Haiti

Last July, I went to Haiti with a group of medical volunteers to work in areas that are considered to be more remote places of the country. Haiti is the 5th poorest country in the world, with a GDP per capita of less than $2,000 (source). I have served both domestically and internationally a number of times, but often seem to find myself on trips that focused on building and construction. That is definitely a need, but my heart has always pulled towards serving children. Despite needing to save money for India, I really felt this was something I needed to put my resources into. I am so glad that I did, and would love to share this trip with you.

Humanitarian work can be tricky in such an impoverished place, and it’s important to serve in a way that will lift up the local community rather than crusade in thinking we hold all of the answers. I knew that partnering with Know More Orphans, a ministry of Altar 84, would be a way to serve with meaning. I’ve known the co-founder and his wife for many years, and knew their hearts for serving Haiti in a sustainable, long-term way. In 2015, Altar84 launched a huge healthcare initiative that would allow their partners in Haiti to serve hundreds of vulnerable children. This trip to Haiti is just one tiny part of this large initiative, and I encourage you to check them out if you would like to know more.

The importance of sustainable service was clear within moments of arriving in-country. The view from the plane as we descended was striking. As we entered the customs hall, we had to purchase a card for $10 that basically was the equivalent to “this is what the foreigners who come here to help have to pay to enter.” It was explained to us that after the earthquake and the subsequent influx of humanitarian effort it caused, the government realized they could capitalize by requiring this extra tariff. haiti1a.jpg

After arriving and getting a good night’s sleep, we got straight to work the next morning in a small village called L’Estere. We set up a series of stations where the children were documented and given a de-worming pill, then were weighed and measured, followed by receiving a medical screening, then a vision screening. Here, and in all the areas where this initiative is happening, volunteer groups will continue to return and do this same documentation and screening for these children. It’s not “parachute in”, then leave and not return until some other organization takes interest in them. It’s a long-term commitment and the people in these towns will continue to receive regular visits and medical care.
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It’s striking to me how often I am asked, “there is so much need in your own backyard, why do you go to other countries?”. First, few people in America are given the infrequent opportunity to access healthcare, and on a dirt-floor no less. Further, only caring for the people around you and only caring for people far away from you are both dangerous ends of the spectrum. Deciding who to serve should not be dependent upon where they live. haiti24haiti25haiti41

After a delicious lunch prepared by the women in L’Estere, we traveled to Calas. There we set up the same rotation of our clinic in yet another dirt-floor building constructed of rusty corrugated tin.
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The next morning, we piled in the van, and we drove to the next site. And we drove. And we drove. And we drove. It took a good 3 hours or so to get there, with half of that being an ascent up a mountain with no paved roads. It was pretty intense. We kept thinking, “we’re almost here!” but then we just kept driving! We all kind of just wanted to either puke or laugh, but I think we all agreed that our time in Trivie Bayonet was worth the commute. (Just a note, no one ever quite decided how to correctly spell this village; don’t even try googling it or finding it on a map!)haiti50haiti48

Once again we set up our clinic a tiny dirt-floored building. The hardest part of this clinic was the little ventilation that was circulating through the building. It really gave new meaning to the word “hot”. It was more sweatbox than anything else, but this was a special place, and the heat was a small price to pay for our afternoon in this tiny, far-flung village.haiti38.jpg13709980_10104192303537175_3581594827639193868_nOne of our translators, Ken Ken, said that the kids wondered “what was wrong with us”, making reference to our light skin. After we wrapped the clinic, we all enjoyed spending time with the kiddos.haiti8haiti9haiti6haiti7

The man in the photo below is Pastor Chuck. His heart beats for Haiti and its people. I have so much respect for him. He is kind, humble, generous, and spoke so much Gospel truth in these 4 days, which was something that my then-home church was not adequately providing. Grateful for this guy. Haiti19

I let the kids play with my camera, and here are a couple of the photos they took. I really love these. haiti5.jpg

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Food and water sources in Trivie Bayonet.haiti5a

On our final full day in Haiti, we went to church and heard a message from Pastor Joseph and from Pastor Chuck. Chuck preached an amazing sermon about how God does not promise prosperity, which of course flies in the face in the false gospel that so many evangelistic preachers are spouting out these days. Click here for a clip of this sermonhaiti11

Click below for a video of our music that morning. Screen Shot 2017-06-10 at 9.19.41 AM.png

After church, we set up our final clinic, which was to further document and serve the children living in the orphanage, which also served as our home base while in Haiti.

