Art - by Jerry

Our advanced English class was tasked with writing an essay about something that is important to them - and to document it with a roll of film and a disposable camera. We loved every bit of reading their work, and what it reveals about the beauty of Haitian culture and the people we get to work with.

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My name is Jerry and I am a artisan working at Haiti Design Co. There are many definitions of art, but instead of trying to provide the meaning of what art is, I want to give you a glimpse of what art looks like in Haiti, and why it is important for us.

In Haiti there are so many different accessories and styles. Even in just our workshop, you will find a variety in our collection. We have products at our workshop made with paper mache, horn and bone, metal work, aluminum casting, leather, beadwork, wood, and fabric. There are so many things that give us inspiration. Our trees, their leaves, the shape of our houses, our valleys, our mountains, the color of our beaches, there are so many different things that artists can gain inspiration from. 

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Art is something that you can learn by studying, by practicing, and through observation. But in Haiti, art is something that we learn to do not only because we are passionate about it, but because it helps us to earn a living.

Art helps us to grow relationships with other countries, and it helps to change Haiti’s image as a country that is beautiful and resourceful. Art shows a different side of Haiti, a side that represents the good in our country. 

Art is a reason for people from all over the world to come and visit Haiti, and to meet so many great people and professional artisans.

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Haitian Cuisine - by Ismaella

Our advanced English class was tasked with writing an essay about something that is important to them - and to document it with a roll of film and a disposable camera. We loved every bit of reading their work, and what it reveals about the beauty of Haitian culture and the people we get to work with.

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Every country in the world can be recognized and represented by what’s on a plate.

Just as we can recognize Italy by its pastas and pizzas, so can Haiti be recognized by its original Haitian patty stuffed with meat, veggies, and sauce. Patties are usually eaten in the morning and can be enjoyed with a hard-boiled egg, spicy sauce, and a banana.
Haiti has a variety of foods unique to our culture, like tontonm, which is made from breadfruit with okra sauce, and tchaka, which has a base made from corn and beans.

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Some typical foods listed on our daily menus are: Cornmeal with beans and fish sauce, soups made with bread and leafy greens, Akasan, which is a smooth and creamy breakfast item, stews made with tender goat meat, and yams and cassava with sauce.

Some foods come from our African origins, and some come from the cultures of countries who had colonized our island, like our pumpkin soup that we make every January.

Some say that when our ancestors were slaves, they used to watch as their oppressors drank the soup from the pumpkins that they had labored over, and when the slaves became free, they drank the soup in triumph, in light of their victory over their former masters. So this is why on our independence day, on January 1st, all Haitians here in Haiti, and around the world eat pumpkin soup.

Our spices have such flavor and foreigners always testify to how exceptional everything tastes. Each province in Haiti has its own specialty, and the different dishes are countless.

If I was going to write about the entire list of Haitian cuisine, I’m not sure when I would be able to finish.
I might be a little biased, but in my opinion, Haitian cuisine is the best!

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Fashion Revolution Week: PART 3

Fashion never unnecessarily destroys or discards but mindfully redesigns and recuperates in a circular way. Fashion is repaired, reused, recycled and upcycled.
— #7 from the Fashion Revolution Manifesto

We have a very strategic “Waste Not, Want Not” mindset when it comes to designing our products. Our team members are not only talented craftsmen and women, but have an eye for design and resourcefulness. From leather remnant jewelry to up-cycled aluminum- our artisans can turn what once would have been discarded into new treasures. To check out pieces from our Remnant Jewelry Collection, click here.

Meet Sandy Dulorier from the Jewelry Team-

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“My name is Sandy, I’m 22 years old. I live in Petite Place Cazeau, and I love my neighborhood because it is calm and peaceful. My bedroom is painted salmon pink because it makes me feel comfortable. I’m a believer that men can still be manly if they wear pink.

I like to swim, go out to eat with friends, and dance, especially to African music. When I am having a bad day, I like to listen to music and tell jokes. Something that always makes me laugh is when people fall or trip, it always gets me.

