Women For Women – Nonprofits We Should Help

The world is full of amazing  opportunities to help others. The Internet is a wonderful tool to be informed and act in a way that we couldn’t have 20 years ago so there is no excuse to be idle.

I was looking for nonprofits that help women to make a small donation, so I contacted the only expert I know, my friend (and cousin-in-law), Jessica. She has more than 12 years of experience working for nonprofits. She is smart, caring and industrious, one of those women that inspire you to be better. Also, she can read 3 books in a day, and it is one of the best cooks I know, so, there you go.

She recommended some nonprofits that I wanted to share with you. There are a lot of organizations out there that are doing great work and our involvement with them can be as big or as small as we want it to be, but we should be involved. A one time or monthly donation, volunteering, sponsoring, …you choose. There are plenty of ways to help.

Here is the short list:


Limitless Horizons Ixil

This is a small organization that works in the community of Chajul, Guatemala. Chajul is a genocide-torn indigenous Maya community where few adults can read and most families live on less than two dollars a day. Here, Limitless Horizons uses education, and development programs to create opportunities for the community and transform Chajul. Through their Artisan Program, they have allowed women to have an income.

This is a successful small grass roots organization that involves the community in its daily activities and decisions. Here is more information about their results and financials.

Jessica belongs to the board of this organization.

jestcafe.com-global-fund-for-women Global Fund for Women

This is a big organization that stands behind movements for women’s human rights all over the world. They help strengthen groups who work with the most marginalized women in the world. They give funding that helps provide for the fundamental things: rent, computers, staffing, travel, training, security, and electricity. They also help connect these movements to other donors, as well as local or national women’s groups. These connections enable groups to share, learn, and rally together to strengthen movements for women’s rights.

Here is its financial information, and here are their results.


Urgent  Action Fund For Women’s Human Rights

Urgent Action Fund partners with women’s movements worldwide to support women’s human rights defenders striving to create cultures of justice, equality and peace.

It protects, strengthens and sustains women and transgender human rights defenders at critical moments. They intervene quickly when activists are poised to make great gains or face serious threats to their lives and work. They use online, text and mobile funding applications to respond to requests from women’s human rights defenders within 72 hours and have funds on the ground within 1-7 days.

Urgent Action Fund has given over 1,000 grants to women’s human rights activists in 97 countries around the world.

Here is its financial information, and here is a list of some of the movements it has helped.

jestcafe.com- world pulse

World Pulse

World Pulse empowers women leaders on the ground by advancing their digital skills and leadership to mobilize around the world and create real social transformation. Today, tens of thousands of women from 190 nations are using WorldPulse.com to start movements and pressure global leaders to take a stand on the issues affecting their lives, ranging from the allocation of economic resources to securing leadership at all levels of society.

Their mission is to accelerate the global changes women seek by using digital communication to unite and amplify women’s voices, solutions and impact worldwide.

24,000 women from 190 different countries connect through World Pulse.


Unchained At Last

This organization is my own recommendation, not Jessica’s. I heard about “Unchained at last” on NPR last year. This is the only organization in the US dedicated to helping women and girls leave or avoid arranged/forced marriages and rebuild their lives. Unchained provides free legal and social services and emotional support, while also raising awareness and pushing for relevant legislation.

Here is its financial information, and here are some of its results.

In my conversations with Jessica about nonprofits, she has always been in favor of giving tools to communities to allow them to help themselves. All the organizations above do just that: empower communities that are in need of change.

Remember, small gestures make a big difference, with whatever you give today, you are helping a woman in this world to have a better life.

I would love to hear about any nonprofits that you like or that we all should know- for women or others.


Also, a post about the myth about women being hard to work with, the importance of not criticizing how others do parenting, and, the life of a chocolatier.

First image from Steve McCurry

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A Surprising Consequence Of Traveling Without Children


I took a trip to Chile for 10 days last month.

