Haiti Design Co is passionate about providing quality employment for our workers, which also means that we strive to help them lead quality lives.
We try to provide an educational opportunity for our workers each month, so that they can receive training to be motivated to apply some helpful skill to their lives. We also think it’s important to provide them with fun activities, as the more time I spend with our Haitian friends, the more I hear them talking about how so many problems exist in Haiti (unplanned pregnancy, violence, etc.) simply because there are very little outlets for people to have fun and spend time doing something good and constructive.
But we don’t want all of these opportunities to stop with our workers. We want our workers to go back to their neighborhoods and talk about what they are participating in. We want our employees to introduce kids in their communities to healthy ways of spending their free time.
Earlier this month, a team from Haiti Design Co. decided to take a trip to an elderly care home. As soon as I stepped into the home, my thoughts began wandering back to years before when I was serving in a few orphanages here in Haiti. At a first glance, it seemed so open- seeing the yard and trees, but of course the first glance never ceases to deceive, and the sunlight doesn’t ever seem to last longer than those first moments.
Our HDC in Action team immediately did what their name asks of them - they jumped into action. Before I could even soak up the realities of what my eyes were seeing, our female workers, who normally spend this day making HDC jewelry or sewing bags, were now bathing elderly women in wheelchairs with the utmost tenderness. Our leather team, who would normally be sanding, beveling, and sewing bags, were now giving haircuts, making people smile with their jokes, and were hauling water from the well.
There were no hesitations, no complaints. I was serving right beside them, but couldn’t help staring at our team. I watched them the whole day, as they loved and served, and put their whole selves into what they were doing. I couldn’t help but feel this amazing pride sweep over me at how they were so selflessly giving themselves, and honestly I was blown away.
I honestly don’t know a lot of people who could handle that kind of experience- both foreigners and Haitians alike. In the few hours we were there, we had managed to see firsthand the kind of abuse, neglect, and wrongdoing that usually takes months or years to discover elsewhere.
When we got in our taptap to head back to the workshop, all of their voices broke out at once. They mourned over the sick and hurt. They ranted over the newly discovered injustices they had just seen with their own eyes. They laughed in joy over the relationships they had made. It was as if all of a sudden, this new kind of passion was bubbling up in them all at once.
Afterwards, Wideline, on our jewelry team told me, “I learned a lot about the kind of mistreatment and poverty that exists in those places, and learned how important is it for us to continue serving our community, and to keep giving more. I know God is always with me, but He was with me in a different way that day. He gave me strength to lift those from their wheelchairs and bathe them.”
“When I was helping an older woman bathe, she was telling me that her family doesn’t ever come to see her, and was overjoyed that our group from Haiti Design came to see her. I felt like God was right there with me at that moment.”- Cassan
All of them were so overjoyed to have made some connections with people, and to have had the chance to serve. But even more so, the injustices and wrong things that they had seen stuck with them. They began to talk about the sick they met who should normally be just fine, they talked about the supplies not being distributed but disappearing instead. They mourned over the abuse, and were angry about the reality of the kind of suffering that exists in these kinds of places.
When you see things with your eyes, meet those who suffer at the hands of others, experience the reality that is happening right around you, it changes you. You become different. You can’t just forget.
I already see this happening with our team. They are already planning what they can do next, how they can make a difference. And now that they are aware of what’s happening, I hope that this generation can prevent the mistakes made by the generation before them.
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.