Hello again from Haiti! Today we had a great opportunity to visit and support three small businesses that are making a large impact on Haiti's economy and the lives of their Haitian workers. We began our fourth day with a tour and shopping opportunity at Peace Cycle. Peace Cycle is an organization that takes trash off of the streets and creates good-quality, useful products. Many Haitians drink their water out of small, plastic pouches. They are very convenient, but end up polluting the streets and ocean. I was blown away when we were informed that approximately 8 million of these pouches are left as trash on the ground daily. Peace Cycle acknowledges this as an issue, but optimistically views this problem as an opportunity. Through the process of gathering these bags, washing, cutting, ironing, and sewing them, they are transformed into a variety of items such as bags, wallets, pouches, Christmas stockings, passport pouches, and even aprons. The woman who started Peace Cycle, Rose, really stresses that the employees walk away each day with dignity for what they do. All of the employees are learning to speak some English and were able to introduce themselves. Afterward, each person from our team did the same. When we are able to make a connection, the relationship between our team members and the employees changes. We are able to be on common ground and they do not feel as if they are on display. After we were given a tour, I was able to join Kevin and our translator to communicate with the workers a bit more. They really are proud of what they do at Peace Cycle. It warms my heart to see how impactful this place is to the lives of many Haitians.
Next we stopped at an organization named Papillon. This company is a retail store that makes all of its own products onsite, and a yummy restaurant upstairs. Part of the tragic history of this poverty-stricken country is that many families cannot support their children. All too often this results in orphanages packed to capacity with kids who have living parents. Papillon's mission gives 250 Haitian parents a job that pays enough to keep their families together. During a tour of their facility we learned how they make pottery, fun clothing, metal art, bracelets, necklaces and earrings. Their commitment to Haiti's long term economic health provides a wonderful promise to the future Haitian families.
After Papillon we made a short trip down the street to SaVoix, a small company which translates to "Her Voice". They are a small start-up business owned by an American woman making high end baskets, bags, and key chains displaying their own art work. SaVoix employs women to help empower them with competitive wages and educational opportunities. Their products certainly caught the eye of a number of people in our group.
Our last visit of the day was at the For His Glory Orphanage. This is where parents have historically surrendered their children hoping that they will have a better life. Oddly, being in an orphanage in Haiti is a coveted position because it almost guarantees the children will be fed and educated, and this orphanage was a fine example of that. The children were happy to see us but there was a difference in their neediness. They were freshly bathed and dressed in nice clothes. Our visit started organically by playing peek-a-boo and tickle the tummy. Our team was charmed by the fun loving kids who often smiled and giggled with delight. We eventually worked our way to an upstairs classroom for reading bible verses about how Jesus has known them since before they were born. The kids then had a chance to make bracelets with their names on them that would remind them that Jesus loved them. They reacted so enthusiastically to this activity smiling broadly and hanging on to them proudly when finished. One of the most endearing children was a special needs teen named Mima. She had her beads in hand but wasn't clear about what needed to be done next. With just a small amount of direction she completed her bracelet on her own. We will never forget Mima's bright smile as we congratulated her on her wonderful accomplishment. She vigorously threw her arms around necks giving hugs to everyone nearby by as we said Jezi renmen ou (Jesus loves you) Mima!
-Danielle and Kevin