Tonight We Eat, Your Father Worked Today

Poverty threatens mankind. Poverty impacts every country but none more than Haiti.

After a visit to Haiti over the holidays, I walked away with a head full of the complex issues that keeps Haiti in this impoverished state.  The socio-economic difference when one crosses the border into the Dominican Republic is striking in comparison and it is on the same island.  Yet, Haiti, divided by a border from the D.R., has two and a half million Haitians that live in extreme poverty and remains the poorest country in the northern hemisphere.  The one thing that left an impression on me was that considering these dire conditions, I did not experience beggars. Instead the streets of Port Au Prince are filled with people selling things, repairing things, walking somewhere, doing something.

  • FACTS
  • Two out of three Haitians live on less than US $2 per day.
  • Ten percent of the richest Haitians possess 70 % of the country’s total income.
  • Less than 50% of households have access to safe water and only 25% benefit from adequate sanitation.

In Haiti’s Port-au-Prince there are walls, gates and guards that mark the division between the advantaged and the disadvantaged. photo-jan-04-2-49-20-pmAnd, the above facts are disheartening.  But, behind some of those walls are small businesses started with the hope to change the lives of a few.  The creators of these businesses have understood that a job is the way to bring back the dignity in a person’s life and is the most impactful tool for self-sufficiency.

My husband and I were able to visit a couple of these start-up businesses.

“Two Hands”

Deux Mains is a small workshop started by Julie Colombino “where artisan-owners source local leathers and re-purpose tires to craft beautiful handmade sandals and accessories.”  deux-mains-store It is a completely employee-owned and operated business with a small handbuilt store in Port-au-Prince. Jolina, a Haitian and now a manager, co-owner of Duex Mains, said to us during our visit, “After the earthquake, life had ended.  If Julie just gave me rice and beans, it would have been gone by now, but because she created a job for me, I have a life.”

“In Port-au-Prince, old tires and rubber litter streets. They are also regularly burned, releasing dangerous toxins into the air.  Other tires end up in the ocean.  Over the past 6 years, more then 9,000 tires have been crafted into sustainable fashion footwear.  Each pair of sandals crafted prevents approximately 10kg of CO2 from being emitted into Earth’s atmosphere.”

photo-dec-20-10-27-44-am

In this current TEDx-Talk learn more of Julie’s fascinating story that goes from her volunteering after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, to hearing woman say “I need a job” to creating Deux Mains.

“Upcycle”

Proper trash disposal does not exist in Haiti. The end result is that most people simply throw their garbage on the ground wherever they are.

PeaceCycle takes another trash problem – the plastic bags of 4oz water that are sold for 4 US cents as a source of clean water and turns them into totes, zippered pouches and other unique products. This provides another source of employment for the community. It also provides a service that they call “upcycle”(a term referring to converting waste or useless products into new materials or products), which gives them pride.  The bags are collected, washed, sanitized, dried, 4 pieces are ironed together with a charcoal heated iron for thickness, cut, and sewn into various products.

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“Beauty is changing lives in Haiti”

This is one of their sayings on a poster or t-shirt that you can buy at Papillon Enterprise.  Papillon is more than a store and exporter of handmade ethical fashioned goods, but behind it is an enterprise that creates jobs for Haitian parents so that they can provide for their children, creates a healthy work environment, offers advancement in job skills and partners with Harvest107. Harvest107 was started in 2013 by Gracie Pfaff, a 12-year old entrepreneur, who wanted to create sustainable urban microfarms and now has moved to Haiti.

They have artisan guilds that create very ingenious products out of collected paper, recycled glass bottles, aluminum, steel drums, t-shirts and indigenous clay.

For example, thin strips of paper from magazines or cereal boxes are rolled and varnished into beads for jewelry and combined with their handmade glass beads from glass bottles. photo-feb-10-12-02-12-pmThey have a cafe with handmade pallet furniture that was first established to feed the artists but is now open 7 days to the public as well with great smoothies, pizza and other “eatz”.

See more of the Haitian Art through Donna Karan’s travels:  https://vimeo.com/29276643

An excellent quote from the blog “Haiti is Not the World’s Garbage Can“.  “Haitian people are strong, resilient, and self-sufficient.   For all of the natural and humanitarian disasters that have struck this land, Haitians are still here, still fighting, and still beautiful.” And, I might add extremely creative!

  • Can you a create pathway to support someone in poverty?
  • Can you support an already existing avenue whose objective is to provide jobs, training and/or education to the poor?
  • Do you have in your home a decor piece, an article of clothing or jewelry that has been made by someone who is trying to better their life?
  • Even if you don’t have money to donate, can you offer kindness to someone in need?

        Learn, Give Thought, Be Inspired, Take Action……..Bring Back Balance

Title quote from Ian Rosenberger TEDxtalk

Lotus McElfish lotusmcelfish.com

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