I was running a prisoner rights program when I started this blog. You didn't know that because, well, I didn't talk about my work. I would go on assignments in Mali, Egypt, South Africa, Cambodia, Afghanistan, and I'd take you with me. But I never really shared what I was doing.
My life was a little bipolar back then. There was the do-good part of me that helped people, organizations, and movements in far flung places. I did this for a living because I believed in it. My father also had been in international humanitarian aid and I followed in his footsteps.
Then there was the other part of me that loved design, culture and hospitality. There was my hotel Peacock Pavilions, there was my souk shop, there was my design book Marrakesh by Design. That was the more visual part of what I did and the side of me that I shared on this blog.
But it didn't feel quite right. I was like a Venn diagram where I couldn't align all the circles to find the sweet spot. I wanted to discover a way to bring it all together and walk the talk by day and by night. And so nearly two years ago, I started Project Soar.
Project Soar is a social experiment in doing good that invests its energy in underprivileged girls. Girls whose futures aren't all that bright -- futures that likely involve becoming girl brides and then starting the cycle all over again.
As an American 501 (3) (C) non-profit, tax exempt organization, we work with nearly 60 underprivileged girls and their moms. We provide creative and sports activities weekly as well as health education. We also do work in the community where they live to make it a nicer place to be.
It's not glamorous but it's good. (Maybe good is the new glamorous?)
For a long time I didn't talk about Project Soar outside of a small circle of colleagues and volunteers. Why? Because it took time and perseverance to get it right. Frankly, I also didn't discuss it on this blog because I didn't think that's what you wanted to hear.
But the fact is that I am a social entrepreneur, and I am proud of it. I believe the future of solving the world's problems lies in all of our hands, and that includes In the hands of small business owners and entrepreneurs like me and maybe you. It's not necessarily the grand gesture -- it's the small gesture, too. It's not about giving up all your possessions, and going to work for Mother Theresa or Doctors without Borders (although that's fantastic, too). Nor is it about foregoing the pretty handbag or the swanky shoes.
It's about all of us. Each of us saying, Hey, I can help. And then doing that, consistently, with commitment.
Project Soar has partners and collaborators, like our Kuwaiti friends Huda and Mayada who are benefactors, Swatchroom that holds fundraisers, the American School of Marrakech that supports us with student volunteers, Eat, Pray, Move Yoga that does Give Back Retreats, Imperial Black which contributes a % of profits of their Montague shirts, the Guitar Center which donates instruments, The Day Law Practice that provides pro bono legal advice, One World Futbol which gave us hundreds of soccer balls to distribute to 50 villages, Be Girl which is collaborating on a project for our girls and women, and Manduka that donates yoga mats. These are all social businesses that care.
We also have big-hearted, talented people who volunteer their time as instructors, like Delphine Warin, Stephanie von Watzdorf, Amy Butler, April Meeker, Jennifer Harr, Souhail Tazi, Laurence Landon, Faysal Chadimi, Lauren Ruddick, Alicia Danzig, Genevieve Dawson, Marta Carrascosa, Sarah Quinn, Andrea Clark, Bassam, Lise Buntschuh, Melanie Royals, Cait Lees and Mat Sanchez, Chae Hirano, Diane Rakocy, Caroline Douglas, Hermione O'Hea, Annette Whitford, Sasa Tang, the Cafe Clock Storytellers, The Urban Foxes, and many others. Additionally, there are people who have worked tirelessly for Project Soar like Michelle Hirschfield, Skylar Montague Redecke, Chris Redecke, Khawla Asfani, Steven Roberts, Kaydee Dahlin, Jen Murphy, Anna Wang, Suzanne Coppola and the list goes on.
They are all a part of the Project Soar Nation -- a country without borders, where people strive to be good neighbors through tangible acts.
I'd love for you to be part of the Project Soar Nation, too. Do you want to be?
Are you in London? This Saturday, December 6, I am going to London for a fundraiser, hosted by generous Sarita Jha and Kathryn Kerle. There will be wine, nibbles and live violin playing by two child prodigies (really!). I will also be doing a small trunk show of tribal chic items perfect for the modern nomad (and the holidays!). The donation is only 30 GBP. You can get more information and rsvp by emailing Sarita.Jha2012@outlook.com.
Please come! I'd love to meet you!
PS If you'd like to collaborate, give or learn more about Project Soar, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org