Before going, I felt a lot of guilt about leaving my kids for so long. They are 2 and 4 years old and I thought they were too little to be without their mom for 1/3 of a month! 10 days is a lot of days! I was afraid they were going to resent me.

Part of me wanted to cancel the trip, but my dad got sick and I wanted to see him. I found myself looking at ticket prices with the hope of taking my kids with me. I even consulted with George to see if it would be OK for me to take the children and leave him behind for 10 days. Luckily, my wise man talked me out of it. He assured me the kids would be all right; he reminded me of the difficulties involved in a 13 hrs plane ride with young children (duh!); and, he brought to my attention how hard it would be to see and enjoy everybody in Chile while attending the needs of those two (double duh!).

He was so right… what was I thinking? I decided to go and left the kids in the care of George and our wonderful nanny, Ines (she has been with us since Victor was 6 months old).

In the beginning, I was surprise about how little I missed my kids. I was so busy that I could hardly think about them. At the end of the trip, of course, the story was different… I was so ready to kiss and hug them for hours on end… I missed them terribly.

Finally, I got back to LA fearing they would be angry at me for leaving them alone for so long… I was SO wrong. I didn’t only get a LOT of love from those two (I wish I had a video of the reunification – it was beyond adorable), but, to top it all, they started a WAVE of PERFECT behavior. It was like they had reincarnated into flawless children that were deferent and sweet, went to bed on time, ate their food without complain, and didn’t fight for every single toy in existence. It was a miracle.

You see, before leaving, I thought we were stuck in a funk. Our moods and needs were not synchronizing and there was a lot of trouble all around – typical motherhood problems – but this 10 days trip solved it all. It was a MIRACLE that is still happening now… 2 weeks later.

Since I got back from Chile we are all dancing to the same tune and I love it.

What about you? Have you left your kids for longer (or shorter) periods of time? And, if you did, how was their behavior afterwards? On the other hand, if you haven’t left them for long or short periods of times… are you afraid to do so? Do you feel guilty about doing it? I always like to hear your comments.

Also, photos from my trip to Chile, a post about how many kids is enough, and pictures of our trip to Costa Rica.


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On Criticizing How Others Do Parenting


Since having children, I have felt under scrutiny when I am in public places. Are my kids screaming too loud? Running too fast? Venturing too far? Is it OK that my child is laying on the restaurant floor and singing jingle bells at the top of his lungs? What are people going to think if he grabs that cheerio off the floor at the grocery store and puts it in his mouse…? (Darn! HE DID!)

You get the scenario, don’t you? I understand and agree with having children behave like decent human beings in public places. Nobody wants a monster vandalizing all spaces, but I also feel that people have no tolerance when the line of acceptable behavior is crossed.

Now, remember, this line depends on the individual. We know screaming, tantrums and crying are on the list of children’s behaviors that nobody likes, but it can be difficult to anticipate what are the small things that others will disapprove of, and believe me, they DO disapprove, and they WILL let you know.

Cut to a couple of experiences that had happened to me in the last 6 months:

Around the Holidays, I was in Target buying presents when Max asked to be taken down from the cart. He wanted to walk… A-L-A-R-M!! A 2 years old walking aimlessly around Target is NOT fun. There are things to be grabbed, hallways to run through, and toys to play with.  I put him down anywa, and tried to manage him with firm commands. He was actually pretty good, until he walked 15 feet away from me to look at some toy. An older woman walked by and asked him where his mommy was. I said: “I am here.” She looked at me with disapproving eyes while she shook her head in discontent. I am guessing I was too far away from my child for her comfort? I was surprised at such judgmental behavior, especially because I could have never imagined I was doing something wrong in the first place.

The exact same thing happened at the airport going to Costa Rica. My husband was no more than 10 feet away from Max when another family went by him and freaked out because his parents weren’t around. George immediately told them he was the dad, and they walked away saying: “I guess that is how people do parenting nowadays.” I was in shock once again.

