From the Founder
In the summer of 2011, I traveled to Haiti with my husband and daughters to begin work directing a non-profit in the growing town of Pignon. During a bumpy truck ride from the Port Au Prince airport to the northern mountains, our Haitian director Peter shared with me his vision of providing jobs for women in the community. He had a burden for the hungry, the hopeless, the children who needed education. He had chosen a few women and sent them for training with a jewelry company in Port-Au-Prince. He asked me if I would help him with this dream.
My heart leapt when I first heard about this. I never imagined that I would have the chance to use my passion for creativity and my love for making jewelry in Haiti. That summer I gathered our first group of artisans – nine women from Pignon who stepped up to learn how to roll their own beads from recycled cardboard. The first days were challenging. We had a language barrier between us, and I had to earn their trust. Through the months and years, these women have become my treasured friends and the core of our business. Through our project, the artisans gain new skills, an eye for creativity and fashion, an understanding of business principles and managing money, and a means for providing for their families.
Today, we have 60 artisans working in the cities of Pignon and Savanette. We believe a person gains dignity and purpose through his or her work. For decades, Haitians have been offered relief and handouts with crippling effects. There has been little plan for long-term development. We want to empower Haitians to provide for themselves and build their own communities rather than furthering a culture of dependency. Many of the artisans in our project have taken the money they have earned and used it for further education or even start their own small businesses.
Our products feature handmade beads created from “upcycled” materials like cardboard and coconut shells. Each piece of jewelry is unique. No two necklaces or bracelets or even beads will ever be the same because of the creative process for making this jewelry.
Our artisans take various types of recycled thin cardboard like cereal boxes and cut these into triangular strips using a paper cutter. The artisan then rolls the strips of cardboard on bamboo skewers to form the shape of the bead. The bead is coated with glue to help secure the layers of cardboard. Next the artisan will varnish the bead to seal and protect the bead, making it waterproof and giving it a shine. The skewers of beads are then set in the sun to dry. After the beads are dried, the artisan goes to work making jewelry pieces. She may mix seed beads, glass beads or other unique beads with her own handcrafted beads to create unique bracelets, necklaces and earrings. The goal is to create quality, beautiful pieces that customers can wear or use to make a fashion statement. Every purchase has a purpose, honoring the artisan and the individual who wears it.
One of the huge benefits of this project is the way it fosters community among the Haitian people. In rural Haiti, the women often spend much of their day washing clothes in the river, gardening, hauling water from wells, cleaning and preparing food. We quickly discovered that making beads was a project the women could work on in the afternoons during the hottest hours of the day. Our artisans often find shade from the sun beneath the awning of a school building or in a church yard. They pull together a circle of chairs and roll beads. This is a time for the women to connect, to breathe. Their laughter and singing rings across the dusty fields. Their babies and children play at their feet or in a field nearby. The project fosters community as young mothers and grandmas, aunties and nephews find themselves working together and encouraging one another.
Offering Fair Wages
Our business is committed to offering fair wages to women and men in the northern mountains of Haiti. We want every individual to be honored for her time and creativity. We have a team of volunteers and ambassadors from around the globe who partner with us to offer a hand up to our artisans and share the story of our business.
We invite you to join us.