These days when I say I’m traveling to Haiti again, I love that friends immediately ask what they can do to help. This wasn’t the case a couple of years ago when I was about to take my first trip, just a year after the earthquake. Friends wondered why I was going, if it was safe, and how it was a good fit for my blog. Even though I hadn’t been and didn’t have those answers, I was compelled to go out of sheer curiosity and found the experience life-changing. The Haiti that I’ve experienced is different. If you’re a long-time reader, you’re probably not surprised that I’m returning and are here to learn how you can help. If you’re new here, welcome! Let me give you some background….
The 2010 Earthquake
When the 2010 earthquake hit, there were endless news reports of death, destruction, and devastation. It’s hard to forget the images of collapsed concrete structures whose rubble filled the streets, weeping families unable to find their loved ones, quick shots that passed over mass graves that violated traditional burial rituals, and tent cities extending beyond the camera lens. Heartwrenching photos compelled many to help and aid poured in from nonprofits, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other groups.
Why Haiti? Why not.
Just after the one year anniversary of the earthquake, I visited Haiti for the first time with Danica Kombol and Kelly Heisler from Everywere, Willa Shalit, and a small group of bloggers and social media influencers to learn about the ways artists were creating sustainable income through handcrafts being sold through the Macy’s Heart of Haiti line. Calling ourselves Bloggers for Haiti, we knew we wanted to help but didn’t have a clear vision until we met Dam Dam. Standing in front of 60 women in a classroom, we realized how technology could help the artist groups communicate their passion for their creations and the personal stories behind them with a global audience.
Determined to return, Elena Sonnino (LiveDoGrow.com) and I wrote a grant and secured partial funding from the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund to help defray travel expenses for a trip the following year. With laptops, software, and accessories donated by Microsoft and the assistance of fellow bloggers and friends, we conducted technology professional development sessions for artists who traveled from around the country to learn about photography, blogging, and social media in May 2013. Goal accomplished—yes! But were we done? No!
OFEDA (Organisation des Femmes Devouees en Action)
On our first trip to Haiti we met OFEDA and returned to celebrate Haitian Mother’s Day with them last May. In the year since we met, the 200 member strong had expanded their embroidered greeting cards business to include paper bead jewelry, soap making, and crochet garments.
These resourceful women entrepreneurs work in the tent camp in extreme heat and torrential downpours, sitting on wobbly chairs and using a table that could collapse at any minute. Despite the less than ideal work conditions, OFEDA perseveres when one might have expected them to give up long ago because they’re determined to make money through the products they create in order to earn money to help them move out of tent camps and reclaim their lives.
Last May we heard OFEDA had secured an office but were lacking supplies and office furniture but is in need of office supplies. We’re accepting donations of items like scissors, a receipt book, clear tape, stapler, extension cord, towels, etc. via an Amazon Wish List.
If you’re able to help and would like to purchase items for OFEDA, you can do so through this link: http://bit.ly/OFEDADonations. Items for OFEDA will be sent to Danica at the Everywhere offices in Atlanta and can be accepted until May 20.
The ApParent Project: Helping babies get a great start so parents can work to earn an income
Meet Shelley Clay. She has a shop full of gorgeous things hand made by artists that are part of The ApParent Project, a nonprofit whose goal is to provide job opportunities to parents so they can earn money to keep their children.
Shelley found that the majority of kids in Haitian orphanages are there because their families couldn’t afford to feed them. She’s worked to change this by providing job opportunities for parents and is setting up a nursery for the many new ApParent Project babies.
As a mother of 2 children, ages 10 and 7, I feel so fortunate to have been able to take time off from work to stay home with my children. Unfortunately, women in Haiti don’t have this luxury. Every dime they make is needed to rebuild their lives and keep their children. According to Shelley, “jobs are the easiest, most sustainable, most straightforward, natural and dignified way to overcome this problem. Job creation empowers the poor to be the solution to the problems that confront them.”
Shelley caught my attention with a couple of Facebook posts I just couldn’t ignore.
I excited by the overwhelming interest in donations for The ApParent Project. I’ll be taking items for the nursery so working moms earn an income while their infants are being well cared for.
If you’d like to contribute baby items to The ApParent Project’s nursery, you can do so through this Amazon Wish List link: http://bit.ly/ApParentProject. These items will be shipped to me. Local friends who are interested in contributing can drop off new and used items by May 20.
I am forever grateful to blogging friends who have already sent items for donation, those who are considering a donation, companies like Microsoft for their donations of items of current and past trips, and those who keep Haiti in their hearts by purchasing handmade Haitian items for sale in the United States the Heart of Haiti line at Macy’s, Maiden Nation’s Kiss Kiss bracelets, Chan Luu’s paper bead bracelets and necklaces, and shoes from the Haiti Artists Collective by Tom’s. Every purchase we make contributes to the livelihood of the incredible artists I’ve met in Haiti. Haitians don’t want handouts. They want to work. Help me help Haiti. And let’s not forget.