If I had to guess, I would estimate that I've been to Haiti about 20 times in my 22 years. I stopped tallying the number of trips at age 13. So, when my trip to spend some time with our artisan partners in Haiti this summer was quickly approaching (amidst the height our catalog design and production, a business conference, and as I was preparing to move), I was not super stoked, if I'm being 100% honest in my humanity. I love Haiti and my friends + family who live there, but the trip sounded like a lot in the middle of a lot. But you guys, it was one of my favorite Haiti trips ever! I hugged so many familiar friends, shook the hands of my business partners, and kindled new relationships. In the whirlwind of so much beauty, I was reminded again of why I am so passionate about creating sustainable jobs to develop communities and end poverty. Here are some of my trip's highlights + reasons ending poverty through job creation is so important.
1.) Dignified Partnerships
Before Trades of Hope, I did nonprofit work in Haiti at the organization my parents founded from the age of 8 years old to 14 years old. Even while I was a kid, I noticed the awkward dynamic of adults in Haiti having less opportunities in the world than I did as a child. Today, after feeling that weird, unjust feeling for years, my favorite part about sustainable business is that everyone involved is in a dignified partnership. Everyone from the artisans, to artisan group leaders, to the retail company (Trades of Hope), to customers who buy our ethically crafted line of fashion accessories -- we all need each other! All roles are needed to develop communities and end poverty. It's a honor, full of beauty and fun, to partner with these amazing women!
Below are some artisan partners using their creativity and skill to make some of our accessories! Also below, I'm smiling with Chandler (right) who founded one of our partnered artisan groups and with Fabienne and Faby, the group's Director of Operations and boutique manager. The group photo is of the leadership team at one of our partnered artisan groups. They are all stewarding their teams in their work and guiding them in conversations about how they can contribute their time to activist projects to make Haiti better!
2.) Educating Others on How to End Poverty
I love this business because it offers opportunity to learn about and education on what is hurting the world and what we can do to change it! There was so much I didn't realize while in nonprofit work. No one told me that by donating free things, I'm actually hurting someone's chances at success, as well as the local (and national) economy. No one told me that I should think about where I buy my clothes from because most are made in sweatshops. No one told me that a woman can transform her life and the life of others when she just has a job opportunity.
Not only do I get to learn and educate others, but I get to see the lightbulb go off in others' eyes and watch them turn into educators themselves! This is the group I lead down to Haiti, who all had those lightbulb moments. And now, as they educate others about how we can make this world flourish, they are creating a higher demand for ethically made fashion. It's a beautiful and ever-growing ripple effect of change!
3.) Hope for a Beautiful Future
Without a doubt, my favorite part about the trip was meeting Jolina. She was one of the first artisans in her artisan group and today is a stockholder in the company! Jolina has so much authority and confidence while she talks about what her company does. She told me that if someone had just handed out free peanut butter to stifle her hunger for a day, she would still be living in extreme poverty. Hand outs meet a momentary need, but do not solve the problem of poverty. But because she became a part of the artisan group and consistently earned a living wage creating accessories, she bought some land without her husband even knowing, built a house, and now her husband loves the house! Jolina has the pride in knowing that she made that happen! In addition, she now runs a side business she started selling peanut butter, a business that employs other people as well! She is such an inspiration to me and a shining example of what job creation is doing: creating hope for a beautiful future!
With relentless ambition + passion I live intentionally to take my dreams from plans to reality + empower other women to do the same. I'm a Trades of Hope founder, public speaker, and designer living in Washington, D.C. When I'm not following fashion trends, re-heating thai food left overs, or playing with my matching redhead pup, I'm offering up fashion shortcuts, life lessons I'm learning, and free wallpapers to remind you of how much you've got this.