(Not at all) Wordless Wednesday: Happy World Toilet Day!

NicaToiletCollage

Toilets in Nicaragua. Photos by Jennifer Iacovelli

Is it weird that I’m excited for World Toilet Day? I mean, what other day allows for potty talk all day long? And you can get away with making a photo collage of latrines.

World Toilet Day was created by the United Nations to recognize the life-saving importance of toilets and sanitation and to raise awareness about the fact that one in three people around the world have no safe and sanitary place to “go” when nature calls.

If you follow me, you know clean water and sanitation are important causes for me. You also know that WaterAid America is an organization close to my heart.

I was honored to have traveled to Nicaragua back in March to see WaterAid’s work on the ground. I saw how women and teenage girls were being trained to build and maintain wells and toilets, giving them skills, income and a better way of life for their entire community. I stayed at Linda’s house where I ate dinner with a headlamp on, slept under a mosquito net, and climbed up rickety stairs to get to the outdoor toilet (pictured in the above collage on the left) while dodging livestock.

While there are times I wish I could go back to the simplicity of Nicaragua, the sheer lack of clean water, sanitation and infrastructure still boggles my mind.

WaterAid released the Child of Mine report today. The image below gives you a snapshot of the findings. The statistics are staggering. (Download the full 12-page report)

111314WaterAid_ig_onepger

So what is WaterAid America doing to bring awareness to these issues on World Toilet Day? On Friday, November 21 Hallie Tamez, WaterAid America’s Associate Director of Major Gifts, will  be carrying a 40-pound jerry can filled with water across Manhattan in solidarity with the women and girls across the globe who have no choice but to do this every day.

How cool is that? (Actually, I told Hallie she was pretty badass. Because she is. Just look at that photo below.) Hallie says:

The #Steps4Water event will highlight the daily experiences of women and children living without clean water. As we shed light on this issue, we look forward to welcoming new supporters to help raise funds on #GivingTuesday, December 2, 2014.

halliesteps4water

Go, Hallie, go!

You can find Hallie’s route on WaterAid’s website. If you spot her and post a photo to Instagram, tagged with @WaterAidAmerica and #Steps4Water, you could win a dinner for two at Spasso NYC.

So what can you do? Here are some action steps for you on World Toilet Day:

  • Stay tuned for updates from WaterAid America CEO Sarina Prabasi on Twitter via @SPrabasi and @WaterAidAmerica on World Water Day as she talks about open defecation and the challenges for women and girls at a special UN panel alongside representatives from UN Water, the Republic of Singapore and more. The event will be webcast on United Nations Web TV from 1p.m. to 3p.m. EDT on November 19.
  • Ask Congress to support the Water for the World Act. The US House Foreign Affairs Committee will be debating the bill on November 20. It’s our last chance to get the bill passed before year end!
  • Celebrate the importance of toilets with WaterAid and their friends at Go Green Environmental Services at a World Toilet Day celebration (PDF, 300KB) with live music, free food and beer at 119 Rocky Point Road, Middle Island, New York on November 19 at 4p.m. EDT.
  • Test your toilet trivia and learn more about sanitation at the Eww! What’s Eating You? exhibit at Exploration Place in Wichita, Kansas.
  • Read more about the sanitation crisis

Philanthropy Friday: Heart of Haiti

Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer. Read past stories here.

Disclosure: I received a beautiful tobacco leaf tray as a gift from Everywhere Society as part of their Macy’s Heart of Haiti initiative. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

high res hoh

With Thanksgiving in just two weeks, gratitude is on the mind. As I head into my first Thanksgiving as a single mother, I am overcome with the amount of things I am truly thankful for this year. Three healthy, resilient and loving boys (two of the human kind and one of the canine kind). A slew of friends, new and hold, who have shown more love and support than I ever expected. A great new place to live. A successful business that is my passion. Amazing trips and opportunities. I could go on an on.

I cannot think of anything I truly want or need that I don’t already have right now.

When I was in Nicaragua earlier this year, I experienced poverty at a level that I had never seen before in person. I was told it was the poorest nation in the western hemisphere second only to Haiti. This January marks the five year anniversary since the devastating earthquake shook Haiti and caused catastrophic damage in an already third world nation. Thinking about the circumstances in these countries keeps things in perspective when I’m having a bad day. We have so much to be thankful for here in America.

heart of haiti

Haitian artisans make tobacco leaf trays. Photos provided by Everywhere Society.

