At the Artisanat, online sales through our partners including The Grommet (https://www.thegrommet.com), have double over the past year! We are seeing demand for our hand-crafted nightgowns grow and production increase. As part of the production process the women at the artisanat must ensure that each nightgown is checked for flaws, loose threads and packaged individually for shipment to our office in Massachusetts. Here, Marie-Ange works to make sure nightgowns for The Grommet orders are without flaws. She loves her work at the artisanat, because it helps her put her kids through school. The women take pride in their work and are thrilled with the surge in demand for our hand-embroidered one-of-a-kind nightgowns.
The Impact of our work is not easy to measure. How do you measure the dignity that a job brings, or the joy of watching your child attend school? How do you quantify the opportunity to buy a home, determine how many children you can afford or purchase livestock to raise for added income for your family? This graph show part of this story -- the numbers. Here you can see that before Artisans worked for Haiti Projects only 23% of the women could afford to pay for medicine, only 27% could send their kids to school, and even fewer could purchase livestock and make repairs on their homes (14% and 5%, respectively). Over the last 20 years these numbers have changed. Close to 60% can afford medicines and almost 100% can send their kids to school. Furthermore, ability to purchase livestock and make repairs has doubled (27% and 13%, respectively). Our impact is clear and significant!
Black skin and deep brown eyes. The 7.0 earthquake in Haiti forced her into a tent. The tent is constructed of tarps, sheets and whatever she can find. Each tent pressed up against the next. A rug on the floor and two single beds side by side, a walking space between. Jeanette lives with her cousin, Mariana. Two women, thin, but not unhealthy, smiling. As I talk with Jeanette, Marianna prepares to bathe herself. She takes her clothes off, but I see nothing but a shin, a thigh, and the strength of her forearms. She shields herself with a clean yellow towel. How soft and bright the yellow is against her black skin. She holds a bucket with clean water and a bar of soap. She steps just outside the tent. She washes, still wrapped in yellow -- water splashing, calming, cleansing. Three men sit just outside of the tent. They turn their backs to Marianna out of respect? This is her moment of solitude, but not quite, because I am watching. As she’s washing, her beauty is luminous next to the earth, the mud on the ground just outside her tent. A woman tries to maintain her dignity and command respect.
Four years later, I am in the south of Haiti running Haiti Projects as its CEO. I gather with our staff of 85 women and we discuss work, their work. They tell me what they need -- new sewing machines, a generator, a raise. I listen. I feel that sense of dignity that Marianna held, but there is a difference. These women are not grasping for dignity, they have it. They are in control of their lives, they speak their minds and speak of the future, and they help me understand what is needed in order for us to work together for the success of the artisanat, Fond des Blancs and Haiti. At the end of our meeting, they ask to pray for Haiti Projects. We bow our heads and they sing in unison in French “How Great Thou Art.” I am humbled, proud, and in awe of the impact of the artisanat, this work and these women. Who is helping whom learn the meaning of dignity?