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In Volunteer on
April 18, 2015

Esperanza Soap – #SoapIsHope

Esperanza Soap is my new obsession.

#SoapIsHope

First let me give you a little bit of background on the soap! It’s all natural and hand-crafted. It comes in several different scents/flavors.


*Image curtsey of Upward Ventures!

I personally had the opportunity to try the Cocoa Mint Flavor. This flavor is a mixture of real mint, cocoa butter, and peppermint essential oils. Yummy. 

The first thing that I noticed about the soap was that is smells so delicious! I can’t stand soaps that have no smell or that smell too strong and this was definitely a happy medium. You could smell the minty-ness in the steam in the shower but after I got out it didn’t linger on my skin all day long.

If you don’t use a loofah or washcloth when you take a shower, you might want to try using one if you plan on trying this soap! Many of the different flavors have natural exfoliants like sea salt, pine needles, and coconut shavings which can irritate your skin if you have sensitive skin.

Reminder: When you are trying any new product for the first time you should always patch test it first. Use a small amount on a small portion of your skin to ensure that you won’t have an adverse reaction to it all over your body. 

I normally have extremely sensitive skin… I can’t wear anything that has a strong scent and some of the different soap brands that I’ve purchased from the store have left my skin dry and un-moisturized or even with a red rash.

When I went to Cancun last month for spring break, I had an awful allergic reaction that left me with itchy hives all over my body. I was still recovering from some of the after effects from the hives – mostly extremely dry patches on my skin. The exfoliants in this soap really helped me with this issue! I rubbed the bar directly against my skin instead of onto a loofah or wash cloth. Over the next couple of days my skin was slowly feeling softer and more moisturized.

Esperanza Soap is a company started by the organization Upward Ventures.

There are so many benefits to supporting this organization! First, they’re all about women’s empowerment. The goal is to build a factory in rural Las Malvinas, Santa Domingo and give five women in the community jobs to be able to support and empower their families.

Upward Ventures has a powerful message. It reminds of the old saying: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Rather than just donating money that will only temporarily help people in impoverished areas, they want to empower them to be able to lift themselves out of poverty.

Being blessed with the opportunity to travel has allowed me to  truly see how thankful and grateful I should be of my circumstances. Although I do not have everything I could ever want in the world, I have everything that I can ever need. I personally feel that it’s my duty to give back and to allow other people to experience that same opportunity.

One of the things that I definitely take for granted is soap and access to clean water. I never have to wake up in the morning and wonder how I’m going to be able to get clean for the day. There are many places around the world that lack access to clean water and soap. In fact, two million children are killed from sicknesses such as diarrhea or other infectious diseases each year. 41% of these deaths are preventable! Esperanza Soaps will be providing the community in Las Malvinas that lacks a sewer system with a way to make a positive health impact and save lives.

I loved using this soap. I am a huge fan of anything that’s all natural and hand-crafted. The fact that I can know exactly what products went into this was a huge plus for me. Also, the fact that I can now say that by supporting this organization, I will actually know the people whose hands helped to make and craft this is really special to me as well.

Unfortunately these soaps are not currently available for retail. Upward Ventures is still fundraising to build their soap factory. There are a few more days left in their campaign for this venture. If this product and cause interests you at all, I would urge you to donate and spread the word while you still can! There are even some perks for donating… like getting a free bar of soap in the mail! Check out their Indiegogo campaign here.

Please share and spread the word!

 

In Boston, Life, Volunteer on
April 27, 2014

Boston Marathon 2014

Hey there!
I thought that I would write about an amazing volunteering experience that I had this past week.
Last monday, my co-ed community service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega volunteered at the Boston Marathon.

