Sunday, April 18, 2010

Beads for Harriet.

I have never been good at asking people for money. I remember when I did Girl Scouts, I could NEVER go door-to-door (especially because most of the homes in my neighborhood are gated and a pain), but seriously, I had anxiety just thinking of putting people on the spot and guilting them into supporting my adorable self. Therefore, I had my dad take my order forms into his office, where he is the CEO. Can you say, I was always the top seller?

I promise that story has a point, even though it may seem like I'm going off on (another) tangent right now.

The summer before my senior year of high school, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to go to Kampala, Uganda in Africa for a month. While I was there I stayed with a host family who transported my team and I to various schools and orphanages, where we lead programs for kids with AIDS, and gave programs about health and nutrition (and sexual safety) to the schools.

Some of the kiddos from the schools:



I can't lie - I had a VERY cushy life in Africa. I stayed in a beautiful home, went on a safari and stayed in a five-star hotel while there, and most importantly to me, I ate some of the most amazing food I've ever had, all due to our cook Harriet. Seriously, I gained at least 5 lbs. going to Africa (and please factor in the fact that we walked a LOT while we were there - this 5 lbs. was no joke). She was the sweetest, warmest woman I have ever met, and she constantly came to talk to us, and we would always go help her in the kitchen with getting ready just to hear her talk about her four children.

When I went back to the States, I swore I would be a changed person and never take anything in my life for granted. Unfortunately, that began to wear away, and my life got more consumed with oversized Prada bags and new cars, and I forgot about the people I had met, the starving children I saw, and the homeless families in the city of Kampala.

After a little while, before I was back to being completely "Americanized" (or really "Bergen County-ized" since much of America is not as superficial and materialistic), I got an email from Harriet, telling me how much she missed me, and just sharing different things going on in her life. We began corresponding more regularly and just sharing more and more, and I felt more grounded and started caring less about Miu Miu flats and got more of a perspective. I'm not saying all this to say I'm some wonderful philanthropist who doesn't care about fashion or labels, because I have a Seven jeans habit, and a closet filled with clothes I don't wear - I'm as guilty as the next person - so don't think I'm judging you all for your fabulous taste, okay?! :)

Anyway, Harriet's struggles seemed so distant to me. She was working five (seriously, FIVE) jobs to support her family and her alcoholic husband. He laid around all day, passed out. When he got up, he would beat the crap out of her if she didn't give him money to go to the bars and get more alcohol. If she still refused, he would beat her kids to punish her, so she took the beatings all the time to spare her children.

All of Harriet's money goes to schooling for her children. Her oldest daughter Martha is smart - really smart. In Africa, there is no public schooling. If you want your children to get an education, you have to pay for private schools for them to attend, which was sucking up all of Harriet's money (and still is).

Her husband did not work - ever. He relied on Harriet to be the sole provider, while he went out and did whatever he wanted. If this was America, simple solution - you divorce the douchebag, and make him pay you a ton of money in child support so that your four kids can have a shot. In Africa, women have very few rights, especially when it comes to your husband. The husbands can demand whatever they want - sex, money, whatever. I really had the hardest time wrapping my head around her staying.

Anyway, we're going on five years now since I've been to Africa. Harriet and I are still keeping in touch, and I try to do whatever I can to make her life a little easier - whether sending her money, or packages of clothes for her kids... because I do still realize how fortunate I am.

Harriet and I spoke this past November around Thanksgiving after I had sent her some money, and then I didn't hear a word from her for a while. I didn't think too much of it - the internet over there sucks and I knew she was relying on Internet cafes, plus, the woman has too much going on! I finally heard from her in late February/early March, when she informed me that after all these years, she finally left her husband.

The breaking point in their marriage had been when her oldest daughter came home from school on holiday and Harriet woke up hearing her daughter screaming and crying. She went in to where her daughter was sleeping and saw that her husband was trying to rape her own daughter - his own daughter. The next day, Harriet was gone.
Unfortunately there is really nothing she could do - she couldn't press charges, because it would be her word against his, and she would be wrong. So she took her kids and got out of there, and they lived on the street for two months. She found a teeny, tiny little room with friends, but the landlord insisted that since she wasn't paying rent, she had to be evicted. She is currently homeless, and still has the threat of her kids tuition looming over her head.

