For the past five years I’ve been traveling to Haiti. If you’ve been reading the blog for awhile, you know that I first went there in 2012, wanting to get to know the country beyond what was being reported on the news following the devastating 7.0 earthquake that rocked the island in 2010. People who had spent time there told me the country was beautiful and the people were warm and wonderful and indeed, these things are true.
Despite being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere that suffered mass casualties after the earthquake, Haitians have a spirit that is truly unique. They’re hard working, resilient (oh so resilient!), proud of their history, culture, art, and want to work to earn a living to support their families and send their kids to school just as we do.
Through the years I’ve been going to work with artists in areas around the country, I’ve seen positive changes from improved infrastructure, more interest in traveling to Haiti not just for mission work but to see the beautiful parts of the country highlighted by tourism campaigns, and Instagram accounts showing the true beauty of the country.
I’ve witnessed redevelopment in Croix des Bouquets where our metal workers live and work. Dirt roads have been paved to connect artists ateliers and create a beautiful artist community.
There are wide sidewalks that are illuminated with solar lanterns adorned with the signature metal work that Haiti is known for and incredible signage for each atelier proudly displays the name of each shop.
Old meets new in the coastal town of Jacmel where French influences in the architecture make you feel like you’re in New Orleans but yet a new boardwalk along the water features a bright mosaic bearing the town’s name.
Jacmel is a town known for being an artist community and is where our paper mache and tobacco leaf artists work. Harry Sylviance is one of the many paper mache artists in Jacmel and here he’s showing off the striped vases made for the Macy’s Heart of Haiti line.
And Leogane. When the river bed is mostly dry, follow it and up one of the banks around one of the many bends is where Chena Gilles lives with her family.
Once a farmer who dreamt of being able to quit farming to focus on her art full time, orders for her carved soapstone pieces for retailers like Macy’s now employ her, her family, extended family, and community full time.
Over the years these artists have become my friends. I’ve gotten to know them, their stories, their families, and how important sustainable jobs are to them as they have worked tirelessly to rebuild their lives after the earthquake.
But this week Haiti suffered a tremendous setback when Hurricane Matthew pummeled the island with strong winds that uprooted trees and ripped tin roofs from cinderblock structures. Water not only caused severe flooding but swept away food and belongings with the current.
United Nations Statistics on the Effects of Hurricane Matthew on Haiti
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
The full extent of the damage in Haiti following the passage of Hurricane Matthew is being compiled, as Government and UN teams in Les Cayes and Jérémie made initial assessments today (6 October). Communications with affected areas in south-west Haiti are still limited, with no mobile communications, and roads are inaccessible due to flooding.
Here are some statistics from the United Nations:
- In Haiti, 108 people were killed by Hurricane Matthew although this figure is expected to rise.
- Up to 80 per cent of harvest lost in some areas, WFP Office (World Food Programme) in South East Haiti indicates.
- Aerial and field assessments began today in Haiti, where it is estimated that over 350,000 people need humanitarian assistance. Very heavy damage is expected in Grand-Anse and the South, particularly in the cities of Les Cayes, Jérémie and Port Salut. However, the assessment phase has only just begun due to severe weather conditions and lack of ground access.
- Matthew has forced the evacuation of more than 1.3 million people in the Caribbean.
Haiti Relief Efforts
Suddenly Haiti is back to square one. Progress that had been made seems to have been washed away in just a couple of days. This Fox 5 article from yesterday reports that U.S. military personnel equipped with nine helicopters were expected to start arriving to help deliver food and water to hard-hit areas but people have lost everything. The floods swept away any food that was in houses. People are starving and don’t have any food to cook.
Before Hurricane Matthew was forecasted, I bought a ticket to travel to Haiti with a group of blogging friends to continue to share the stories of my artist friends. A couple days ago I wasn’t sure that we would be able to go but those I know on the ground in Port au Prince assure me that our presence is helpful and wanted by the artists.
So on October 20, I’ll make my 5th trip to Haiti and as always, I’m going to help. But this time I need your help more than ever. Haiti needs our help.
So many of you have reached out to ask what you can do and how you can help with monetary donations and supplies and if I’ve learned anything over the past five years it’s about how to help where help is most effective and how important it is to support organizations that work to affect change and get results.
Here are my recommendations based on my experience in the country, getting to know people on the ground, and seeing the kinds of sustainable programs that organizations have put in place.
A Short List of Who to Trust if You Want to Donate to Haiti
After the 2010 earthquake organizations with a long history of being in Haiti providing assistance through programs were competing with a lot of new organizations that were set up to accept charitable donations. Unfortunately, some of these organizations misspent funds and dollars that you donated didn’t actually provide the aid you hoped it would. Lots of news articles were written about this. It makes me sick to my stomach knowing that this happens.
Here are some trusted organizations whose work that I’ve seen and have been on the ground helping Haitians through sustainable programs that provide steady income, job training, and quality medical care as well as the immediate needs caused by destruction of crops.
HAND/EYE has set up a donation link to directly support Artisan Business Network artisans that I work with to address their emergency and long term needs. This fund will be used to help artisans in storm-ravaged Jeremie, Cormiers, and other locations in Haiti’s southern regions to provide emergency relief packages with daily essentials including clean water. They are also evaluating long term needs like housing, tuition for children, and ongoing food security. Donate to HAND/EYE here.