The Boston Marathon has been a long standing service project for our chapter, and due to the unfortunate events that occurred during last years marathon, we didn’t know if we would be able to volunteer again this year. This however was not the case and over 30 of our Brothers were able to participate. It was honestly a very special opportunity, especially since this year they had to turn away volunteers since there were so many that applied!
As a new Brother, this was my first time volunteering at the race, and I was so excited. I had to be up at the start area by 6:30 in the morning, so it was quite an early start for me. I was placed in the Athlete’s Village and we were responsible for picking up donated clothing for the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Boston.
Volunteering is one of my favorite things to do and this service project provided us with an awesome opportunity to hang out with some of the runners. I actually got to spend some time with a few and hearing their stories was so amazing. There was 36, 000 runners who participated in the race this year, the second largest race in the history of the marathon. They all had to pass through the Athlete’s Village before heading to the stat corrals.
A few shots of some of the runners in the Athlete’s Village:

 

Me + My APO Brothers
Outfit details (in case you were wondering): I wore my black Nike Free Runs, Yoga Pants, a T-Shirt with my fraternity letters, a jean jacket type cardigan underneath the blue 2014 Marathon Adidas windbreakers that were gifted to all the volunteers by the Boston Athletic Association. I also rocked a purple fanny pack as no bags were allowed. In the morning it was really cold but it warmed up later on in the day so I wanted to make sure that I had lots of layers on just in case.
My Big Cindy + Me
My best friend + APO Brother Jazmine!
My APO Brothers
Serving Others With My Brothers <3
Together with a bunch of other volunteers we were able to collected 11 trucks worth of donated clothing for the Boys & Girls Club.
Overall it was a long, hard, tiring, but wonderful and rewarding day. I can’t wait to go back again next year!

 

Thanks for reading.
♥♥♥
 
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In Life, Travel, Volunteer on
March 31, 2014

SPRING BREAK, Haiti 2014

 
This post is a little overdue. I know I promised a lot of people that I would write about my spring break experience, but school and homework and friends and life got the best of me. But I am finally taking a moment to sit down type up a reflection on my experience!!!
 
SOME SNAPSHOTS FROM MY TRIP
 

I’ve never been anywhere for spring break before. I’ve always just stayed home and vegged out to Netflix or worked the entire week. This year, I decided on a whim to spend my spring break in Haiti! I was dealing with a lot of stress from school and I needed to just get away. My dad is a professor and his spring break is usually scheduled around the same time as mine. He was going to be in Haiti around that time anyways and I figured it would be a great opportunity to go, get away from everything and visit with my wonderful grandmother Jackie who I had not seen in three years.

 
I left for my trip on Thursday March 13. I flew from Boston to New York. Then I had an overnight layover, and from New York I flew to Port-Au-Prince first thing on Friday morning. In order for me to get the cheapest plane tickets possible (on my college student budget) I had to have long layovers. My layover going there was 12 hours and my layover coming back was 16 hours.
 
Let me tell you…
 
This was the WORST.IDEA.EVER.
 
If you are going on a trip and you are short the funds: cry, beg, borrow, or steal for that extra money for the ticket that doesn’t involve you chillin’ at the airport for 10+ hours. To tell you that I was beyond exhausted in a complete understatement. I spend my entire first day in Haiti taking naps to catch up on the sleep that I barely got at the airport. I guess you could say that the one good thing about my long layovers was that I met the kindest flight attendant/airport employee ever. She gifted me with two warm blankets, a pillow, and a mini travel kit when she saw that I would be spending the night there. She was so completely helpful and I’m grateful to have met her. But I still would not recommend traveling like that, if you can avoid it.

Here’s an overview of my trip!

Friday March 14, 2014

My first day in Haiti. I landed at about Noon and by the time I cleared customs and got my luggage it was close to 1PM. I had my family pick me up from the airport. I visited my grandmother’s home (on my father’s side) briefly before going to my other grandma Jackie’s (on my mother’s side) home where I would be staying. I spent the day taking naps and catching up with Jackie. Jackie lives in the city in Pétionville.

Saturday March 15, 2014

I spent the day running errands with my Dad. Later in the evening before sunset my dad, two of my cousins and I went to Fort Jacques in the mountains.

The drive there was beautiful. We drove through Pélerin and Kenskoff. From the street you can literally look over and look at the view of the mountains. The view was incredible and breathtaking. My dad actually pulled over a few times so that I could get out of the car and take some pictures. Believe me, these photos do not do it justice.

 
 
My Dad was explaining to me that these views actually used to look so much better… In my head I was thinking how could it possibly get any better than this… But he said that Haiti right now has less than 3% of vegetation on the island. He told me that when he was growing up here, these mountains used to be filled with trees and brush but they’ve all since been cut down.
 
