I have always had a love of beautiful things. My mom will tell you the story of being a tiny girl placed on the floor of the babysitter’s house, only to lift my hands and cry out “ew dirt!” in horror. I like my surroundings to be beautiful, and clean.

My grandmother instilled in me a love of shopping at an early age. I was the first grandchild, and a girl, much to her delight. My dad was her only child, so having a granddaughter to spoil satisfied her every desire. She took me everywhere, doted on me, made me beautiful clothes, and shopped ’til she dropped so that I would always look adorable.

I suppose that certain things stick when they’re instilled at an early age. I became dedicated to looking, dressing, and decorating my surroundings to be beautiful. As a humanitarian, living in Haiti, it is far more of a challenge to keep that up. I must overcome extreme heat, a lot of dust and dirt, open air, no hot water, and many other obstacles in order to look and feel beautiful. My home is open-air, so keeping it clean and well-decorated is no small feat.

As I have lived here, I have learned many things about poverty, the Haitian culture, and art forms. I am impressed by the beauty that can be created by two hands. As I met artisans and began to understand the challenges that people in poverty face, I also learned the dignity in having work to support their loved ones. It was because of this that my heart told me what I must do next: Use your love of beautiful things and shopping for good in the world.

I prayed and searched my soul on this extensively – was this just an excuse to shop? But I heard God say to me: No gift I gave you is worthless. I made you with a love of beautiful things for a purpose. Not so you can hide it away, or use it only for yourself, but so that you can use it to help others. You can share the beautiful things you find with the world. People can make their homes a little more special because of the beauty you find, and those who create will have a more dignified and beautiful life because of it as well.

Every one of us has a gift. Mine, if not used well, could be shallow and selfish. But, each of us has been given a gift to use for good. I believe in possibilities that River + Loaves can create in the world. I have seen the basket artisan send his children to school because of your purchases. I am friends with the metal artisan I designed the banana leaf with, and see how the work impacts his family. I talk to my friends in Guatemala about the clean water systems the Chilero Bag provides. I see the difference that shopping can make. I hope you do, too!

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