As I’m writing this I’m standing at my desk … barefoot. I prefer sandals to real shoes in the summer so when a friend of mine sent me a pair of flip flops from her cousin’s company, Bella Ha, I was thrilled. Flip flops cute enough to wear to the office! Woot! Then I read the materials that came with them. These aren’t just regular flip flops. They have a story. A story only a mother could love.
The name Bella Ha comes from two sisters in Vietman. Identical twins, one — named Isabella — was given up for adoption by her birth mother, who couldn’t afford to raise both girls. She was adopted by an American family. Only upon arrival in the U.S. did the family realize that Isabella had an identical twin back in Vietnam, but her exact whereabouts were unknown. For years the family searched for Isabella’s sister, whose name is Ha. By the time they found her, she was too old to be adopted (they are, however, trying to get her a visa to finish high school in the states). But once the sisters connected, their bond couldn’t be undone and they now chat via Skype weekly and see each other in person every year. They are just approaching their 17th birthday. (See the adorable pic of them, at right.)
Now Isabella’s parents, Keely and Mick Solimene, have started an online shoe collection in the girls’ name: Bella Ha. The sandals’ design are inspired by the provence in Vietnam the girls are from – Khánh Hòa. On each shoe (they come in these pretty colors) there are tiny metal tags that contain the longitude and latitude from this part of the world. Even better? The purchase of the shoes helps their community by providing Solar Suitcases to birth clinics which help mothers and their babies just like Bella and Ha. Never heard of a solar suitcase? It’s a portable suitcase-like device that equips off-the-grid medical clinics with solar power so they can have light and electricity. In places like remote areas of Vietnam, women often give birth to their babies in darkness. This contributes to high infant and maternal mortality rates. With access to solar power, these clinics can have medical and surgical lighting when needed and the ability to charge cell phones and essential medical devices. Bella Ha has partnered with We Care Solar to distribute the suitcases to clinics.
I’ll tell you, the shoes don’t come cheap — they are $100 each which is steep for flip flops. But they are handmade in Italy, gorgeous on your feet, and support a very worthy cause.
Photos courtesy of Megan DeRoma (shoes) and Keely Solimene (girls).
Chandra Turner is the Executive Editor of Parents. She has two kids ages 6 and 8 and lives in Westchester, NY.
Over the past few weeks, you may have noticed a lot of ads featuring celebrities wearing goofy red noses. (That’s some of our staff modeling them above!) If you’re like me, the promos caught your attention and left you wondering what this Red Nose Day was all about. Here’s everything you need to know:
Tomorrow night (Thursday, May 21), starting at 8 pm EST, NBC is airing a live three-hour telethon to raise money for a variety of charities that help kids living in poverty. (The Children’s Health Fund is a staff favorite here at Parents, but proceeds will benefit plenty of other wonderful organizations such as Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Feeding America, and United Way.) The program will feature plenty of comedy, videos produced by Funny or Die, musical performances, and dozens of Hollywood’s big stars, so you can actually feel good about chilling on the couch while watching TV. This is the first Red Nose event here in the US, but it has become a popular tradition in the UK. (To date, they’ve raised over $1 billion over the past 30 years!)
Sounds like fun, right? Aside from watching Red Nose Day tomorrow, there are some other ways you can get involved. Red noses are being sold for just $1 at Walgreens and Duane Reade stores around the country, so pick up a few and snap a selfie with your family or coworkers. You can also set up an online fundraising page or host a bake sale with your kids and donate whatever you earn to the cause. And if you’re able to contribute, even a small donation can make a difference. For more ideas on how to participate, check out RedNoseDay.org.
Here’s a sneak peek at some of the many faces you can expect to see during tomorrow’s program:
Chrisanne Grise is an assistant editor covering kids’ health and entertainment at Parents. Follow her on Twitter @xanne.
Christmas was always my favorite time of year as a kid. School would close for a week, my family would make amazing food, and I would spend an entire day opening presents.
While I’m sure I appreciated them at the time, there’s really only a single gift, one I received every year, which I remember. I had a family member who would send me a card every year, and in the card it would say that money was given in my name to a needy family somewhere in the world to help them tend their farm, or buy livestock, or make clothes for themselves—something that deeply affected another family’s way of life.
That gift has always stuck with me, and it is a beautiful thing to donate your time, talents, or money to give back to others, especially during the holiday season.
So, to help teach your kids about the gift of giving, here are 3 great charities and organizations that you and your children can visit to choose a donation to make in honor of your loved ones this holiday.
1. Save The Children- This organization offers seven different categories of gift giving, from education and sports to programs specifically in the United States. After selecting a gift, a customized card can be sent to your loved one via email or postal mail to fill them in on the donation your family has made in their honor. A printable card is also available, so your kids can get in on the action by decorating it and writing personalized messages.
2. International Rescue Committee- When you view the IRC’s website, you can choose from a variety of donation options, including maternal health care and teaching supplies for communities and families in need. Here, you can also customize an e-card or print card, and they can have your card shipped to its recipient within 7-10 days.