The photo below is Dr. Paul Batson, an optometrist in Birmingham, Alabama who is a long-term partner with Altar84’s Haiti initiative. My role during this trip was to work with him on giving vision screenings, and then send any child who seemed they might need additional screening over to him for a more in-depth test. He’s a great guy. haiti13

The man in this photo was actually our security guard during our entire trip. During this clinic though, he greeted the children and handed them toothbrushes. So sweet!haiti14

This is my friend John Menke, who had just graduated college and was in his first year as a nurse, playing games with one of the kiddos at SCH. haiti12

Below is Johnny Grimes, Altar84’s co-founder and Director of Global Works. Another great guy who is doing great things.

Click to the photo see a slo-mo video of John Menke blowing minds with gravity-defying tricks. haiti6a.jpg

I met John as a 10th grader. He was in the youth group in the first years that Zack and I were in youth ministry together, and it’s been pretty cool to watch him grow from a teenager to young adult. I loved that we go to work together in Haiti, just as we did in Costa Rica and in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee in previous years. This trip would not have been the same without John quoting the movie Hot Rod to me. Ancestors protect you, John. haiti35.jpg

Here are a few more photos I’d like to share of our time at SCH in Désarmes. In addition to running a church and an orphanage, they also have a Christian radio station. All of these things are considered public service works, and therefore require extra licensing and taxation to operate. It was difficult to learn that there are so many extra hoops that Haitians who desire to serve their people have to jump through, to the point of even being penalized.haiti15haiti17Haiti20Haiti21haiti45haiti46This little one stole my heart and my lap.
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Water, handed out in plastic bags. Food was always the same and always delicious. I especially loved the smashed and fried plantains.haiti7a

Our group gathered here each morning and evening to fellowship and eat. I had known only 2 of my fellow team members before this trip, so I really enjoyed getting to know each of these people.
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Grateful to serve with this great initiative and alongside these good people, and hope to return one day soon!
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{Fair Trade Friday} Matter Prints

matter1I love the conscious fashion community. It is made up of people across the world who are committed to creating beautiful things in meaningful, impactful ways.

I also love textiles. I might be a middle school teacher these days, but I still hold onto that same passion that drove me to secure that apparel and textile design degree I got almost 10 years ago.

I love travel, too. I’ll be in Cuba soon for a quick getaway with the husband, and that will mark my 20th country!

And as you know, I love India. Our adoption is coming along great, and the day that we will be in India to bring her back home with us is drawing nearer.

When Matter Prints reached out to me about a collaboration, I knew it was a perfect match, and I’m excited to tell you why I have fallen in love with this brand.

When Matter Prints was founded a couple years ago, they set out with a 3-part mission: “to foster designer-artisan collaborations, inspire consumers to value provenance and process, and pioneer industry change and sustainability for rural textile communities.” (Click here to read a little more about that on their webpage.)

These pants are their Sideswept Dhoti.  Inspired by the traditional Indian dhoti pants, it has an updated and modernized silhouette, and I have not one thing in my closet that is so unique. I love them.

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Unique not only in design, but also in manufacturing. The fabric was handwoven by artisans in a rural part of south India called Pochampally. They were then stitched together in Delhi, and this one pair of pants created 74 total days of employment for artisans in vulnerable communities.

Matter Prints pants come in only 3 sizes, but they are designed with generous give and a really clever way of folding and tying that makes them easy to fit many body types. I love the way this asymmetrical side-sweeping style creates a large pocket on the right side.

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As with any clothing manufacturing process, leftover fabric is inevitable. Why throw out perfectly good, beautiful textiles?

