I’ve been in Haiti now for three days for the second annual #Bloggers4Haiti trip. Myself and other bloggers like TechSavvyMama, KellyTillman, and Kety Esquivel are here with support from Macy’s Heart of Haiti, The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, and the leadership of the Everywhere agency. During our time here we travel the island from Port-au-Prince to Jacmel to witness first-hand the sustainable economic development programs that Willa Shalit of Fairwinds Trading, the visionary behind all of this, has spearheaded.
Recognizing the rich talent of Haitian artists, Willa and the Artisan Business Network scouts Haiti to find talented artists that are skilled at metal artwork, embroidery, soap stone sculpting, beading, paper-mache and other art unique to the island. Once an artist is located, they are trained to help them improve the business aspect of their craft so that they can sell their products for distribution to stores like Macy’s and others.
The program started three years ago after the earthquake to help provide trade and the opportunity to earn a sustainable income for people that have lost so much. Some of the artists still live in tent cities even three years later. One group we met last year call themselves OFEDA. Translated, OFEDA stands for Organization of Women Devoted to Take Action. After the earthquake, these women were living in a ravine in make-shift tents. Every time the hard rains came these women lost their “homes” – again. Time after time they started over.
In a moment where many of us would have given up hope entirely, these women that seemed so powerless empowered themselves by taking action. They formed an independent group structured to do business and support and encourage each other. There goals are to slowly and steadily build businesses within their group and to train the young OFEDA girls to also do business.
Even while working and living in the most rigorous conditions, these women that are now 200 women strong have an unshakable energy. And they are amazingly talented. They make hand-embroidered cards and beautiful soap sold for profit.
We went to their camp Sunday to celebrate Haitian Mother’s Day.They greeted us in song with beautiful smiles on their face. The song was of their story. “We are women, women we are, and we are resilient.” Beautiful and so powerful.
The women then introduced themselves and we met the officers of the group and they shared the number of children. One women had nine children; another a 80+ year-old widow with no children. Later we played with their children, ate cake and Haitian patties, and had fellowship. It was really a powerful afternoon.
For women that seem to have so little, I have learned such a valuable, rich lesson in hope and perseverance. Take a listen.
If you are interested in learning more about the women of OFEDA please visit OFEDA.com.
FTC Disclosure, a portion of this trip was funded however all opinions are my own.