Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Grassroots Giving

I have not posted for a long time - the busyness of life with my own three children and the ebbs and flows of life's balancing act.  But it is early morning at the lake in northern Michigan where I spend my summers, and there is something about this pristine, beautiful, and safe place that brings to sharper relief my thinking about those who live in poverty, fear, and need.  Stories of hardship strike a big chord here in a place where I feel safe and secure, surrounded by beauty.

While I have not written about our work in some time, it has continued at a steady pace.  We sell our beautiful children's pajamas to our loyal customers in New York City and throughout the United States, and with each sale we are able to fund collecting and giving pajamas around the world.  You can purchase our pajamas on our site or on Amazon.  I receive hundreds of new and gently used pajama donations, and we give locally and to our U.S. based giving partners who bring our pajamas around the world to mothers and children in need.

To date, we have given approximately 4,000 pairs of pajamas to babies and children in need.  

These are just some of the children who have received our pajamas in the last 10 months:

- Lakota Sioux children living on reservations in South Dakota through the Native American Heritage Association

- Impoverished children and mothers in New York City served by Women in Need

- Low income pediatric patients served by Children of Bellevue at Bellevue Hospital in NYC

- Pediatric cancer patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in NYC

- Homeless children living in transitional housing at Concourse House in the Bronx, NY

- Foster children served by Edwin Gould Services for Women and Children in Brooklyn, NY

- Low income children and children of migrant workers and members of the Ottawa/Chippewa Tribe in Leelanau County, Michigan, through Leelanau Christian Neighbors

We will continue to bring joy and jammies to children in need.  To learn more about these giving partners or more, see our website  Thank you for following our journey!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Power of a Deed

It is not difficult to find need in the world.  It is right at our back doorstep and spans the world.  One finds it in urban slums and in some of the most beautiful settings in the world.  Four miles from where I live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan lies the poorest congressional district in the nation.  As the pajamas flow into Bennison Gives, sometimes I am struck with anxiety about how I can continue to give, but need presents itself at home and abroad, both a sad commentary on inequality in the world and an opportunity to make a small difference.

In many moments I question our giving - wouldn't it be better to give medicine, or aren't there bigger problems to tackle?  I keep coming back to the idea that whatever it is, it is better to do something.  We can all make a difference, and even the smallest gesture has bigger implications.  Not just cozy jammies for a good night's sleep but the love, caring and compassion that go with it.

I am so grateful to witness each week acts of kindness from women all over the country who spend their time and energy and love collecting and cleaning and folding and sending us pajamas for children in need.  When I open the packages and read the notes I feel the love, and I have seen children and families light up when receiving pajamas.  So many of the beautiful photos we have illustrate this joy and gratitude.  So my motto is: do SOMETHING.  Any act of kindness matters, and the intention behind these actions is felt and is as real as any tangible action.

This all reminds me of an article I read in the New York Times last summer by Shmully Hecht called "The Power of a Deed."  The piece is about Rabbi Scheerson, "who reminded us that every person and every good deed is important.  He embodied the concept that Judaism was summed up in a single act of unconditional kindness and pioneered a global movement based on this ideal."  I loved the article so much I look a picture:

A single act of unconditional kindness.  Every good deed is important.  Do SOMETHING.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

More Giving: Hope for Bangladesh

I am so excited to announce or latest giving partner Hope for the Women and Children of Bangladesh

This amazing organization was started by Dr. Iftikher Mahmood, a doctor from Bangladesh who for the last 20 years has been building clinics and hospitals in his native country where there is so much need.  We are thrilled to be sending pajamas to children in Bangladesh in December.

I learned so much in my conversation with Ashley Pugh from HOPE about the challenges facing women and children in Bangladesh.  One of the problems that HOPE tackles is the prevalent issue of obstetric fistula from which many women suffer.  I learned that the average marriage age in Bangladesh is 18 or 19, but in the rural areas Hope serves, they estimate that the age is closer to 15 years old.  Several factors lead to the prevalence of fistula - a severe tearing or hole between the rectum or bladder and the vagina due to prolonged labor, sometimes up to 7 days.

1)  The young age of the women/children getting married means that they are small in stature, and this makes labor difficult
2)  Most women (up to 90%) deliver at home under the supervision of unskilled family and friends
3) In places like Bangladesh with high rates of malnutrition, the birth canal is weaker just as any muscle weakens without proper nutrition

I was struck in my conversation with Ashley, as I have been in other instances, with the powerful role that malnutrition and cultural norms (such as early marriage and home births), play in creating such enormous challenges for young women.  Many of these factors also contribute to infant mortality, especially traditions of birthing outside of clinical settings, even when they are available.