Candid shot of my two cousins Murielle (L) and Manoue (C) + my Daddy (R)
 
 
An emblem on the British cannons outside of Fort Jacques. After the earthquake in 2010, they had to remove all of the cannons from the structure because they were too heavy.
 
 
Outside of a door at Fort Jacques.
Me with my cousins
 
 
 
The view from the top of the fort! The fort was built during the time of the Haitian Revolution by hand in the 1800’s. It was built along with Fort Alexandre (on the other side of the mountains, didn’t get to visit it) to see any attack from the French on land or by sea. From this spot you can see the ocean and all of the city.
 
These are some shots of the actual structure. To me, this was so amazing to see! This whole thing was built by hand at the top of a mountain. A lot of the structure was destroyed in the earthquake. If you want to see what it looked like before and what some of the immediate damage was following the earthquake, check out this YouTube link (below).
 
The views from the top of the fort.
 
 
 
 
 
I can actually jump and touch the top of this tunnel!
 
 
Our tour guide, Jean-Pierre. His story is incredibly amazing to me. He has been giving tour of Fort Jacques since he was 6 years old. Now he’s 24 and can give the tour in four different languages, Haitian Creole, French, Spanish, and English. His linguistic capabilities are amazing for someone who learned English as a second language. He was really self conscious about his speaking and pronunciations but he was able to hold a conversation with me. The most surprising thing of all: he’s illiterate. He can’t read or write in any language.
 
It was great to meet him and spend some time with him at the fort. He was so knowledgable in the history of the fort and of the country.
 
Sunday March 16, 2014
I spent this day at a private beach in Trou Baguette, Haiti. I had tons of fun playing in the sand, soaking up some sun, and we even had a picnic. It was so much fun, until a goat came by and ate the rest of our bread. Didn’t manage to get any shots of that, though!
 
 
Monday March 17, 2014
On this day, my Dad and I headed to my mother’s Guesthouse in Leogane, Haiti. It is about 2 hours from the capital.
 
On the road there I managed to catch a couple of pictures of the street views from the car.
 
 
This is a Tap-Tap. Tap-Taps are the equivalent of public transportation in Haiti. However they do not run on any type of schedule. They are basically pick-up trucks converted into something like this. But they can also be actual buses, school buses (think big yellow bus), or any other type of large vehicle, like a mini-van or van. They paint them and put roofs on them as well as seating. You pay the driver a couple of dollars and get on and jump off when you’re close to your destination.
 
One thing I will definitely not miss: the traffic. Traffic in the city is terrible. There are stop lights in some areas, but for the most part the roads are kind of a “free-for-all.” If a car gets a flat in the middle of the road, they stop the car and change it right there in the middle of the road. If you’re turning left and someone wants to cut you off, they will, and it will cause a huge traffic jam. If you’re driving too slowly, the other drivers beep at you and then speed up in the opposite lane to cut you off. I told my Dad that I will never complain about traffic in the States again after sitting in traffic in Haiti for hours.
 
Lesson learned from this: if you have to be somewhere, leave extra early to assure that you arrive on time.
 
 
Here’s a joke about Tap-Taps: How many people can you fit on a tap-tap? There’s always room for one more. This is so true. They will always find room for you, your child, your chicken, your goat, your shopping bag etc. It’s not unusual to see people hanging of the back or sitting on the roof of Tap-Taps, just like in this picture.
 
 
We drove past an outdoor market. I don’t think that I have enough skill to balance anything on my head like these merchants can.
 
 
Arrived in Leogane!
 
My Mom’s Guest House in Leogane. Click on the link below to check out their Facebook page!
 
 
Tuesday March 18, 2014
On this day I helped out a bit at the Guest House and visited the clinic on the other side of the farm.
 
 
This is Miglese. She is the nurse at the clinic. She got married this past December!
 
I didn’t get to take any pictures of the structure and the clinic building because there were patients in the waiting area and I wanted to respect their privacy.
 
 
This is Jenna! She’s the dog on the farm. She just had NINE puppies. They’re about a month old now.
 
Her puppies were hidden under here to keep them protected. They’re so tiny for one month!
 