Matter takes leftover fabric and create garments for the littles! This #MatterMini dress that Evie is wearing is one of the two that came in the #MatterMini bundle. matter6.jpg

If your kiddo is in a constant growth spurt like mine is, then you’ll love the adjustable straps, and the fact that it can be worn as a dress before converting into tunic-length to wear over leggings.

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In addition to these #PantsToSeeTheWorldIn, they also offer jumpsuits, tops, and even scarves that are skillfully crafted, assembled, and shipped (for free!) to you. Your purchases arrive in a cotton drawstring bag and then packed in a sturdy Tyvek envelope “for your creative reuse”. And do you see that little stripe of red stitching on tie? These are the kinds of the little details that make me fall in love with a brand, and I hope you do too.

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Matter Prints is a socially motivated lifestyle brands that creates travel ware that tells its own story, and in doing so connects communities to meaningful opportunities. Learn more about them on the Matter Prints website. Though I was compensated in product for this post, all thoughts are completely my own. 

All photos by Lily Rimmer except for the photo of the packaging.

{Fair Trade Friday} GlobeIn

Earlier this year I came across GlobeIn, a new company that curates boxes for their customers with the purpose of connecting fair trade and ethically manufactured products with the growing marketplace that is demanding it. And really each box isn’t actually a box…it’s a basket! A basket hand-woven in Oaxaca, Mexico. They are beautiful, and this little bonus was actually what clenched the deal on giving this company a try. (Read more about the mission of GlobeIn here.)

I hope you’ll take the time to read the descriptions of each product. As you’ll see from the retail values, this subscription is worth it from a cost standpoint, but the impact reaches hundreds of people around the world, making this so much more meaningful than anything you can pick up at Target!

You can click here for $10 off a 3-month subscription, and also be on the lookout for all kinds of good promotions that they are always running!

My first box was the practical and beautiful Eco-Clean boxglobeincleanIt came with:
–A beautiful hanging wall organizer made in Peru by artisans who have physical disabilities that otherwise keep them from dignified work
A set of scrubbers that is providing independence for women in India who are considered “untouchable”
A surface cleaner that is made of palm and coconut oil harvested from small-scale farming operations in Ghana and India
–A hand towel that is made by a 30-something woman in a part of Turkey where only men have maintained this craft for hundreds of years
–A handwoven purple basket from Oaxaca, Mexico

The total value of this box was $70, plus it impacted people in 5 countries on 4 continents. 

My favorite box so far has been the Threads box!
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It came with:
–An exclusive t-shirt form Wildlife Works, made ethically in Kenya. It’s super soft and has a really flattering cut, and I know I’ll continue to get a lot of wear out of it.
–An adorable tassel cut, dyed, and assembled in Honduras. The beautiful woman, a single mom, who made it started her own business with a micro-loan a few years back, but was forced to close it due to gang activity demanding a “war tax”. However when GlobeIn placed the order for these tassels from her newest venture, she had to hire 6 more women to help her! I wear this proudly on my tote bag every day.
–A foldover clutch woven in India made by a small company located in Jaipur. The retail value of this piece alone is $50!
–A larger sized round pink basket made in Oaxaca, Mexico

The total value of this box was $104, plus it impacted people in 4 countries on 3 continents. 

This Pamper Box was also amazing:
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It came with:
–A Shibori-dyed scarf from Rajasthan, India that I can’t get enough of. I even was given the option to choose the color I wanted. It’s super light weight and is perfect for transitioning in and out of Spring and Fall.
–A bottle of argan oil that is exactly what I need for the dry winter weather that’s coming up. Last March when Zack and I were in Morocco, I was introduced to argan oil. Argan trees only grow in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco and is meticulously and expertly extracted by the lovely Berber women who live in this region.
–The jewelry roll in this box is also dyed using the Shibori technique, and was crafted in Malaysia. Similar to the Honduran tassel above, this order from GlobeIn allowed the artisan to hire more women, and those women now have dignified employment and the benefits of an income.
–A handwoven purple basket from Oaxaca, Mexico

The total value of this box was $85 dollars, plus it impacted people in 4 countries on 3 continents. 

