Every day a new email arrives in my email box that gently asks for a donation to - children, wildlife, the underprivileged, those suffering from a myriad of diseases, you name it. If only I could give to all of them. And, maybe, in some small way, I can. Just $5 given to a select group of charities, across the nation, adds up fast. So, I do give - as much as I can. I especially give to the homeless and to animal charities.
Yesterday, I was watching the news and this story about "Rwanda Baskets" came on - literally making me sit up and pay close attention. I'm surprised we haven't seen more of this, and I'm ashamed that it's taken me so long to learn about it.
Here's (part of) the story: (visit the full story here)
"In 1994, Rwanda was torn apart by a brutal and swift genocide—in roughly 100 days, close to one million Rwandan citizens were murdered. In the aftermath, the population of this small African nation was nearly 70% women. Faced with an uncertain future, these women turned to their past and reclaimed their unique heritage of weaving. Drawing strength from this common history and ancient art form, brave women from both sides of the conflict organized groups of weavers, in an effort to rebuild their communities and their lives... together.
In 2002 Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), visited Rwanda and was struck by the beauty of the traditional woven baskets. Moved by the pride and strength of the weavers, she reached out to American businesswoman, and UNIFEM supporter, Willa Shalit in hopes of developing a market for Rwandan basketwork. After UNIFEM made initial contacts with the Rwandan Government and the association of genocide widows, Willa began working with weavers in Rwanda and partners in America. Three years later, she founded the Rwanda Path to Peace project in partnership with Macy's.
This partnership established a global market for these unique works of art, and in September 2005 Macy's introduced the very first Path to Peace Baskets. The modest collection, only available online at macys.com and in Macy's flagship Herald Square store, included every basket the weavers could produce over the course of the year."
How could that not make you sit up and take notice? But, it's more than that. These amazing, spectacular, astonishing women told their stories on camera - and what they said resonated to my very core.
Their message was one of hope - a message that, one woman said, "Only women can bring" - women who want what we want: a better world for each other and for our children. "We cannot always fight and argue," one woman said. Though she was sitting next to a woman whose husband may have killed her family, this woman not only forgave, she recognized the need to look forward, not back. She, and her 'sisters' were weaving beautiful baskets to make a better life for themselves and their children. They were pulling their heritage back into their lives and looking at the world with visions of happiness and hope, not anger and despair.
Yes, you can buy these outstandingly beautiful baskets at Macy's. At first, the store was ready to give a donation - something many of us would lean towards, after hearing this heart-warming story, but the women of Rwanda do not want donations. They want jobs. And so, Macy's, with the help of the Path to Peace Project, Macy's began a business relationship with these basket weavers - and helped them create new lives for themselves, their children, and their villages.
Personally, I don't think it gets any better than that. Thank you, Macy's. This is a business venture I can support hearth and soul. The baskets are not only useful and functional, but so very beautiful, I need three or four - just for myself! And, many more for friends and family.
Can we - the women of the net - the bloggers and twitterers, do this same thing? Can we not compete with each other as if the end of the world is near and being #1 is all important? Can we work together, build and create, together? Can we choose 2010 as the year we partner with our neighbors, partner with our competitors, partner with the small shop in the foot-plaza that has the best homemade gifts of all... and make the world a marketplace of togetherness.
Ladies, can we do that? Maybe the better question is: how can we not do it?