Harriet (isn't she cute?!):

Okay, back to the point.

Harriet asked me if I would be willing to sell some of the handmade jewelery that she makes and sells in the market. Like I said, I HATE asking people for money, and this is absolutely 0% pressure, I just thought I would try to cover all my bases. She makes everything - gorgeous long necklaces, earrings and bracelets. Currently I don't have them, as she just asked me this a few days ago, but I promise it is completelyyy legit, and I won't set up any type of payment information until I actually get the beads. They're pretty and super, super different (and perfect for layering, honestly).

I'm just trying to get as much response as possible and see if anyone would be willing to purchase these beads. Her prices are: $5 for bracelets, $3-$5 for earrings, and long necklaces for $10-$15 (it's up to you and your financial situation).

I do understand this is a recession though - trust me, with student teaching and bills, I can't afford to send her much at all. I'm just trying to do what I can for a friend in need right now, because I feel like it's the least I can do.

I really, from the bottom of my heart mean it when I say no pressure - I'm going to try to talk to my mom's church, and her friends to see if they would be willing, so it's not like I'm relying solely on you - I will love you just the same either way, honest :)

I hope you're all had lovely weekends, I can't wait to do some catching up on blogs!

(P.S. May I please tell you I am done with student teaching on April 29th, and I graduate May 8th?! Where did the time go?!).

Currently listening to: DVNO - Justice


HiFashion said...

Reading this really put a tear in my eye. It really is stories like this that make me realise how amazing my life is, and makes me guilty when I moan about not getting a new pair of shoes.
Harriet sounds like an amazing, inspirational woman and it seems like she has had it tough.

Jess said...

This hit close to home when I read it,I am Nigerian and lived there till I was sixteen, howvever I lived a very sheltered life there but I know of the struggles in African countries and I recognize the truth in every single issue Harriet seems to be going through. I think it is really amazing how persistent you are with helping her. I wish her the best.

Jess x

▲my• said...

Wow. It's the kind of story that tears at your heart and leaves you speechless.
It's so hard the struggles people are going through around the world.

I do hope that this post helps Harriet and that many of us end up buying some of her jewelry! I'm currently broke but I'll see what i can put together. I really do want to help out if I can!

Kelly @ The Startup Wife said...


I'd love to buy some. Email me at when you get them.

▲my• said...

p.s. i changed my url and wanted to let you know. the new url is: :)

Couture Carrie said...

What an amazing experience, darling!


Elizabeth Marie said...

I'm in to help!! Of course :)

Let me know love! xoxo

睿玄 said...


helen said...

This is so nice of you to help her:) i wish i could do something


J said...

omg this is such a touching story.. thank you so much for sharing. you have such a good soul! i went on a trip to haiti to provide free eye care and it totally changes your perspectives on things when you come back but sometimes you need a little reminder on how lucky and fortunate you are. Harriet sounds like a strong woman, I wish the best for her and her fam!

I'm Lindsay! said...

What a story! Thanks for the reminder to appreciate everything I have. Please keep us posted, I would love to support Harriet!

Kristin said...

How can I buy lady? Did I miss that part? You're amazing btw!

Haven and Home said...

What a great post for a great cause!

Elisa, Croatia said...

wow,your post is an eye opener. As far as the jewelry, maybe you can set up an Etsy account and that way she can have a wider audience? just a thought. It's really sad to hear stories like hers,kuddos to you for sharing this story and keep us posted.

Couture Carrie said...

P.S. Congrats! You are the winner if CC's Tarte mascara giveaway! Just email me your full name and address to!


RexTemples20144 said...

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fhen said...

wow this is such a great post, allison
it tear my heart up
this kind of stories makes me dont wanna accept things for granted
harriet is so inspirational
hope for the best for her and your good intention to help her