Food for the Poor is an organization that friends on the ground in Haiti say are doing phenomenal work. With the bridge to Jeremie and Grand Anse destroyed (the parts of Haiti most affected by Hurricane Matthew) and so many crops destroyed, it is expected that there will be a food shortage in the country for the next 3 months. They pre-placed supplies in the affected regions, rented helicopters to meet with members in communities to understand immediate needs, and are distributing juice, water rice, milk, spaghetti, and other items. Today they delivered nine 40 foot containers by barge from their Haiti warehouse to Jeremie (along with a forklift and truck), one of the hardest hit areas in Haiti. Donate directly to Haiti and know that more than 95% of all donations will help Haitians avoid starvation now and in the coming months. Donate to Food for the Poor’s efforts in Haiti here.
JP/HRO is amazing because they worked to rebuild communities and provide proper infrastructure as they relocated families as they transitioned from camp life to safe communities. During my first trip to Haiti I visited the tent camp that occupied a once-tony golf course in the affluent Petion-ville neighborhood of Port au Prince. I believe it was three years after my first visit that JP/HRO had relocated those living in tents into communities where they had rebuilt homes (this time reinforced with rebar according to new building standards that would be better able to withstand an natural disaster), built schools, opened hospitals, and were working directly with Haitians to teach them how to build and maintain their new communities. Donate to JP/HRO here.
Heifer International’s Heifer Haiti works to provide animals and train farmers in animal husbandry. They work with 30,000 farming families in Haiti to improve farm productivity, restore local environments and increase economic opportunities for farmers. Heifer Haiti secured animals in structures before Hurricane Matthew but the New York Times reported that the shelters couldn’t withstand the force of the winds. Donate to Heifer Haiti here.
Partners in Health is known locally as Zanmi Lasante and operates clinics and hospitals at 12 sites across the Central Plateau and the lower Artibonite, two of the country’s poorest regions. Since the January 2010 earthquake, 744,000 people across Haiti have become sick from cholera and nearly 9,000 have died. In response, Partners in Health built and staffed treatment centers and launched a large-scale community health intervention so that 20,000 patients received treatment for cholera. It’s an amazing effort that involves a partnership between the Haitian government and a nongovernmental organization to bring much needed healthcare to Haiti. Donate to Partners in Health here.
Save the Children has been in Haiti for over 30 years. This global organization works to advocate for more schools and provides healthcare to mothers and children. Since the hurricane they have deployed their Emergency Health Unit to stockpile non-food items including hygiene kits, baby items, household kits, mosquito nets and jerry cans that are currently being distributed. Donate directly to the Save the Children Hurricane Matthew Children’s Relief Fund.
With a mission to develop, manage and support schools and centers in underserved communities, ProDev is an organization I support with all my heart. Perhaps it’s the former teacher in me who will always be passionate about kids and education but I applaud them for their efforts for the simple reason that they believe that only education can create a stronger Haiti. Donate to ProDev here.
How to Support Our Artists
I work directly with artists affiliated with the Artisan Business Network, a collective of artists who create products that are sold through U.S. stores and online retailers. This is the time of the year that artists are working to complete orders for products that will appear in-store for the holidays but Hurricane Matthew destroyed holiday inventory as it swept away belongings and food. With no products to deliver, our artists can’t earn the money they were counting on for food, living expenses, and their children’s education.
Help me help our artists.
I will be traveling to Haiti on October 20 and have set up an Amazon Wish List of items to help them get back on their feet.
This is only a partial list of the many things they need. I’ve divided the long wish list of items between friends who are going so each of us can receive donations at our doorsteps from local friends who would like to help. All Amazon Wish List items will be shipped to me and I will bring them down to Haiti myself. Thanks in advance for helping fulfill our wish list!
We are also working to set up a crowdfunding campaign to directly support our artists. Stay tuned for the link on how you can donate money that will directly benefit individuals who work for Artisan Business Network and their families! We’re working on it! We promise!
Shop Trade Not Aid Items from Haiti
Our Haitian artists are proud of their work and when their items are bought, it means more orders are placed for additional inventory. Here are some of the places where you can purchase items created by the artists I know and love:
- Macy’s Heart of Haiti
- Haiti Projects (you can also donate directly to Haiti Projects whose embroidery artists live on the southern coast of Haiti that has been hardest hit by Hurricane Matthew)
- Global Goods Partners
- Tribe Alive
Local Friends in DC
In addition to items requested from our Amazon Wish List , if you are local to the Washington, D.C. and can donate any of the following items, please let me know and we can make arrangements for drop off or pickup. I can accept items locally by Monday, October 17.
- Maxi pads (no tampons!)
- Hand towels
- USB flash drives (please erase them if they are not new)
- Laptops (please factory reset them to original settings)
- Antibiotic ointments (such as Neosporin or generic versions)
- Deflated soccer balls (I cannot accept inflated ones due to space constraints)
- Small ball pumps
Thank you for caring enough to read this very long post. Friends in Haiti thank you for anything you can do!
And please do share this post. Spreading the word on effective ways to help will make all the difference.
This is not a sponsored post. Trips to Haiti have been personally paid for in the past. I will continue to make trips to Haiti as long as I can be helpful to the artists I work with.