They haven’t been named yet, but I was able to hold one of the puppies. This picture is before he tried to jump out of my hands.
 
 
On our drive back we went back through the capital.
 
 
This is where the capital building used to be. After the earthquake, the building was completely destroyed. When I first visited Haiti in 2011, this area was filled with the rubble of the building. Now it is all cleared away and they now have the Haitian flag standing in the middle.
 
We drove by this building which used to be some military barracks. I thought that it looked like the White House.
 
I thought that this building was damaged in the earthquake, but my Dad told me that the government forced the owners (think “imminent domain”) to demolish part of their buildings because they built too close to the streets. The plan for the future is to build and overpass to the airport in the future.
 
After we stopped briefly at my grandma Jackie’s house, my Dad and I headed to Montrouis, Haiti to spend two days and one night at a hotel called Club Indigo.
 
 
This is a street view on the road to the hotel. This was so interesting to me because normally the streets look really dry and dusty and there isn’t much vegetation. But this entire road was lined with trees. My Dad said that this road reminded him of the Haiti that he grew up in.
The sunset at night in Montrouis, Haiti at Club Indigo.
 
 
The pool didn’t have a closing time, so I went for a late night swim!
 
 
Wednesday March 19, 2014
I spent the entire day relaxing at the hotel. I woke up super early and had a delicious breakfast. I relaxed by the pool. I had fresh coconuts by the ocean. I met some wonderful people at the hotel who I still keep in touch with now. It was definitely relaxing. At the end of the day, my Dad and I drove back home to spend the night at my grandma Jackie’s house.
 
The hotel was really nice. The amenities were updated and the different facilities were very clean. I would definitely go back. My one complaint would be that it was so expensive. We paid for two days + one night which came with 3 meals and drinks during meal times only. We had to pay for all of our drinks separately. They also charged an hourly rate of $5 to rent out things like basketballs, goggles, kayaking etc. I thought that was bit excessive, but I guess that’s where they make their extra money.
 
 
Taking this photo was so bittersweet. I was chatting with some people by the pool and and I looked up and realized that this would be my last sunset in Haiti until my next visit.
 
Thursday March 20, 2014
This was my last day in Haiti. I didn’t want to leave! If I had my way I would still be there now… I spent the day with my grandma Jackie, I packed up my suitcase, and then I headed to the airport. Before I left, I got her to take a picture with me. She hates having her photo taken but I promised to send her some spending money and she agreed haha! I love her so much and I miss her dearly.
 
 
 
 
 
 
My flight left Haiti on Thursday afternoon for New York. I spend Thursday night at JFK then I was back in Boston by Friday morning.
~~~~~

 

I had an amazing time in Haiti. The weather was so great! The coldest day was 79° and a little breezy. But besides that it was pretty much high 80° and low 90°.
 
There were a couple of places that I did not get a chance to visit since I was only there for 6 days. But I am planning a trip back sometime in December or January.
 
~~~~~
 
When people think of Haiti, they always think about the negatives. They think about the earthquake in 2010 and about the poverty. I’ve spoken with some people who said they would never go back or go visit out of fear of getting kidnapped or being robbed. Honestly, I think that having those fears will limit you from fully experiencing and enjoying life.
 

Actually, while I was at Club Indigo in Montrouis, I met a couple from New York that were visiting Haiti for the first time in fifteen years. She said that her fear of being kidnapped is what kept her from coming back, and she was so happy that she did.To these people that are too afraid of going to visit or to go back, I say: yes, Haiti is a third world country. Yes, there is poverty, and there is still some destruction from the earthquake. You should always be cautious when traveling abroad anywhere to prevent from becoming a victim of a crime. Besides all of that I think that Haiti is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Tourism in Haiti is on the rise. Despite everything that has happened in the country, the poorest of people still have smiles on their faces every day because the blessing of life is enough to bring them happiness. There’s a sense of community when you are there, that I feel you can’t get anywhere else.

 
If you ever have the opportunity to visit Haiti, jump on it. If you go with the right people, I guarantee you will have the best time of your life. I know I had a blast. I can’t wait to be back.
 
 
 
Thanks for reading.
♥♥♥
 
 
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