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Check out these gorgeous paintings and see why The Blackstone Hotel’s art collection is better than a museum – and how you can spend the night surrounded by it!

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5 gifts that give back

Desmond Tutu quote

I love this quote because it’s a reminder that we can all do a little bit of good every time we do anything — even when we shop for holiday gifts.

I’ve come to realize that the only way to foster change is to put your money where your mouth is and support companies that give back in some way. Here are five great options for gifts that give back. They’ll make your recipients happy and they’ll make a real difference in the world. [Read more…]

The Leakey Collection and the Amazing Maasai Women of Kenya

Philip and Katy LeakeyWhen we first discovered the Leakey Collection, it was love at first sight. Founded by Philip and Katy Leakey (yes, that Leakey), the company offers a line of stunning natural jewelry and accessories handcrafted by the Maasai women of Kenya. Over 1400 women earn much-needed income by stringing glass beads onto Zulugrass and creating beautiful pieces that have helped build a sustainable community.

“We didn’t start this because Katy and I woke up one day and said, “Let’s make product,’” says Philip. “We started this because we had hundreds of people who needed work.”

The gorgeous work speaks for itself – just look at these photos — but we wanted to know more about the women who were creating it. We asked the Leakeys to give us a personal perspective on the artisans, and on how their business is improving the lives of their African neighbors. Here’s what Katy told us:

Let me give you a couple of direct quotes first. Nola, who is 32 years old and has five children, says, “Being an orphan, no one was there for me. Now I am able to feed my family and help in all directions.  No more time for self-pity, time for working.” She admits that without this opportunity to work, she would be reduced to begging as she had done before The Leakey Collection came to her area.

Ngumbwa, age 34 and the mother of six children, describes her new prosperity, “I pay school fees, feed my family members and buy goats, and have extra for my savings.”

These new entrepreneurs speak for hundreds of woman in remote areas of the Rift Valley, East Africa who have transformed their lives and their communities through work opportunity offered by The Leakey Collection.

The devastating drought gripping Southern Somalia is reminiscent of the devastation wreaked in 2000/2001 and again in 2009/2010 in East Africa, the latter from which families and wildlife have yet to fully recover. It was due to drought that we started our business in order to create work opportunities for desperate women and their families. This work proved to be the only line staving off certain financial ruin.

In community after community, Philip and I have seen the ripple effect of prosperity and advancement as women create a local economy; family strife disappears, more children enter government-operated schools, more children go on to higher education, more small businesses are created, general health improves, communities as a whole flourish.

The Leakey Collection is more than a business; it is a community of people on both sides of the world connected by passion who work together to create beautiful products and whose visionary consumers complete the circle, building a sustainable future.

In other words, this collection is the perfect representation of “Look good. Feel good. Do good.”