I also received the Picnic Box, which arrived in the middle of summer and was exactly what I needed for long days at the pool with an perpetually-hungry 3 year old!
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It came with:
–A picnic blanket that is made with upcycled materials and lined with flannel, making it perfect for days by the pool. It’s made in Cambodia by artisans who are deaf, disabled, and underprivileged, and now have meaningful employment.
–A metal cup that was expertly hand-painted by artisans in India who also have access to clean drinking water and health care because of their employment. I swear my iced coffee tastes better in this cup.
–A travel-sized cutting and serving board that I actually use in my home office! It’s made in a tiny village in India by a woman who now has 24 others in her village working with her. Hooray for employment!
–Instead of a traditional Oaxacan basket, I received a bottle basket that is also perfect for carrying around brushes or pencils.

The total value of this box was $70, plus it impacted people in 3 countries on 2 continents. 

Other benefits of this subscription include discounted add-on items and the opportunity to add entire boxes from previous months to either keep or gift, some as low as $35, which is almost half off of the retail value. You can use this link for $10 off a subscription!

{Waffle Wednesday} Peanut Butter Waffles with Cinnamon Honey Butter Topping

Who would have that my post in April would be the last until October? Well not me, because I had no idea that just a couple weeks after that post I would be a hired as a middle school teacher at the most incredible school I’ve ever known! Thus began a busy summer of tying up all kinds of lose ends and diving head first into lesson plans and curriculum guides. I’m having the time of my life and wouldn’t have it any other way!

This week I’m on Fall Break and have had been busy getting some new posts together: recipes, travels, and fair trade fashion. But first, these:

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Peanut Butter Waffles with Cinnamon Honey Butter Topping
Yield: 4 large waffles
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup corn starch
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspon of cinnamon
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, or vanilla bean paste (better than extract!)
3/4 cup peanut butter (more or less to taste; see note below regarding consistency)

A note about batter consistency: waffles are really forgiving. If your batter is a little to thick or a little too thin, chances are good it will still turn out just fine. If you ever feel like the consistency really is off though, gradually add in a little more flour if it’s too thin, or a little water or milk to thin it out if too thick. 

-Combine dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and whisk thoroughly to distribute ingredients.
-Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add milk, oil, eggs, vanilla, and peanut butter; stir to combine.
-Pour batter into waffle iron,
-Press till golden brown, and serve topped with cinnamon honey butter (recipe follows)

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Cinnamon Honey Butter
1/2 stick sweet cream unsalted butter
1 /2 tablespoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of honey (I used the good stuff from We Three Beeks, made here in Birmingham, AL)

-Melt butter in a microwave-safe bowl
-Stir cinnamon and honey into melted butter

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{Fair Trade Friday} Apolis Global Citizen

Ok guys, this post is for you! If you haven’t heard of them already (their City Series Market Bags are one of the hottest items on the internet), Apolis is a company based in Los Angeles that is, by their own definition:

“…a socially motivated lifestyle brand that empowers communities worldwide.”

Apolis came to life in 2004 by  brothers Shea and Raan Parton. They had traveled around the world and learned of those who struggle to eek out viable livings in the injustices of the underdeveloped and developing world. Inspired by these stories, they established a business model of connecting good style and economic development. They work both here in the USA and abroad in countries like Uganda, Peru, and Nepal to empower those who created their designs to “determine their own future.” Their clothing is the epitome of classic menswear fashion, with thoughtfully updated silhouettes for today’s style.

Additionally, Apolis is a B-Corp certified company, meaning that they “meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability, and aspire to use the power of markets to solve social and environmental problems.” Boom.

I became familiar with Apolis several years ago when their City Bags and Market Bags were reaching a fever pitch in the blogosphere. As I have followed them on social media throughout the years, I’m even more in love with them because of their dedication to ethical manufacturing and capacity-building. You’ve got to read Raan and Shea’s journal post about their manufacturers in Bangladesh, who have been creating their Market bags for the last 7 years. Read it here. 

