Ayiti Cheri

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

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



Haiti Highlight: Jacmel

Our sweet Caribbean island is home to diverse landscapes and rich beauty, and while we love that our work and home life is centered in the vibrant city of Port au Prince, there is nothing else like a quick beach getaway. That's where the lovely Jacmel comes in.

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Located in the Southern part of the island, Jacmel is an old port town originally founded by the Spanish, but repopulated by the French. The French influence is heavy, but most heavily seen in the grand colonial architecture. There are buildings centuries old complete with large pillars, wrought-iron gates, spiral staircases, and intricate designs tiled across the floor.

The colors are just as rich as the history with pops of blues and greens spread across the town. The photo below is from the iconic Hotel Florita, known for its classic gingerbread style architecture and delicious rhum sours. 

Beyond its beautiful beaches and preserved architecture, Jacmel has a vibrant arts scene and serves as one of Haiti's most culturally-rich hubs for handmade goods. This especially come to life every year in Carnival season. In February, our team not only got to experience the colorful parade, but we were also able to visit some of our partner artisans, our woodworking team! Boss Jonas and his team live in the mountains and craft beautiful wood pieces completely by hand. 

Lastly, Jacmel is home to Bassin Bleu, a series of 3 deep natural pools tucked away in the mountains. Accessible only by a guided hike through lush mountain greens, the pools are a deep, mesmerizing teal. You can spend the afternoon jumping, diving, and swimming with the mermaids. 

Oh and did we mention the sunsets?