This might be weird but I really like the dark. People complain when the electricity goes out, but this usually makes me feel happy because it’s dark out. When I’m at home I spend a lot of time styling hair, and trying to create new styles out of clothes that are too big for me. I love the summer time because it’s hot and there is a lot of stuff going on, which usually makes people happy, and I love getting to see people smile. I wish I had a superpower that would give me the ability to unify people, so that I could remove discrimination and fighting. I just like when things are peaceful, when I can laugh, and see the stars when it’s dark out.”

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Fashion Revolution Week: PART 2

Our team members are the heart of what we do at Haiti Design Collective. Aside from a commitment to creating stable jobs, we provide what we call “holistic employment”- benefits that support the overall well-being of our artisan communities, addressing much more than financial need. To learn more about our Wellness and Education programs, click here.

Fashion measures success by more than just sales and profits. Fashion places equal value on financial growth, human wellbeing and environmental sustainability.
— #9 from the Fashion Revolution Manifesto

Meet Berlain Saint Cyr from the Leather Team-

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My name is Berlain but I earned the name Abella after mispronouncing the spanish word “abuela” (meaning grandmother) in Spanish class. I live in Bon Repos, and really love my neighborhood because you could literally dig a well anywhere and find water.

Apart from being an artisan at Haiti Design, I am a mechanic and love cars. My favorite is the Nissan Frontier- I love the new model; it’s as close to perfect as a vehicle can come. I have always loved fixing things, whether its cars, or sewing machines, or a broken toilet. I love watching how-to videos on youtube and teaching myself how to do things. I’ll fix anything. I don’t have my own car, but I do have a motorcycle- I call her Ti ble, which means Little Blue. Ti ble never loses in a race, and rides as smooth as butter. I taught myself how to drive, and I wasn’t afraid, even at first.

I remember not being afraid during the earthquake too, even though I was at school and the building was shaking and falling down. When it started shaking, I was running trying to get out, but one of my friends got trampled under the crowd and was yelling for me, so I went back for him and got him out. That was probably the bravest I have ever felt. Maybe this is why Superman is my favorite superhero- because he is the bravest, and let’s be honest, all the other superheroes had to bring him back to life because he was the only one who was powerful enough to win. He also wears red and that's my favorite color, because red is a color that feels vibrant and alive. It makes me feel strong when I wear red.

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Fashion Revolution Week: PART 1

We are excited to join in on Fashion Revolution’s movement to bring more transparency to the fashion industry. We highly encourage you to take a moment to read the 10 pillars of their manifesto here.

Fashion liberates worker and wearer and empowers everyone to stand up for their rights.
— #1 of the Fashion Revolution Manifesto

In honor of this very important week, we want to spotlight 3 of our artisans and dear friends at Haiti Design Collective.

Meet Darline Felix from the sewing team-

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“My name is Darline, but I love the nickname Dadou because it’s really simple and I like it. I like to listen to music a lot, and even though a lot of people in Haiti don’t like reggae music, I’m a fan of reggae. I also love to dance, and even learned how to dance folklore before I had my son. My son is always making me laugh with his funny questions. My son is so important to me. Back in 2015, I went on a vacation and when I came back home, everything in my home was stolen. I had to become pretty strong after that, and I learned to become more selfless to take care of him. I have pretty much replaced everything that was stolen at this point, and everyone comments on the good changes that they have seen in me since then. I love wearing bright colors because I tend to get a lot of compliments when I wear them. I love wearing green the most. Green makes me think of perseverance, and that is a quality that I feel like defines who I am. I would love to have the ability to teleport- to just disappear whenever I wanted to. I think this is why I love when people style their hair and have bangs, because it always hides their foreheads really well. Bangs should never go out of style.”

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Psst… Darline is sporting her FAVORITE new piece from our new collection. The Essentials Crossbody in Pale Yellow leather is coming very soon! Stay tuned friends :)


Photos above were taken by Kelsey Cherry Photography

HAIRSTYLES- by Sandy

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In Haiti, we have so many different kind of hairstyles that it has become a real art. And this is something that I feel excited to write about because it is part of my field of work as well.