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These beautiful people earn a living wage and work in a safe environment because of Apolis!

Here are a few of my favorite Apolis items!Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 7.22.41 AM.png

This linen blazer is made in Portugal and will never go out of style. Don’t let the price tag scare you–you will wear this till you die.

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This Market Bag has a waterproof lining and vegetable-tanned leather handles; vegetable tanning is a safe, non-toxic alternative way to tan leather–the standard practice is pretty nauseating. Guys and girls alike will be the envy of every farmers market across the country with this little beauty.

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Everyone needs a classic white tee. Say no to the 6-pack you get at the big box stores with questionable manufacturing practices, say yes to this Peruvian-made classic.

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This tie though. Made in California out of Japanese-milled fabric, it’s inspired by WWII military style.

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The last button-down you’ll ever need to buy, this Oxford is actually a bargain at $124. A tailoring co-op in Honduras crafts each and every shirt from a Brazilian-milled traditional Oxford fabric. The textile nerd in me thinks I need to get one of these mens shirts for myself, just so I can look down at my #OOTD knowing what all went into producing it.

This is just a small sampling of the huge product offering Apolis has for men. You can learn even more about their dedication to social development here.

Note: All images ©Apolis. No compensation was provided, nor is this post sponsored in anyway by Apolis, B-Corp, or any affiliate. I’m just a girl on a mission. 

Golden Flake Potato Chip Crust Brownie-Peanut Butter Pie

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It’s National Pie Day, AND it’s National Potato Chip Day. Honestly, people, what a time to be alive in this world. Snack foods and desserts are truly two of my most favorite things, so I was pretty excited when Golden Flake asked me to come up with something that combines my love of both to celebrate this day.

This pie has a layer of brownie and another layer of whipped peanut butter, then topped with rich chocolate ganache and finished with a sprinkling of potato chips. But the real star of the show is the crust, which is made out of classic Golden Flake Thin & Crispy potato chips! If you live in the South, you know these chips are a staple at every picnic, cookout, football game, and family reunion you’ve ever been to. They are perfect on their own, but I hope you enjoy this new spin on an old favorite!

Click here to learn more about this potato chip company that I, along with the entire Southern United States, are fiercely loyal to. Did you know that you can also schedule a tour of their factory? They have them both here in Birmingham and in Ocala, FL!

Ok, let’s celebrate this glorious day:

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Golden Flake Potato Chip Crust Brownie-Peanut Butter Pie

Crust
4-5 oz  Golden Flake Thin & Crispy Potato Chips (note: if you are not using a scale, this is about 8 cups)
¾ cup flour
8 tbs (1 stick) melted unsalted butter

-Place potato chips in food processor and pulse until it’s coarsely crumbled.
-Add flour and butter into food processor and pulse until it comes together. If the consistency is off, simply add more chips if too wet or more butter if too dry.
-Press into the bottom and up the sides of a deep dish pie plate. I even use the bottom of a glass to make sure my pie crusts are properly set! 

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Brownie Filling
2 large eggs
⅓ cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
¾ cup AP flour
3 tbs cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

-Preheat oven to 350F.
-Beat eggs with an electric mixer, then add oil and sugar, and beat for 7-8 minutes more, until pale yellow in color.
-While the egg mixture is beating, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt into a small bowl, whisking thoroughly to distribute ingredients.
-When the egg mixture is done beating, turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in slowly; do not over-mix!
-Add in vanilla extract.
-Pour batter into the Golden Flake pie crust and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick can be inserted into the middle and come out clean.
-When the pie is done baking, remove from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool completely. 

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Peanut Butter Filling
6 tbs melted butter
1 cup creamy peanut butter
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
½ cup heavy cream

-Combine the melted butter, peanut butter, and vanilla in an electric mixer and beat until combined.
-Add in powdered sugar a half cup at a time.
-Slowly add in heavy cream until it has reached a spreadable consistency.
-Spoon the peanut butter over the cooled brownie layer and spread evenly across the pie.

