Decorating the Christmas tree each year is like a trip down memory lane as we unwrap ornaments that have been stored in tissue paper to hang on our tree. We’ve been collecting ornaments from the places we’ve traveled for years. The tradition that started long ago showcases memories of trips to Brazil and Mexico while we were still dating, a honeymoon in Costa Rica, a babymoon to Thailand (even before there was such a thing as a babymoon!), and then family trips to China, Hong Kong, Japan, Hawaii, and other places both near and far.
Each year I also unwrap the ornaments that I’ve collected during the three years I’ve traveled to Haiti. As I run my fingers over each little line and dot that adorns the metal ornaments made from recycled steel drums, I can see the faces of artists like Rony Jacques and Jonas while hearing the distinctive tap-tap of hammers on the metal that fill the air in Croix des Bouquets. The colorful paper mache birds that perch in our tree remind me of Dam Dam, the incredible women’s cooperative that inspired a technology training during my second visit where we taught digital photography, how to set up email, and social media pages. To say these ornaments are special is an understatement.
My kids know how the individuals in photos that I’ve shared with them through the years have painstakingly handcrafted these ornaments. They’ve come to appreciate the artistry and why we visit our local Macy’s to purchase additional products from the Heart of Haiti line to give as gifts. They understand how important it is to purchase with a purpose and buy gifts that give back at the holidays and throughout the year. Through my experiences, they’ve seen how Macy’s sustainable business model has created economic empowerment for Haitian artists following the devastating 2010 earthquake. They’ve widened their vocabulary to better understand concepts like fair trade and have a greater appreciation for handmade goods.
But it’s one thing to tell them and another thing to show them.
Ever since my second trip, Emily has been asking, “Mommy, when do I get to come to Haiti with you?”
And my answer has always been the same. “Maybe next time.” For two years I’ve given her the same answer but this year, she’s finally coming with me.
In 2015 I’ll make my fourth trip to Haiti that will coincide with the 5th anniversary of the earthquake. With my daughter by my side, we’ll get to experience the country together. I’m excited to see the country through her young eyes and introduce her to the artists whose products decorate our home at the holidays and throughout the year.
When I first went to Haiti, it was the trip of a lifetime. I wanted to learn about the country and meet people outside what I was seeing on the news following the earthquake. I never imagined four years ago how much Haiti would become a part of my life. I never could have imagined that one day I’d bring my 11 year old daughter whose experiences and curiosity aid in her becoming a more global citizen.
While there are many things that she will learn through our trip, I know the impact will be long lasting. I know Emily will immediately grasp the importance of Macy’s presence in Haiti. Even though we won’t meet all of the 500 artists employed by Macy’s, she’ll see how the company paved the way in helping to rebuild artist communities around the country. She’ll realize the artists’ pride in having their pieces sold online through Macys.com and retail stores. She’ll see the impact of fair wages on artists where artists in Haiti receive half of the retail price for each item sold.
Maybe Emily get to meet soapstone artisan, Chena Gilles, who was able to give up farming in order to concentrate solely on her art in order to fulfill orders from Macy’s. I know this will help her understand how continuous demand for Chena’s carved pieces has become a family business involving her husband and extended family. Through this, she’ll realize that the soapstone carving business benefits Chena’s family by providing income used to send her children to school and helps her extended family too.
I know these are some of the immediate takeaways that come from visiting Haiti for the first time because four years ago, these were lessons I learned too. But I also know that the impact of this trip will become fully apparent until many months or years after. What I do hope is that she’ll walk away with is a deeper understanding of a culture and people so different from ours but yet so similar in so many ways and how we can continue to help Haiti through conscious purchasing of items like those that are part of the Macy’s Heart of Haiti line.
To shop the Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, visit Macys.com or visit the following retail locations around the country:
- Macy’s Herald Square
- Brooklyn Downtown
- Metro Center
- Chicago State Street
- Northland Center
- Seattle Downtown
- Portland Downtown
- San Francisco Union Square
- Biltmore Fashion Park
- South Coast Plaza home
- Mission Valley Home
- Dallas Galleria
- Lenox Square Mall
- Dadeland Mall
I am a member of the Everywhere Society and they provided me with product for review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. Stipends covering partial costs have been received for some of my past trips to Haiti though a majority of my expenses are always personally paid for. Emily’s trip to accompany me to Haiti will be personally paid for.