Middle East

Ethical Gift Guide

This might be a little late, but at least I got it out before Christmas! Besides, we always need gift ideas all year round, birthdays, mother's days, etc. So here it is, my gift guide that gives back.

One of the things I've been wrestling with lately is understanding where our goods come from. I'm not even close to having an ethical shopping life, but slowly maybe by thinking through our purchases we can make this world a little bit better place.

Here are six of my favorites from this year:

1. AKOLA PROJECT

I've been following Akola for a few months now. "Akola is a nonprofit jewelry brand that empowers women in Uganda and Dallas, TX to redesign their stories. Each piece is handcrafted by 1 of 500 women in poverty working to redesign the future of their families. 100% of Akola revenue is reinvested in our mission to help these women transform their families and communities."

 

Another similiar jewlery company is 31 bits. They also just released their home collection, and I'm in love! They also have some great ideas for little girls. 

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Premptive Love Coalition works across Iraq, Syria, the United States, and beyond. They started in 2008 helping children receive life-saving medical care. As they have grown so has their work. They started the Sisterhood Collective, which turns refugees into business owners. They make handmade soap, candles, and other refugee-made products. Buying from them helps provide jobs, income, and hope for Syrian and Iraqi families.

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I found out about Starfish Project earlier this year and have been eyeing a few pieces of their amazing jewlery. Even better, they have an amazing mission behind what they do. Starfish Project restores hope to women escaping human trafficking and exploitation in Asia. They provide life-changing opportunities through their Holistic Care Programs and their social enterprise where women create beautiful jewelry and become managers, accountants, graphic designers, and photographers.

 


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I couldn't leave out gifts for babe, now could I? Cuddle + Kind makes beautiful handmade dolls for kids, and each purchase provides 10 meals. The dolls are also made by women in Peru and create sustainable fair income for these women.  


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I love Seek the Peace because they are working locally in Dallas to help refugees. I have personally volunteered with them and know those behind the scenes working tirelessly to help refugees acclimate to live in the U.S. I love their new shop and am eager to try out the candles! 


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Another great company that I have had the pleasure of getting to know on a personal level. Stephanie, the founder, is an amazing woman with an even better heart. She started Vickery Trading Co. in order to help empower refugee women through jobs. They make the most beautiful girl's clothes and also have Christmas pajama pants newly released this season! 

Here's a photo of my cute little niece wearing one of the dresses. ---->


Refresh My Soul: Past Vacations

 St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine, Florida

I've been thinking a lot about vacation recently. Hot season has arrived and my already weary soul is so ready for some rest! It's actually been a long time since the hubby and I have planned a vacation. What I mean is that most of our trips have been tagged on to conferences or taken because we live in unique places. Even our honeymoon was decided based on the cheapest thing out there. But for the first time we have saved and saved so we could go somewhere new for our 5 year anniversary in September. When I floated the idea by my precious mother she decided it would be a great family vacation! So now all of us and little man will be heading on a 7 day Alaskan cruise in July! Say what?! Bucket list location for sure. Reed and I love cold weather and mountains and living in one of the hottest places on earth we are eager for some cooler weather. 

I have often met people who don't take vacation. They throw around the phrase, "You can sleep when you're dead." Guys, don't be this person! Vacations are good and healthy! One of the best pieces of advice we got when we were preparing to move overseas was to "vacation" every day, every week, every month, and every year. What that look likes practically (for myself) is this:

Daily I spent time with God, reading, relaxing, praying, working out, and even napping at times!

Weekly we take a day where we don't do work, we sleep in, watch movies, laugh, explore new places. 

Monthly we have a date night (or family night). We go to a nice restaurant, swim in a pool, take a trip out of town.

Yearly, we take a vacation. Visit somewhere, stay in a hotel, order room service, get a massage, and DO NOT feel guilty about it. 

So for this month's refresh the soul I'm taking us back to some of my favorite vacations since being married. And if you have a vacation planned for this year, comment below, or share your favorite vacation you've been on. We are always looking for new places to explore! 

 Nice, France

Nice, France

 Grand Cayman Island

Grand Cayman Island

 Epcot Center, DisneyWorld

Epcot Center, DisneyWorld

 Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

 Central Asia

Central Asia

 New York City, New York

New York City, New York

 Daytona Beach, Florida

Daytona Beach, Florida

 Fairhope, Alabama

Fairhope, Alabama

 RMNP, Colorado

RMNP, Colorado

 Estes Park, Colorado

Estes Park, Colorado

 Verrana, Italy

Verrana, Italy

 Antalya, Turkey

Antalya, Turkey

 Paris, France

Paris, France

 Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

 Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)

Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)

 Gulf Shores, Alabama

Gulf Shores, Alabama

 Grand Lake Lodge, Colorado

Grand Lake Lodge, Colorado

 Marseille, France

Marseille, France

 St. Paul de Vence, France

St. Paul de Vence, France

 Annency, France

Annency, France

 Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas

 Lyon, France

Lyon, France

 Amman, Jordan

Amman, Jordan

 Galveston, Texas

Galveston, Texas

 Monaco

Monaco

 Albertville, France

Albertville, France

 Murren, Switzerland

Murren, Switzerland

Refugees in the Middle East: Learning to Laugh

While we were in the Middle East we had the pleasure of visiting several families from Syria. They have fled their homes trying to escape the bombs and fighting going on there. The first family we visited has 25 people in it. They all live in one house and by the smiles on their faces you would never know they were living in extreme poverty, having left everything behind in Syria. We talking with the father of the family and his mother. He also had several of his sisters present with their children as well. One of his sisters was carrying her precious 8 month old baby girl, and as we soon found out, she was actually pregnant with her when they made the long trek out of their country. Their stories of persistence will inspire even the weakest of hearts.     

As we visited the families we had the honor of having a beautiful young lady join us. (Pictured below) She is a Syrian refugee herself and is only 21 years old, but she has two children and her husband left her before leaving Syria. It was such a joy to watch her interact with others. She never stopped smiling and loving on the people she met that day.  

During our time in the Middle East we had the privilege of sitting down Syrian refugees and hearing their stories. A neighbor (and the first family we visited) introduced us to a man and his family. This man’s house was bombed during the war and as a result he became blind. He was able to flee with his wife and his 13-year-old son to a neighboring country, but his daughter and two eldest sons stayed behind. In addition to being blind he suffers from a heart condition that requires medication which is difficult to afford considering that the families sole source of income comes from their son who makes $7 per day. During our visit one of our GAiN staff members cracked a joke and everyone, including the man began to laugh. The laughter brought tears of joy to the wife as she explained “this is the first time that I have heard him laugh since we have been here.” We were able to connect the family to a local clinic to help with medications and also left them with winter jackets and food. But perhaps the greatest gift we were able to bring was laughter; a glimmer of hope shining light in a dark situation.

The last family we visited that day had been in contact with the staff for many months. It was great to see how receptive they were to all of us. The organization we partner with has actually helped the father of the family set up his own business for growing pickles. He has been able to make some income off of that to help provide for his family.

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The next four photos are from the Princess Taghrid Institute. This is an organization set up to help young girls from the local community. It’s specifically designed for women who were abandoned or come from a broken home. At the institute they have the opportunity to learn skills like sewing, cooking and catering, business, and cosmotology. All of the classroom are equipped with the necessary tools and machines to teach the women. While we were there we were treated to some of the goodies the girls have been baking, and believe me they were amazing!

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