These two events were heartbreaking for me. Not only because I was under attack, but also because they touched into my deepest fear of being a bad parent.

I think it is beautiful when strangers have a genuine concern for children’s safety. In my short motherhood road, I have found beautiful support and love from others, especially women. I have always thought of child raising as a community endeavor, instead of the individual task it has become, but it makes me angry and sad when this concern is accompanied by a stranger’s criticism that, without any background information, jumps so easily to condemn how others do parenting.

I am sure that there are situations where true child neglect is happening and an intervention is needed, but I don’t think it is helpful for anybody to hurt those you don’t know by publicly shaming their parenting skills, is it?

Anybody out there agrees? Or, disagrees? Would love to her.

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Working Women – Diana Malouf from Ococoa


Let’s talk about chocolate and life passions, shall we?

As much as we all want to join our professional life with our passions, is not always possible. It takes guts and instincts. That is why I wanted to interview Diana Malouf. She did it! She quit her secure full time job less than a year ago to dedicate herself to her true calling: being a chocolatier. That sounds so brave and delicious, doesn’t?

Her brand is Ococoa, and it is one of the best chocolates I have tried in my life. If you don’t believe me, you may believe Bon Appétit, which named Ococoa one of “America’s Best Chocolates.”  You know you are eating high quality chocolate when you try Ococoa products. They have wonderful flavors and a sweet, soft texture that won me over. Here is their website, in case you feel like supporting women, small business, and your belly (this post is not sponsored).

When I heard about Diana, I felt curious. I am drawn to stories of women doing cool things, so I had to ask her some questions that she was kind enough to answer. Here is what she had to say. Also, try not to drool too much when looking at the pictures below!

How did you become interested in making chocolates?

 D: I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands and making gifts for the holidays. One year I thought about making peanut butter cups. I was curious to try other nut butters too and the idea spiraled into our signature 9 – piece Nut Butter Cup collection. At the time I didn’t know anything about working with chocolate, it was a real learning curve. The idea and motivation preceded my skills.

How did you know that this is what you wanted to do with your life? When was your “aha” moment?

 D: I’ve been working on Ococoa in my spare time for years and continued experimenting for fun whenever I had a chance. I was sharing some crazy creation with a friend who pointed out that he never sees me as happy as when I’m describing something new I’m working on. It kind of hit me then just how happy working with chocolate makes me. Also, things in my life fell into place all around the same time. I realized if I didn’t do it now, I’d never have this chance again.

What gave you the strength to leave your 9 to 5 job to pursue your passion? 

D: I had a lot of reasons for not leaving my regular job. Then, one day, I realized all of those reasons were no longer valid. I have a wonderful, supportive boyfriend, an amazing business partner, and some very talented friends who are willing to help.

jestcafe.com--ococoa-8What challenges you the most, as both a chocolatier and business owner?

D: I have a lot of ideas for products I’d like to make. But we’re small now so I have to be practical about our production schedule, and all the other logistics involved with producing new products.

What do you think an outsider would find most surprising about your job? 

D: Just how many hats you have to wear as a small business owner. I’ve learned accounting, sales, web programming, to name a few. You learn whatever skills are needed to keep your business running and costs to a minimum.

What advice would you give to someone that wants to start their own business?

D: If you think you want to start a business because you enjoy making XYZ, try making 1000 of them for a deadline.

What do you wish you knew about your business a year ago?

D: There are so many amazing resources out there for small businesses. People really do want to help you and see you succeed.

What are those resources?

There are small business centers all over Los Angeles, staffed with experienced, knowledgeable people.

jestcafe.com--ococoa-3jestcafe.com--ococoa-15Where do you find inspiration?

D: I try to keep an open, receptive mind. When I get an idea for a flavor or design, I write it down. When there’s something I want to try making, I become a bit obsessive until I figure it out. It’s a little maddening actually.

