I just returned from my fifth trip to Haiti over the last four years. Each time I leave Haiti I return to the states with so many different emotions; I feel inspired, encouraged, hopeless, frustrated all at the same time. Much has been done but still so much more remains. I am often asked how people can help, what they can do. There are many different organizations, non-profits, etc. that I am aware of that it would be hard to name them all. Through #Bloggers4Haiti, I can do a small part in sharing an initiative between Macy’s Heart of Haiti, the Artisan Business Network, and Farewinds Trading that helps make a significant impact on the lives of Haitian Artisans.
Haitian Artisans & Macy’s Heart of Haiti
As the daughter of a proud Haitian, I grew up with Haitian artwork and artifacts all over my house, at the homes of family members and friends. I never really knew the history or the traditions that derive from the art until I became a part of #Bloggers4Haiti. What I did know, however, was that art craft was an important representation of Haitian culture and identity.
What most people probably don’t know is that a large percentage of Haitians make their only income selling their handmade crafts. Since the earthquake and even before, the percentage of artifacts and other artwork exported out of Haiti dropped significantly having a severe impact on the only source of income for many Haitians. This is where Macy’s Heart of Haiti makes a difference. Heart of Haiti are beautiful handmade artifacts sold in Macy’s stores throughout the country. We travel to Haiti to meet the artisans, see how they make their craft, how their lives have changed as a result of the Heart of Haiti program, and share this with our readers.
Our Trip to Leogane:
Across the little island, the are different regions where certain art forms derive from. The traditions are often passed down among generations. For example, in the beach town of Jacmel, there are some of the best Papier-Mache artisans. In Croix-des-Bouquets you’ll find many metal artisans.
In the countryside of Leogane we met two soapstone artisans. Léogâne was the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake. Only about 20 miles from the capital of Port-au-Prince, the town seems worlds apart. It is not nearly as congested as the capital.
To get to the artisans we had to travel through a dry riverbed for what seemed like several miles, then climb up a short cliff to find their home. When we arrived, children were running around excited to see us. They didn’t have on shoes, their clothes were torn and tattered, but they were smiling and happy. I had some trail mix in my bag so I gave the kids handfuls each. You could tell the raisins, salty peanuts and chocolate covered candies at first seemed funny to them. After climbing up even higher we met the couple whose products were being prepared for sale to Macy’s.
They showed us how the soapstone is carved and shaped by hand into beautiful designs. After several stages, some drying time, and polishing, a bowl, statute, or other piece is finally finished. The work and detail was just beautiful.
Leaving Léogâne I thought of how much their lives have changed and will change from this order. And knowing one day their bowls will line the shelves of a department store in a metropolitan city soon seemed surreal.
I could write so much about our trip to Leogane but really the pictures and video say it all. Enjoy!
Disclosure: My air travel was provided for this trip thanks to a sponsorship by the Everywhere Agency. All other expenses were paid for by me using money generated from this blog. (So keep reading, wink!) Opinions and thoughts are my own.