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 Hí²a. 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.
Chandra Turner is the Executive Editor of Parents. She has two kids ages 6 and 8 and lives in Westchester, NY.