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Chocolate Ganache
5 oz semisweet chocolate chips (note: if you are not using a scale, this is just under 1 cup)
3 tbs heavy whipping cream

-In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine both ingredients.
-Heat for 45 seconds, then stir until smooth.
-If it’s not quite smooth after 45 seconds, heat in 5-10 second intervals, stirring between each, until melted and smooth.
-Let it cool slightly as to not melt the peanut butter, then spread over peanut butter layer.
-Garnish with crushed Golden Flake Thin & Crispy Potato Chips.

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How impressed will your friends be? Happy Pie Day, and Happy Potato Chip Day! Thanks again to my friends at Golden Flake for helping me celebrate! 

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Note: Golden Flake Snack Foods supplied products and compensation for this post, however all thoughts, reviews, and recipes are my own!  

{Fair Trade Friday} Sseko Designs

Here in the South, Spring and sprung, and oh Lord, how I am thankful. Having a stir-crazy 3-year-old who loves riding her pink bicycle makes chilly winter days far less endearing.

When this time of year rolls around, we all trade in our boots for sandals, and you are probably just as guilty as I am about picking up a pair every time you make a Target run.

Part of my personal challenge to myself in building an ethical wardrobe is not only to purchase items I know were made with high standards, but to also MINIMIZE how much I’m actually buying! The reason is three fold.

  1. There are simply better things I can spend my resources on (like, um, funding our adoption).
  2. The more I buy, the more I’m perpetuating the Western world’s mentality of demanding more things, which in turn perpetuates funding the use of slave labor and poor manufacturing practices to meet those demands.
  3. It also creates more things in my home that I have to find a place for. Which really just means I’m creating more clutter for myself.

Here are my crimes over the last couple years…in SANDALS ALONE!

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WHY do I need all of these?! This is crazy!

Employing the KonMari method, I decided which pairs still “spark joy”, and realizing that like, none of them do, I have thrown almost every pair in my yard sale pile. I have invested in one pair. One of just a few pairs that will last me until the boots come back out.

These beauties from Sseko Designs. They were made by a lady named Florence.

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The leather is so soft and beautiful, and the accents on the straps across the toes are interchangeable! At $20 a pop, these tabs might be lasting me a while, but there are SO MANY pretty options to choose from! These sandals also come in a t-strap option, both in caramel and espresso.

Sseko is based in Uganda. There, they employ women, teach them a trade, pay them a living wage, and then when they “graduate”, they head to university. Amazing, right? It’s really easy to have the mentality that giving money will solve poverty and the injustices that stem from it. But in reality, creating meaningful, dignified opportunities and educating those who have never had access to it is the foundation of breaking the cycle of poverty.

For Sseko, this is working. Every woman who has graduated from Sseko is pursuing, or has graduated, from college. Every. Woman.

Additionally, they partner with other artisan groups in Kenya and Ethiopia to produce more gorgeous accessories, creating more sustainable opportunities to grow East African economies.

Exciting stuff right?

So here is my new and improved spring/summer shoe wardrobe. Two pairs of Ssekos (I got a killer deal on the ribbon pair last fall!), my TOMS I’ve had for two years that still look great, and a pair of leather t-straps I had made in Sorrento, Italy several years ago.

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I hope you’ll head over to the Sseko Designs website to pick out an ethically made pair for yourself, and maybe even go so far as to replace the pile of the ones you have already that probably weren’t made ethically. It sounds crazy, but crazy is what will make an impact! To help in picking out your size, know that the sandals do not come in half sizes. I am true 6.5 across every board. My ribbon sandals are size 6, and my new sandals are a 7. I definitely suggest going down in size for the ribbons. A 6 in my new pair would have been ideal, but they are already sold out, and since the ankle straps are adjustable, it’s easy to make them work.

To learn more about creating a world in which all products are ethically made and all people have access to dignified employment, check out Made in a Free World. To learn more about creating justice for all, head over to my favorite nonprofit, the International Justice Mission.

Note: This post in not sponsored nor endorsed by Sseko Designs.