We’ve been home from Haiti for just over a week and every time someone asks Emily about her trip, her eyes light up. Today she’s here to share her thoughts about our trip and the many things she experienced through a piece she wrote for Girl Scouts about a place she’s visited and why others should go.
By Emily Barr
Haiti is a very beautiful country that shares a border with the Dominican Republic. It’s less than 2 hours from Miami by plane but you only hear about it in the news when something major happens like the giant earthquake in 2010. The Haitians have made a lot of progress in rebuilding their homes and regrowing their businesses.
We went to visit Haiti and some of the artisans who live there. With the help of the Artisan Business Network, they sell their work at Macy’s stores that helps them earn a living to support their families.
We visited some artisans who make beautiful art out of materials they can find. Soapstone that comes from the rivers is carved to make candlesticks, bowls, and small animals. Instead of the slaughter house throwing away the bones and horns from cows, they are used by local artists who dry, cut, shape, and polish them into jewelry, frames, and other decorative housewares.
In Croix de Bouquets, metal artisans start by stripping the paint off the oil drums that wash up on the beach. There are 12 steps that they use to create beautiful works of art. They are hammered into various shapes and designs by using different tools that we don’t use here in the United States. Metal can be turned into just about anything like candlesticks, wall hangings featuring designs inspired by the trees that grow in Haiti, pendants and bracelets, and picture frames like the ones that are a part of Macy’s Heart of Haiti line.
Three hours away from Port au Prince is a coastal city called Jacmel. Jacmel is a place famous for paper mache. This artist community places recycled paper and cardboard around a mold to create shapes of vases, animals, coasters, and placemats. The brown look of the cardboard is a little bit dull so they paint them with very bright designs like birds and trees. Sometimes they make coasters and placemats look like the inside of fruit!
We also visited a women’s group called OFDALAF (formerly known as OFEDA) that originally lived in tent camps and have now moved back into homes. They’re still working as a group to make products such as soaps, embroidered cards, bags, and crochet items. Instead of working out of tents, they rent a space where they can do all of their work. They also have a showroom that they’re very proud of because it’s a place where they can display things they make and sell.
Just like the other artisans, money from these sales benefit the women in the group and help them support their families. They’re able to buy food, send their children to school, pay for tuition and books, rebuild their homes, and take care of their families.
When I visited Haiti, I really liked seeing all the art being made. Even though Haitians need help, they still take time to hand paint business signs and tap taps. The brightly painted tap-taps, that are their versions of taxis named for the tapping people do to let the driver know they need to get off, are decorated with portraits of famous people and vibrant patterns.
What surprised me when we went to Haiti is that they’ve made a lot of progress since my Mom first visited three years ago. Since then many Haitians have moved out of tent camps, back into homes, and are starting new businesses.
People should go to Haiti because even though it’s very close to the United States, it’s very different. It gives you a perspective on how we worry about things that aren’t so important. In Haiti, people worry about having work to buy food and support their families. Visiting Haiti helps create jobs for everyone and brings awareness about what a great country it is and how we can help.
I received a scholarship from Everywhere to help cover some of my trip expenses to Haiti to visit Artisan Business Network artists who create products for the Macy’s Heart of Haiti line. Emily’s trip was personally paid for by our family. All opinions are based on Emily’s experience. Photos taken with a Samsung NX1 and NXMini and are copyrighted.