What is a typical day like for you?

My partner Liz and I are early birds so we’ll work in the kitchen beginning around 6:30 a.m. and usually finish up around 2. Then there’s the business side of the business that we’ll tend to. I’ll sometimes spend my free time playing around with recipes or trying a new technique.

What’s the best part of being your own boss?

 D: Being in charge.

 What’s the worst part of being your own boss?

 D: Being in charge. jestcafe.com--ococoa-13jestcafe.com--ococoa-1How do you keep yourself motivated?

D: It’s much easier with Ococoa than it was with my regular job. I simply enjoy making chocolate. There’s a pride associated with making my own product that I didn’t have with my 9-5. I also find space to play with ideas and techniques. That keeps me happy and motivated too.

 What are your goals for 2016?

 D: Continue working on building the Ococoa brand. We enjoy collaborating with others too and are excited for more opportunities to do so.

What are your best seller products? 

D: The 9 piece Nut Butter Cup assortment contains one of each of our signature nut butter cups.

If somewhere would like to try your product, where can they buy it?

D: We are currently in shops in San Francisco and Washington DC and are actively working on finding retail outlets in Los Angeles.   Locals can buy our products online (ococoa.com) and select to pick up their order from our kitchen on Robertson in Beverlywood. It’s best to call ahead though so we can make sure we have product available for pickup.

Thanks, Diana!

On a side note, Ococoa has partnered with the Creamery Salt and Straw in LA to create the Ococoa’s Fig and Sesame Butter Cup ice-cream flavor. It already has amazing reviews, so go to Salt and Straw for your share of belly happiness.

After this post I need some sugar, don’t you? Luckily the weekend is almost here and diet cheating can began!

jestcafe.com--ococoa-6 jestcafe.com--ococoa-14Ococoa final product

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How Many Kids Is Enough?

jestcafe.com--how-many-kids-is-enoughGeorge and I are in the process of deciding if to have another child or leave our number at 2. We come from big families. I have 6 siblings. George has 4.

Right now, I feel very comfortable and happy with 2. They are healthy, sweet, cute, and relatively smart (he). I feel I can take care of them and myself. I can make sure they get what they need, while I am able to do the things I want. This comfortable place makes me worry about having another one.

I am not a fearful person, but I am afraid of having another kid. Here are the reasons why:

1)  I am afraid of not being able to handle it; to loose my personal time and myself; and, to leave my projects and dreams behind. All these are selfish fears, but they are real.

2) In a practical sense, I am afraid of that first sleepless year, and meeting the demands of my other children and husband. I am afraid of being overwhelmed. I have no family help here. My family is in Chile, George’s family is scattered, and I have to pay for all childcare. We are raising these children alone.

3) Money is another consideration. Right now, we have a comfortable life and are able to do the things we want. We live in LA, faraway from our families, and the only reason to justify this placement is because LA is an extraordinary city. We always try to take good advantage of it, but this costs money. If we have a third child, some of these benefits won’t be affordable anymore.

The reasons to have another child are simpler. I love being a mother, more than anything else in my life. My hormones are wonderful companions that first year and they make me very happy – I am lucky. Also, I love big families; I like being pregnant; and, I adore having a small, helpless, and sweet newborn in my arms. Kids are such a fun adventure.

In these big life decisions, I try to ask the opinion of older women, but I have had conflicted responses. Most of them have recommended on having another child, but my mom, who has 5 kids, says I should stay with 2.

George really wants another kid. He loves being a dad and gets most of his life enjoyment from being a parent, and, I certainly don’t want to disappoint him. He will be heartbroken if I say no to another baby. On the other hand, as helpful as your husband is, most of the burden of a newborn is on the woman.

There are so many things to consider, so I was wondering what your opinion is on this? How many kids do you want to have? Have you ever regretted not having more kids? Have you ever regretted having too many? How do you know if you can handle one more? Just curious.

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