Father’s Day. I thought for the occasion I’d put together a list of gifts that World Dads would love, but that also give back in some way. There are so many great companies that give back to choose from these days, but below are a few World Moms favorites.fashionable copyScreen Shot 2014-12-11 at 11.03.40 AMI had the pleasure of visiting the FashionABLE factory in Ethiopia last year and have been writing about and wearing the gorgeous scarves made in Ethiopia for years. That made it such a thrill to finally meet founder Barrett Ward at the ONE Girls and Women AYA Summit this past fall where he participated on the Change Through Economic Opportunity panel. I am also excited that they are expanding their operations to include products made in Kenya including a beautiful line of leather products. Some of which are perfect for him! All products contribute towards social service programs of health care, education in a trade, and assistance with child care for their artisans to help build better, sustainable futures for the artisans and their families.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 11.38.48 AMScreen Shot 2014-12-11 at 11.27.50 AMWine can be a great gift to share, and one with a meaning behind it is even better. Of course I was introduced to One Hope wines by none other than World Moms Blog founder Jennifer Burden when she served it at a gathering of World Moms for the Social Good Summit a few years ago. A portion of the proceeds of each bottle of One Hope Wine  goes to the organization that that wine selection supports, be it saving the environment, fighting heart disease, or supporting our troops among others.

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Warby Parker

For every pair of Warby Parker glasses sold, another pair is given to someone in need, along with funding the training of eye care professionals in developing countries.

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The Men’s styles of Tom’s Shoes are hot! Let’s face it, what makes them even hotter is the fact that each pair bought gives a pair of shoes to someone without.

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Whoever curates the (RED) shop ROCKS! They have the most amazing product selection and all funds from (RED) purchases go to The Global Fund to help the fights against AIDS.

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Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 11.00.42 AMI also met Jane Mosbacher Morris at the AYA Summit where she participated in the panel on Change Through Economic Opportunity. I love her story from policy to retail and was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview her a few days ago and get more insight into her path to founding To The Market. To The Market is a marketplace for survivor made goods, whether it is from war, disaster, or abuse, To The Market provides a market for the beautiful handcrafted goods that give women survivors a chance to support themselves and their families. The website has an entire section of goods for men.

Please share other great gift ideas for the man in your life that also give back. We’d love to hear from you!

Is there a “Father’s Day” celebration in your country? If so When? 

This is an original post written by Elizabeth Atalay for Word Moms Blog. Her writing is also found at documama.org.

Elizabeth Atalay

Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.

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