Macy’s went to Haiti shortly after the January 12, 2010 earthquake and realized that, despite the devastation, there was an artist community that existed. They were eager to bring the products of these Haitian artisans to market. Macy’s launched the Heart of Haiti product line for sale online and in stores, including Macy’s Herald Square, Brooklyn Downtown, Metro Center, Chicago State Street, Northland Center, Seattle Downtown, Portland Downtown, San Francisco Union Square, Biltmore Fashion Park, South Coast Plaza Home, Mission Valley Home, Dallas Galleria, Lenox Square Mall, and Dadeland Mall.

To date, Heart of Haiti has employed 400 artists. These artisans are able to create beautiful, unique items using only the scraps and materials they have around them. Materials like old paper, cement bags and tobacco leaves like those that were used to create my gorgeous tray.

tobaccotray

Every item purchased from the Heart of Haiti product line from Macy’s provides sustainable income for a Haitian artisan and her extended family. To put the impact of a Heart of Haiti purchase into perspective a bit, the average Haitian’s annual income is only $400 for an entire year. With an estimated 400,000 artisans (out of a 10M population) who rely solely on their handcrafted goods as a source of income, no other sector of employment even approaches such numbers. Macy’s, using a Trade-Not-Aid approach, has paved the way in helping to rebuild this important sector of a fragile economy.

As we move into the holiday season, I urge you to consider gifts that also give back. Macy’s Heart of Haiti product line is beautiful, affordable, handmade and provides sustainable income for Haitian artists and their families.

What are you thankful for this season?

Philanthropy Friday: Scary Mommy Nation Thanksgiving Project 2014

Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer.

scary mommy thanksgiving project

The above image came across my Facebook newsfeed yesterday morning (11/6/14). A reminder of just how generous the Scary Mommy Nation is and just how much more need there still is as we head into the holiday season.

I wrote about the Thanksgiving Project last year around this time and how it was started:

The Thanksgiving Project started as a simple blog post from Jill Smokler (aka Scary Mommy) back in 2011. This post talked about how some people in the Scary Mommy community had a rough year and simply couldn’t provide a Thanksgiving dinner for their families. Some could barely afford a loaf of bread.

Jill had the idea of asking her large community of followers for help. Would they be willing to donate some money, even a small amount, to make sure everyone would be able to celebrate Thanksgiving?

The answer was a resounding Yes. Jill was overwhelmed with people who wanted to donate. She also heard from many others who needed help. The story received a ton of media attention, including on Good Morning AmericaNightline and the home pages of Yahoo and Huffington Post.

An average Thanksgiving dinner costs $50. In that first year of the Thanksgiving Project, the Scary Mommy community raised more than $20,000 and provided meals for more than 400 families.

After the success of the first impromptu Thanksgiving Project, Scary Mommy Nation quickly became a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization powered by mothers helping other mothers. As Jill told me in an email, “Once I saw the impact the site could have, I couldn’t not want to do more. I realized that people really want to help, they just need to be shown how to do it. Being official helped give me the structure I needed as well as a legitimacy that’s needed when collecting money.”

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This project reminds me of how much impact a community of people – most of them mothers – can make in the lives of others. It also makes me proud to be a blogger. Collectively, we can use our blogs and our social media influence to spread the word about helping our peers.

These are families who are having a hard time making ends meet. Any of us could be there. Maybe some of your are. From an anonymous post written by a recipient:

Unless you’ve been in a similar situation, it’s hard to imagine the fear that day to day financial uncertainty can create. Sometimes I feel like I can’t take a deep breath. Sometimes I feel like if one more unexpected thing happens, the delicate facade I have created will come tumbling down and I will never repair it. Sometimes I feel like burning the idyllic picture of my family everyone sees and screaming “help us, save us.”

In the end, I keep going because the alternative doesn’t exist. Because my kids deserve better. Because there is no one to save us. Because no matter how bad things get, there’s always someone worse off than us.

And because I tell myself one day this will all be a distant memory. That day, the idyllic picture of my family everyone sees on the outside will reflect who we really are.

I made my donation yesterday. While applications to receive assistance are now closed, here’s how you can help:

  • If you are involved in blogging or social media, please help spread the word
  • If you can afford to help a struggling family, please donate via Paypal. Fifty dollars buys an entire dinner – you can, of course, give less and be grouped with other donors, or give more and sponsor multiple families. (You can also mail checks to: Scary Mommy Nation, PO Box 20866 Baltimore, MD 21209)
SMN
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