HOPE is doing amazing work in repairing fistulas and in providing pre-natal care and safe births.  They are embarking on a program to incentivize women to come to the clinic for care.  This reminded me so much of the "baby bundles" we have seen in other places - see my previous post on this in Sierre Leone and even in Finland.  Offering incentives to women - a package of supplies for newborns, including infant pajamas, has far more benefits than simply the gift itself.  Knowing they will receive a gift of much needed supplies for their babies motivates women to get to a clinic to deliver, a fact that can have enormous benefits, even life saving benefits, for mother and baby.

Please check out Hope for the Women and Children of Bangladesh on their website, and see photos on their Facebook page.

This is one of the beautiful young fistula patients Hope healed, I love seeing this beautiful smile and can't wait to see your pajama donations on these precious children in Bangladesh.

We are selling on Amazon!

We are excited to have the opportunity to sell our beautiful, 100% Pima cotton sleepwear on Amazon!  

Check it out - great promotions in time for the holidays.  And your purchases help to fund our giving to children around the world.

You BUY, We GIVE.  Together we can make a world of difference!!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Our newest giving partner Children of Bellevue

I was so happy when I connected with a wonderful organization here in New York City called Children of Bellevue.  This organization is an auxiliary of Bellevue Hospital, one of the largest public hospitals here in New York City.  They were so happy to receive hundreds of pajamas to give to pediatric patients who come into the hospital each day.  Bellevue also has one of the largest psychiatric wards for pediatric patients in the city, and so many children stay for extended periods of time in the psychiatric unit that I was amazed to hear that the New York Department of Education operates a school on hospital grounds for those children.  It was quite something to see the extensive the services Bellevue offers, and I was inspired and impressed by the team at the Children of Bellevue.  I met the head of social work for the hospital as well as a young woman who runs the Room to Read program at Bellevue.   They gave out 14,000 new books last year to children in need, quite an amazing feat.

As I read more about the Children of Bellevue I was touched to learn that the organization started in 1949 with a small group of women and a washing machine and the idea that children should have a nice pair of pajamas to wear in the hospital.  The motto to this day is that children need "more than medicine" to thrive, and warm, nice pajamas were a part of this idea.  All these years later, when I called Bellevue to see if they would take our donations, I had no idea that I was following in a tradition of women working to help sick children through simple acts like providing pajamas.

The Children of Bellevue still operates on the motto that children need more than medicine to heal and thrive, and they support children and families in all sorts of ways in this pursuit.  I feel lucky to have met and witnessed a wonderful group of people dedicating their lives to improving the lives of others, and I can't wait to see some of our jammies on children in need right here in NYC.

To see more of the work of the Children of Bellevue, check out their site www.

Here I am with the amazing team and just some of the hundreds of pjs we gave thanks to all of you!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Article about our Giving Partner Mano a Mano in the Nobel Peace Prize Forum

I was excited to see this wonderful article about our giving partner Mano a Mano International.   This Minneapolis based organization, founded by a Bolivian man and his wife, is a true example of making change from the bottom up.  Mano a Mano has been collecting medical supplies to send to Bolivia, a country with some of the highest rural poverty rates in the world, for over 20 years.  In addition to medical supplies, Mano a Mano works with local communities to build health clinics and to help those who are most vulnerable living in remote areas.

I have been so impressed with the work Mano a Mano does in part because as a historian I have studied and taught about colonialism, and colonial histories teach us the dangers of attempts to impose change from the top down without the agency, consent, and collaboration of those being "helped."  At Bennison Gives we work with many grassroots development and health organizations that are integrally involved in local communities in some of the poorest regions of the world.  Mano a Mano is a terrific example of an organization doing tremendous good not only in providing medical services but also in empowering and engaging local communities in this change for good.  It is only in working together in partnerships with local communities, in the universal language of respect, love, and hope, that effective change transpires.

Please read this wonderful article about Mano a Mano in the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, and please see our website and Facebook pages to learn more about the life changing work they are doing in Bolivia.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Story from the field from our newest giving partner Compassion CBO

We are proud to welcome our newest giving partner Compassion CBO.  Many of our giving partners work with rural populations, Compassion works in Metropolitan Nairobi and parts of Kenya.  I was not aware of the extreme poverty and disease in the slums of Nairobi, and I have been glad to be able to talk to Evanson Njeru, founder of Compassion CBO who has dedicated his life to helping people in these settings.  

See below email I received from Evanson and the link to the story of Joy, just one example of many children.  This story comes to us from Compassion CBO's partner Safe World For Women, also doing wonderful work in places of great need around the world. 

From Evanson: 

Welcome Sarah  a girl like this needs a Pajama and several others she is now 9 years. I have already notified Karen and Marty you will soon get in touch with them. For the last 9 years i have been working with the children in Githogoro slum in Nairobi.

Warmest regards,


We are working with some members of the Compassion CBO U.S. team to send pajamas to children like Joy early next year.