Haiti Bound With Fairwinds Trading

February 21, 2011 · By Sloane Davidson, Founder and CEO, Hello Neighbor

I have exciting news...and a bit of a story to tell you.

First up, I'm headed to Haiti! I'm leaving early this Friday AM (just a few days away) and will return very late on Monday night. I'm really excited to be part of a small blogger team going to Port-au-Prince to meet with local artisans who are a part of Fairwinds Trading and capture Haiti in a post-earthquake environment.

How did this come to be? Join me on a journey...last year, while living in New Orleans, I was asked by the amazing folks at Everywhere to help organize an event for the Pathway to Peace event. This was sometime in December of 2009. Pathway to Peace is an initiative by Macy's to support women artisans in Rwanda. I clearly remember Tamara from Everywhere telling me, "We can't pay you to help with this event, but it's such an amazing campaign, and I know you'll love it. We'll find another way to make this work and work with you in the future."

Lesson 1: Sometimes you do things for money. Sometimes you do things because you believe in them. Sometimes you ask for something in return. Sometimes you do something simply for gratitude. Know the difference between these scenarios, but make sure at some point in your life you do one of each.

I did help with the New Orleans event. And I did work more with Everywhere on other campaigns for Macy's. As a digital strategist on the Culinary Council initiative by Macy's, I worked with Everywhere on how to engage local bloggers in a series of in-stores appearances around the U.S. featuring some of the most well-known chefs in the country.

And I've worked with Everywhere throughout 2010 on other clients and campaigns providing digital strategy for product launches and influencer events. I love them, their passion for their clients and their amazing attitude to push for the best of the best and to get the job done.

It's through Everywhere I learned about Willa Shallit and Fairwinds Trading. It was while reading about Willa, that I was so moved by her story to I wrote a blog post about Heart of Haiti just a few weeks ago. I shared the blog post with Everywhere and they wrote right back and said they were helping put together a trip to Haiti, if they could help find me a sponsor would I go?

Lesson 2: Write about the things you're passionate about. Then share them with the people you are writing about and those who you think would be interested. You never know what will come from it. Be open to the possibility that something amazing can happen around any corner. Be ready to say "yes" to the experience.

Well, I actually didn't practice what I preach in this case. I said I didn't know if I could make it. I have too many clients and projects I said, I can't get away.

I asked for details anyway.

Turns out it was only for a weekend...give or take. And that it was with a small team of amazing female bloggers and Willa herself would be there. Three days later, I had a sponsor and my flight was booked.

Sometimes things happen fast like that and you have to go with it and worry about exhaling after the decision has been made.

It helps (no doubt) that I've traveled a lot of places and I have all my shots, a current passport (everyone should have this) and a healthy knowledge of Haiti from my experience with CrisisCamp New Orleans and friendship with some incredibly Haitians in New Orleans.

Lesson 3: Value your relationships. You never know where they might lead, where the path might go, and when paths might cross in amazing and unexpected ways. Social media and technology are tools to stay in touch and communicate with the people in your life. Use them that way to make the most out of what technology can do for you.

It's hard to know where to begin to describe Willa because she's THAT AWE-INSPIRING. Instead of a normal bio introduction, here is an excerpt from an article on her in Oprah's Magazine:

Willa Shalit has been put on this earth, I think, to allow the rest of us to pretend that our most grasping, selfish impulses are actually noble. Through her company, Fair Winds Trading, she has managed to make shopping meaningful—a way to load up on gorgeous, exotic objects de lust while furthering peace and justice, not to mention improving lives around the world. Bless the woman.

A pioneer in a growing social-entrepreneurial movement whose mission in part is to provide unique products to U.S. consumers—and, at the same time, sustainable wages to the Third World artisans who make them—Shalit has been collaborating for the past five years with the women of Rwanda. As a result, Fair Winds Trading now imports their handwoven baskets, African-gemstone jewelry, textile bags, and table linens, and this fall will branch out with products from Tanzania, Cambodia, and Indonesia.

And a bit about Fairwinds Trading:

Fairwinds Trading is a for-profit company that uses business as a strategy for economic empowerment of people, especially women, in the Majority World. The Majority World is where two billion of the world’s three billion people live, in poverty. Our focus on women as a preferred partner is based in part on our history, in part on our leadership as a woman-owned firm, and in part on evidence that raising the standard of living for women has the greatest positive multiplier effect within families, communities and cultures.

The company’s philosophy and business model embody a new paradigm for global economic empowerment. They recognize that compassionate aid, needed in moments of crisis, becomes culturally destructive if continued too long. They demonstrate that cross-cultural business partnerships, rooted in mutual learning and growth, can bring sustainable economic power to women around the world.

Our mission is to connect cultures through business, art and understanding.

I'm really excited to meet Willa and the Fairwinds artisans and have the opportunity to meet and connect with the other bloggers as well. This is an incredible opportunity to spend a few days on the ground with local artisans and hear first-hand about their experiences and see Haiti with my own eyes. For those who have been following me for awhile or reading my blog, you might remember that I produced the first CrisisCamp New Orleans in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.

I have passionately been following, giving my time and donating my resources to helping Haiti and this opportunity to go in person absolutely astounds me. I will share more about the trip in the coming days and once I'm back next week. I'm also looking to sell a few stories/posts to blogs and publications to help pay for the part of the trip that I'm paying out of pocket, if you know of any that you think I should reach out to, please let me know!

Full disclosure: While Fairwinds products are sold in Macy's stores, this trip is completely independent and not sponsored by Macy's. While Macy's has been a client in the past, it is not currently a client and I have no obligation or requirement to Macy's on this trip.