When I was little, it was difficult for my mom to do my hair in the morning before school. My hair was so kinky and different that she used to create different styles that would be able to last for a while, so that she wouldn’t have to do my hair every day. The styles that she often chose were Ti Kouri, which are twists, and Ti Tres, which are little braids.

I started to style my own hair when I was ten years old because it become such a hard task that I was the only one who could do it. I began to love it. I loved combing through my hair every day, and even though my braids and twists weren’t traced very well or styled perfectly, I was pretty proud of myself back then.

I continued to do my own hair until eventually I became really good at it and other people started to really like the styles I came up with, and I began styling other people’s hair. It became a passion for me, and it soon became a way that I could also earn money, as so many people began coming to me to style their hair.

There are so many different kinds of styles in Haiti. Braids, twists, cornrows, buns, fishtails, curls, ringlets, waves, and braids that are intricately braided into other braids. Hairstyling is truly an art in itself.

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International Women's Day: an Ode to Empowered Women!

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In honor of International Women’s Day, we want to share with you a very special, and personal message from one of our jewelry artisans. Ismaella and her mother, Carmelle, have worked with Haiti Design Co since 2013. They have a special bond that is undeniable.

Ismaella is a part of our in-house advanced english class. As a final project for 2018, the students were asked to write an essay about something they are passionate about. Below is Ismaella’s heartfelt essay on her personal role model and representation of women’s empowerment.

Enjoy!

“At Haiti Design Co. we have several teams who work in the workshop and I belong to one of these teams, the jewelry team. Every team has their own name, and mine is Fanm Djanm, which means strong women. The person who gave us this name is our manager, Guerdy, who is a devoted wife, an amazing mother, and is the definition of a strong woman.

There are several of us, and among us there are single mothers and independent women, and all of us are strong. I am a strong woman because of my mother. She is a single mom and a brave woman.

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My mother told me that when she was pregnant, she had to run away from her father and leave her hometown and her house because he wanted to hurt her. He had become her enemy for years. A lady took my mom in like a foster mom after her escape, and it was in her house that I grew up.

My mom had to become a street vendor in order to earn money to ensure our survival. She sacrificed a lot for me. She was both my mother and my father as she raised me. She fought to give me what is good and what is best. She has fulfilled all of her parental duties, and I won’t ever stop thanking her for everything that she has done for me.

In Haiti, life is difficult.In an unorganized society, men often don’t respect women, and fathers often do not take responsibility for their children. Women have to become strong to survive and to support their children.

This kind of woman is everywhere. She could be a friend, or a family member, or a stranger. We can meet them throughout the day and not even know it. But for me, I don’t have to look any further than at my work. We are a small community of strong women. We share good and bad times, and because we spend so much time together, we have become a second family.

There is no shortage of strong women who work at HDC. HDC gives us the opportunity to earn money and allows us to become better than we could have imagined. We can go farther, and we can understand that we have potential for great things. HDC helps us realize that we don’t need a man to help us, but that we can take care of ourselves and our families.

In our eyes, you can see hope, in our hearts, there is courage and love. We are women who know how to overcome adversity, women who know how to get up after a fall. Strength is the best word to define us, and that’s why we are called Fanm Djanm.”



Make sure to send some extra love to the strong women in your life today.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Photos by the talented Kelsey Cherry Photography

New Year, Same Us

Many use the month of January to create a new mantra for themselves, turn a new leaf, start fresh,
but in the midst of this turning of pages, we want to remind you that while we are ever-growing, and ever-inspired to build on new ideas, our mission is the same:

We employ and partner with local artisans in Haiti
to provide economic, educational and wellness opportunities.

Here’s a glimpse into our partnership with Horn & Bone Artisan, Andre Paul:

+ on partnership with Aluminum Casting Artisan, Jeff:

Also as a reminder, you play a key role in this mission and this partnership, because with every purchase, you generate momentum for artisans’ work in Haiti, providing more and more opportunity for them and their goals.

How’s that for a New Year’s resolution?

The Gift of a Shift in Perspective

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Do you ever think about the little treasures you’ve picked up along the way during your travels? Both emotionally, physically, and spiritually? Maybe creative inspiration, maybe a phrase in another language that just expresses the message better than your own.