3. World Vision- Donations given to World Vision help to support various problems, including poverty in America, gifts for needy girls and women worldwide, and clean drinking water. Participants can opt for an e-card to send, or pick out a handcrafted gift, like a necklace, scarf, or coffee set, where proceeds from sales will go directly to needy communities
We’ve covered charity birthday parties in the pages of Parents a lot. Moms seem to always be looking for ways to throw parties for their kids that will benefit others less fortunate whether it be roll-up-your-sleeve events that allow kids to do charity work at the actual shin-dig or ones that allow guests to donate to a cause in lieu of buying gifts. Perhaps it’s the extravagance of the modern kid’s birthday party that gives us this tug to give back — we all know what a first world problem it is to have to choose between the Ice Skating Princess party and the Make Cupcakes At the Local Bakery Party. And the fact that every kid comes home with a dozen new toys that she definitely doesn’t need (or sometimes even want). But trying to suggest that your kid donate those gifts is a hard sell. Last year I suggested that my daughter Madelyn, then 7, ask her friends to donate to a special cause instead of bringing gifts. She understood it was a nice thing to do. But she couldn’t give up the gifts.
So this year I tried a new tactic. Madelyn just got a puppy (see pic) for her birthday from a rescue organization. What if we asked your birthday guests to give a donation to FurBabies where we got Blue? As much as she loved the idea of giving to other puppies like her own, she was still hesitant. So I’d get no gifts? she asked. Well, you’d get gifts from Grannie and Grandpa … Hmm. She couldn’t pull the trigger. Then I learned of a website called Share Your Wish that allows her to do both: Get donations to charity AND get a gift of her own. It’s quite brilliant. I only wish that it allowed you to choose any charity. We couldn’t give to FurBabies but we could give to the ASPCA, the national animal non-profit that helps pets (and lots of other reputable non-profits). The site lets you choose what percentage to give to the charity and how much to go into the kid’s personal gift fund. Madelyn chose 75% to charity and 25% to herself. (The site also handles all the transactions which is handy.) Currently Madelyn has raised $156 for the ASPCA and $52 for herself (which she plans on spending on her puppy; Blue “needs” a sweater). It’s a win-win!
Editor’s Note: I was wrong about Share Your Wish. You CAN choose your own charity. I just neglected to see the option the site. But a rep at the site tells me you just need to select “other” in the charity section. In the end, they were able to send Madelyn’s donation to FurBabies after all!
On Monday April 21, Boston’s iconic marathon finished without a hitch. It was hard to believe that we’d already crossed the one-year mark of the bombings on Boylston Street, which shook the city of Boston and our nation. But we were not rattled for long. In fact, a group of seven moms from Naples, Florida sprang into action just days after the attack to show Boston and the world that there is more compassion than there is hate. Kari Wagner founded the Prayer Canvas: America4Boston project to create artistic canvases from around the country to send physical well wishes and messages of healing to Boston.
“The idea was to create a giant symbol of our compassion, resilience and unity as a country and as a world,” said Wagner. “I wanted to show that millions of people still care about one another and want to do good things, instead of a small minority of people that wreak havoc in our lives, strike fear in our hearts, and try to change the way we live.”
Starting with one 6 by 18 foot canvas, these moms got down on their knees and drew out 360 squares that could be decorated and signed in red, white and blue, with messages of hope for Boston.
“I wanted something that everyone could do from age 2 and up,” she said. And the project was funded entirely through her team’s “creative budgeting” so that no one felt they had to donate in order to partake. Some artists did tuck bills under the sandbags weighing down the canvases, but these donations will go to One Fund Boston.
A true grass roots initiative, the seven moms reached out to friends, family, and former co-workers across the U.S. on their mission to get all 50 states involved. The campaign snowballed and to date, there are 215 canvases totaling over 20,000 square feet that have been completed by nearly 150,000 participants with more coming in. “We’ve been to major sporting events, schools, churches, festivals, state fairs, rehab centers, senior facilities, it truly is a great representation of the fabric of America,” said Wagner.
Daryl Sissman is one of the original Florida mothers who started this campaign with Kari. A Boston native and mother of three children ages 9, 7, and 5, Sissman felt that this could be her outlet to “help the city heal.” She came back to her hometown last week for the presentations of the canvases in Boston—from the Boston Medical Center Ceremony to laying out the banners on the Boston commons to the Red Sox Tribute at Fenway Park. “We like to say ‘Seven moms, 11 months, 50 states, 100,000 messages strong for one Boston,’” Sissman quoted. As a mom of two kids, ages 7 and 5, it was also important to Wagner that she show her children and the future generation that a small group can do something huge.
The canvases will be displayed all over Boston—from the airport to the Medical Center—and even, hopefully, one day on Capitol Hill. “The media would ask me ‘Did you ever think it would get this big?’ Wagner recalled. “I think the anticipation is that I would say no, but I always did because I believe in people. I believe in the goodness of people. I just wanted a giant reminder of that.”
Find out more about America 4 Boston and ways you can get involved here.