Bringing Health, Healing and Haiti to the Hamptons


This weekend was all about bringing health, healing and Haiti to the Hamptons. It began at Tutto il Giorno in Southampton, where I had the pleasure of hosting a luncheon with my daughter Gabby, Cristina Cuomo and Peggy Siegal. The event brought together a community of women to break bread, connect and discuss the possibilities borne out of philanthropy, commerce and culture. It was a full-on sensory experience from the curation of work by Haitian artisans (who we collaborate with to create gorgeous product), to the models who moved fluidly throughout the room wearing the Urban Zen collection, to the delicious, seasonal menu.

The meal began with Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Yoga Directors Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman Yee leading guests in a meditation. This is exactly the kind of well-being that is a fundamental part of the work Urban Zen is doing to shift the healthcare paradigm. It was inspired by my husband Stephan and now our UZITs are spreading across the country, including Southampton hospital.

It was perfect having Rodney and Colleen with us sharing their experiences about teaching at our UZIT program as Thursday also marked the beginning of a very important weekend for our 2011 UZIT students. At the Urban Zen Center the UZITs gathered to delve into the contemplative care modality of the program. They, too, had a profound weekend learning how to handle death and dying with grace and dignity from Roshi Joan Halifax.


On Friday night, our celebration of all-things Haiti continued in Sag Harbor, where Urban Zen hosted Alison Thompson’s book signing. I have to say, I admire Alison Thompson so much – she is a nurse and a caretaker with the most generous, giving spirit. Her new book, “The Third Wave,” shares her unwavering commitment to life as a volunteer – every page is honest, gripping and truly inspiring. I’ve known Alison for years and she has always found a way to give back, from making her way to the World Trade Center on 9/11, to immediately responding to the Tsunami to the unconditional love she is bringing to Haiti. What she is doing in Haiti with We Advance is proof of her commitment to the on-the-ground work of loving, caring and communicating the need for awareness and help. Alison’s story is truly a must-read – a call to action to anyone who has the desire to make this world a better place.

The momentum continued on Sunday afternoon at the Ross School where I was a host for the “Hamptons for Haiti” Fundraiser for We Advance and Global Dirt. The room was an explosion of dots connecting – so many familiar faces, so many impassioned people committed to Haiti.

I loved listening to the We Advance team – Alison Thompson, Maria Bello and Aleyda Frishman – speak passionately about their commitment to heal and love Cité Soleil, the poorest slum in the western hemisphere. As Haitian singer Barbara Guillaume says, “If we can change the worst of Haiti we can change all of Haiti.” The women of We Advance are remarkable and the work they’re doing is changing lives.

I can’t tell you how proud I was to see Nicole Ross (daughter of Courtney Ross, our Apple Award winner for Education) hold the room captive as she talked about the work she is doing with Global DIRT, an all-volunteer force dedicated to providing immediate assistance to victims of disasters all around the globe. Not only has Nicole volunteered extensively to provide medical relief in Haiti, she is also studying to become a nurse. She is a woman who embodies how necessary the mind, body, spirit connection is for true healing. I was thrilled to talk with Nicole about our Urban Zen Integrative Therapy – what an amazing UZIT she would be!

Everywhere I turned this weekend, I was surrounded by the vibrant spirit of Haiti. I am so thrilled to see how we are all connected and it truly warms my heart to see such diverse communities coming together to create the change that is so necessary in this world today.

Luncheon and Allison Thompson Event Photography by Brian Stephen Photography
WeAdvance Event Photography at the Ross School by Marc Baptiste