In Santo Domingo I learned that if you’re going to take a tequila shot, you MUST do it with a lime wedge that’s been dipped in sugar on one side and coffee grinds on the other. Try it.

Haiti travels taught me about resourceful artistic expression. And luckily my home now has these gems scattered throughout.

Trips to New York push my style outside of its comfort zone. It makes me want to try new things and be more expressive in the way I dress.

And Italy… oh Italy. It made me appreciate quality. In food, in architecture, in experiences. It made me want to slow down and appreciate the delicacies of life.

We lucky ones have been able to travel to new places, maybe internationally or maybe within our state lines, and fill up on inspiration. We fill up on goods or ideas and then we take them home and make them our own. Everything we pick up along the way becomes a part of us, but made new. We come back rejuvenated and infuse our new perspective into our surroundings.

This is precisely the experience we want to give our artisans. While we can’t provide it for everyone, we can send a few, and then they can come home to Haiti, make it new, and share it with others.

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While in Italy in 2017, Josh and I stumbled upon a traditional leather working school in an old monastery in Florence. There were students from across the world gathered in the small, beautiful classroom studios. We had the pleasure of meeting with the director and getting a tour. One of the first things she said to us was this-

“If you’re looking to train factory workers, this is not the school for you. We train up artisans- they become masters of the process from design to production.”

This spoke right to our vision at Haiti Design Co. To invest in and send out leaders, true artisans, that can run their teams with integrity and create quality.

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Since then we’ve been dreaming about the opportunity to send off a few of our most promising leather artisans and give them this once in a lifetime experience. To learn not just technical skills, but to experience the shift in cultural perspective. To be immersed in a country rich in history, art, craftsmanship, and with fellow students from across the globe. To get the freedom to be removed from the chaos of their own beautiful nation for a few months to learn, be challenged, be inspired, and then come home and create.

We know this isn’t the typical fundraising request you hear from Haiti. It’s not for an orphanage, it’s not for a feeding program, it’s not for aid. While those things are vital and have their place, we decided early on our approach to development was going to look a little bit different. It was going to involve digging deeper into our relationships with the artisan leaders, investing in opportunity, and letting the ripple effect work as it will. We’ve seen success from this so far- and are eagerly awaiting what’s to come once this particular dream of ours is able to become a reality.

Please join us in investing in these individuals, and inherently investing in the future of their communities as well.

With much love and gratitude,

-Chandler



Meet the Makers: Winter 2018

 
 

Every product is made by a person -
Here are the faces behind this season’s Maker’s Box goods:


Ostine: Sewing

Haiti has everything a person can need, but a lot of people feel obligated to leave because they can’t find a way to provide for their families. HDC has given me a job to not only use my skills, but provides me with a way to remain in the country that I love and provide for my family. This work is so, so good for my family. Thanks for purchasing our products, as every product we sell allows us to keep doing a job we love.
— Ostine

GILBERT : Horn + Bone

 
I love how delicate this work is, and love refining our materials to make them into the design we want. I have become really close to the members of my team. We always have so much fun together, are always positive, and live like a family.
— Gilbert
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Order the Winter Edition of the Maker’s Box, featuring products from the Sewing and Horn + Bone Teams:

Training Spotlight: Sere Pou Demen

Salaus Maitre, our in-house personal finance mentor for our Sere Pou Demen program, held a budgeting training this month to teach on the ideas of setting financial goals and taking steps to reach them.

“I had several goals for this training. First of all I wanted everyone who attended the seminar to leave with a better grasp of how to prioritize their goals and to make their goals more clear and attainable. I wanted them to leave with the understanding of how to create and evaluate a budget, and to have a better grasp on how their money is being spent and how to go about understanding that better.

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I felt that the training went very well. I have had so many people who attended the training that came up to me the following week and talked to me about how they were changing their spending habits and were sticking to the budget they created. I even had one participant use my own advice against me in order to stick to their budget and not spend carelessly. That made me so excited and happy to see the training being practically lived out!” - Salaus

“I really liked this training. It helped me to understand the basics of how to create a budget that is manageable. I now feel like I have the necessary understanding to know how to spend wisely in order to stick to the budget I have created.” - Abraham

“This training really helped me to understand how to manage my finances and how I need to limit my spending so that I don’t end up wasting my money, and instead I can reach my goals.”
— Clairna

The Sere Pou Demen program is a customized education and savings programs provided to our artisans for the purpose of land & home investment, furthering their education, and business start-up. 

