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Once again, I had the extreme honor and privilege of attending and participating in the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, Sept 23-26, 2013. For me, it was “the next dimension, the next generation,” where the past, present and future came together. To see how far and wide CGI has grown since its inception in 2005 was breathtaking. This year, so many dots were connected, on a global level, as well as on a personal level.

President Barack Obama came to “chat” with President Bill Clinton. It is mind-blowing to be in the same room as these two great men and listen in. They discussed the importance of Obamacare, and how in order to lift people from poverty, you have to begin with their health. It says everything about President Obama that he chose healthcare as his first and primary initiative. I share that call to action with him; there is no greater need in the world today.

Throughout the conference, there were so many heart-full discussions and presentations. You heard stories of individual suffering, neglect and oppression that made your head spin. We are such a rich and privileged nation, and take so much for granted, from our education to our opportunities. We must have meaningful collaboration on a community and world level if we hope to raise awareness and inspire change.

Every year, as a CGI member, you are asked to make a Commitment to Action. As you may know, my heart and energies have long been directed to helping rebuild Haiti by working to develop their artisan community into a viable and sustainable trade. This year, during a session on the supply chain, I announced our commitment to start a vocational training center in Haiti, by providing a seed capital grant to artisan and business owner Paula Coles of Life, SA. This grant will help implement an artisan vocational training center at the Sonapi Industrial Park in Port-au-Prince, Haiti to launch in February 2014. Going forward, we will galvanize the involvement of leaders in education, such as Parsons School of Design, where I helped launch a Masters program. Education is of critical importance to any industry, which is why I feel so passionate about this commitment. The plan is for Urban Zen to host four master workshops per year for two years. We hope to plant the seed and use this as a model for vocational training to be replicated elsewhere in Haiti and the world.

On a personal level, seeing my Haiti community come to New York is always a dream. There was Maryse Kedar (PRODEV), Paula Coles (Paula | Coles Haiti), Caroline Sada (Ayiti Natives), Paul Farmer (Partners in Health), Joey Adler (ONEXONE), Denis O’Brien (Digicel Groupkaht), Kathleen Matthews (JW Marriot), Scott Griffin (Greif), Blake Mycoskie (TOMS), Sean Penn (J/P HRO), Danielle St. Lot (Femmes en Democratie), and so many others who have tirelessly supported all the different communities in Haiti.

CGI literally pulls the world together. Man, woman, child, rich, poor – everyone is on the agenda. There is this incredible coming together, a dropping of the ego, a reinforcement that it’s the “we” that matters most, never the “me.” The Urban Zen Foundation was inspired by the first CGI meeting I attended, and this last one only solidified my commitment and purpose in life. I’ve come to realize there is selfishness to giving because you get so much back in return. Please, go to the CGI website, and be inspired.

All my love,
Donna Karan

Learn more about:

The Clinton Global Initiative

Haiti Action Network

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