Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Day 1 of Giving: The Haitian Bead Project

I remember my first day meeting the ladies. A small group of them gathered in the stifling heat of the afternoon. They made a circle with wooden chairs in the shade of one of the buildings. I was too shy to use the Haitian Kreyol I knew so I just took a seat and watched them work.

One woman cut cardboard from cereal boxes and other packaging into triangle-shaped strips. Several other women took the strips of recycled cardboard and began to roll the cardboard around skewers creating the beads. They glued the beads in place. Another woman carried the skewers full of beads to a spot in the sun where the glue could dry. Someone else used a paint brush to apply varnish to make the completed beads shine. While they worked, the ladies chattered in Kreyol. Their kids played in the school yard nearby. The babies climbed in mamas' laps as they worked. One mama even stopped to breastfeed. I could see right away that this was not just a way for the women to make money but also a way for them to create community.
Madame Moise became one of my friends this summer. She always made a point of saving me a chair and greeting me in Haitian Kreyol or her broken English when I arrived. She was always eager to show me her work and ask my opinion about colors. Despite the language barrier, we became friends through the days that stretched into months. We were bound together by beads and string, rainbows of color and combinations.

Perhaps the most exciting part about this project for me is that these women are able to use their creativity to earn a fair wage. Sure, we could give them a handout. We could raise money to buy food for them or clothes for their children. Or, we can give them the gift of dignity through this grass-roots business that provides work and fosters community. The sale of just one necklace to a friend here in the United States can provide up to a month's worth of wages the ladies could earn in Haiti. Jobs are scarce in Haiti, especially for women. These women find hope through The Haitian Bead Project.

*We invite you to consider supporting the artisans of the Haitian Bead Project by purchasing a bracelet or necklace this Christmas. They make great gifts for teachers, moms, grandmas and even kids on your list. If you live in Fresno, California, our final holiday sale will be this Friday, December 16. We are hosting an Open House from 4 to 8 p.m. at our home. Call me at 559.908.0004 for details. If you live outside of Fresno, the jewelry can be shipped and you can host your own Open House.

For more regular updates on The Haitian Bead Project and ways you can volunteer or buy the jewelry throughout the year, LIKE The Haitian Bead Project on Facebook.

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