Support Sere Pou Demen below -
all donations go toward matching savings incentives for our participants this holiday season.

Meet the Makers: Fall 2018

 
 

Every product is made by a person -
Here are the faces behind this season’s Maker’s Box magic:

MEET CLERNA - JEWELRY TEAM

I love working with my team. We work well together, and are always taking care of each other.
 

MEET GERALD - LEATHER TEAM

Working with HDC betters our lives, and I want everyone to see how we represent our country in the products we create.

Social Programs Report: Prison Visit

   When we asked our Haiti Design team what kind of thing they would like to do in their community, the sewing team almost immediately jumped in about how they all desired to visit a prison. Whether you have lived in Haiti all of your life or even a short time, you have heard the horrible rumors of how people are treated in the prisons here.

  “I need to see for myself.”

  “I need to see if it’s true.”

  “Jesus tells us to go and visit, and yet we never have.”

   Those were the resounding forefront responses of our team desiring to go.

    We didn’t know what to expect, in fact none of us have ever gone.
   Fabienne, our Director of Operations, jumped at the opportunity to serve, and immediately searched out a contact for our team to go with. Fabienne connected with Heartline ministries, and our team went together with them this past week.

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   “It was so important for our team to go visit this prison- none of us really understood the reality of what happens behind bars,” Fabienne said, “ I think the most important thing our team learned while we there is how similar we all are. The reality is that many of these women that we visited had been in the prison for a really long time and they haven’t even had a trial or have seen a judge yet. There were many women who were struggling with severe health issues like cancer or were pregnant. Having the opportunity to just pray with these women and offer a small amount of encouragement was really humbling.”
   As the leader, Fabienne was so proud of how engaged our Sewing Ladies were. They were so overjoyed to be able to help in a small way, and knew how important it was that they share about the need and suffering happening in prisons here.

 

“While I was there, I met so many women who were just like me, but they were in prison, guilty or not. I felt God pushing me to pray for them, to liberate those who are innocent and haven’t even had a trial.” -Rose Lore

 

 “When I met the women serving time in the prison we visited, that made me really reflect on a lot of things. When I got home, I talked with my children and a lot of other people about my experience. I told them how important it is to be cautious and careful, so that they don’t end up in a place like that.” -Yvrose

 

  “We all sin and we make mistakes.” Fabienne went on, “There isn’t a huge difference. We need to speak out for those who are innocent and are stuck without help, and we also need to encourage those who did something wrong and are now paying the price.”

   One of the members of the sewing team, Darline, shared of her experience with many members of our other teams, and that led to some hard questions, and good discussion. Afterwards, they got together, joined hands on our rooftop, and prayed out all at once- for the women they met, the injustice they had seen, and for the hardships of the ones in their own circle.

    “Seeing a reality like that, “ Fabienne said, “It moves you towards compassion, and that’s the direction we want to always be moving toward.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Courtney Sanon lives in Port au Prince, Haiti with her husband Jimmy and their two adorable dogs. Courtney is the Social Programs Coordinator at Haiti Design Co. and is also the founder and director of Ansanm Haiti, which supports family preservation and community development in rural areas of Haiti. 

Meet the Makers: Summer 2018

The Summer Maker's Box is one to behold - beadwork and aluminum casting artisans bring you the best of their workshops, and you get to learn more about their lives, in turn. By ordering your Maker's Box, you lean into the connection that we all have with the makers of every product we buy, and step closer into the Haiti Design Collective family. 

Meet Maggie: Beadwork

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My name is Maggie Joseph and I started working with HDC when we began the VAK branch in O Cap. Before getting this job, I was always in a situation where I was constantly obligated to take out loans, but since having a steady job with VAK, I have never had to borrow money- which is very empowering. I would love that our customers know and realize what a difference they are truly making. There are so many women in my neighborhood that watch me go to work every day, and they often come to the workshop looking for a job. Every product our customers have purchased have given so many people steady jobs that help support their families, and every product they will buy in the future will give even more steady jobs. I want to see VAK grow and make progress, and I want to help my children to receive a good education so that they can go far in life. I’m very proud of the work I do at VAK, and am proud of the way our team collaborates together. 

 

What is your favorite……

- Haitian proverb: Yon sel dwet pa manje kalalou: You can’t eat okra with only one finger

-Haitian artist: worship artist- Libenson

-Haitian food: Plantains with beef

-Place to visit in Haiti: Port-au-Prince


Didier Fernand: Aluminum Casting

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I’m Didier. I am 31 years old and am from the city of Port-au-Prince. I am a Christian and am the oldest in my family, so a lot of responsibility rests on my shoulders. I have been an Artisan for three years. I grew up in the same neighborhood as my team manager and he taught me everything I know when it comes to creating pieces out of aluminum. I love creating our aluminum animals and bangles, and I enjoy stamping and creating different patterns in our products. I have come to feel really comfortable doing this kind of work. My team interacts like a family does. We are always joking around, encouraging each other, and making sure to keep lifting one another up when someone is feeling down. I’m really thankful that my team is a dynamic one that is continually enthusiastic about what we are creating, and is always there to help the next person out when needed. As a Haitian, I am so proud of the history of my country and of how we started a revolution to gain our independence. I feel so proud when someone purchases our products and sees that there a lot of beautiful things that come from Haiti.

 

What is your favorite……

- Haitian proverb: Kabrit ki gen twop met mouri nan soley (A goat with too many masters dies in the sun)

-Haitian artist: Ritchi

-Haitian food: Rice with bean sauce and Haitian vegetables

-Place to visit in Haiti: Jacmel

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Artisan Highlight: Yvrose

We are partnering with Pure Charity in this year's She is Priceless campaign, raising support for our Wellness & Educational programs at Haiti Design Co

Every dollar that you give will go directly towards providing a daily nutritious meal, monthly educational seminars, quality health insurance, micro-business & personal mentorship, and support our artisan savings program.  

Your support will help our artisan communities to not only survive, but to thrive. 


Yvrose, Sewing Team

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A staff member that has been deeply impacted by the holistic employment and education of HDC is Yvrose, of our Sewing Team. This is a snapshot of her story:

“The programs that Haiti Design Co offers me as an employee have helped me in so many ways, and I am very thankful for them in my life. This past year I was living in government housing and out of nowhere they came to evict me. I had been working on building my own house in a different area, but I still had a lot to do in order to be able to move in. Thankfully, Haiti Design Co had started a program called Saving for Tomorrow before this problem arose and I was able to save up enough money through this savings program in order to finish my house quickly to move in once I was evicted.

I am also thankful for the health insurance provided through Haiti Design Co. I went to see a doctor because I was in a lot of pain, my back was hurting me constantly. When I was younger I worked in a factory, and the work I did there really took a toll on my back. The insurance that Haiti Design Co provides pays for 80% of hospital care and medicine. This is amazing because there is no way I would have the total cost in order to see a doctor in those needed times. The doctor was able to help me and give me good advice of how to deal with my back pain when I’m working.

The programs that Haiti Design Co offers me as an employee have helped me in so many ways, and I am very thankful for them in my life.
— Yvrose, HDC Sewing Team

Haiti Design Co provides a meal for us to eat every day, and this isn’t only great for me, but for the entire team of ladies I work with every day. I have to leave very early to get to work on time because of transportation and city traffic. I don’t have enough time to make a meal. Even if I begin preparing something, someone in my family would need to eat it and I would have to wait until I get home in the evening to eat. Without this meal, I would be eating some crackers or a cup of coffee to get through the day.

I try to attend all of the trainings and seminars that Haiti Design Co offers. My favorite by far was the business training I attended last month. I learned so many things, and the session was packed with helpful information. When I am finished with the projects remaining on my house, I want to focus on starting a side business. The training really motivated me.”