Unexpected Opportunities

Craft as a catalyst for change

The devastating earthquake of 2010 has created endless difficulties, yet unexpected opportunities for artisans throughout Haiti. Papillon Enterprise, Haitian Creations, and Peace Quilts are a few examples of companies who believe that beauty and craft have the power to be a catalyst for change. Handcrafting skills have become a therapeutic tool for coping with trauma, a way rebuild a sense of community, and an outlet for creative expression.

Papillon Enterprise has taken the holistic approach, as it is a firm believer in creating a socially and ecologically conscious business model. They are cleaning up Haiti’s landscape by producing unique, “up-cycled” artisan goods. They first began selling paper beads which are made out of recycled cardboard and now work with other previously used materials, creating a variety of ceramic beads, textiles, glass work, and much more. This enterprise was founded simply to help parents support and provide for their children. CEO Shelley Clay of Papillon Enterprise states, “This was the driving force and the capital behind our business. Our artisans work in a great environment, with dignity, and with the most benefits of any other similar company we know in Haiti. Haiti has 380,000 kids who are currently not with their biological parents. They are in orphanages, on the streets, or in worse situations. We target the head of the household as a means for orphan prevention and to see that each dollar earned goes to help the population as much as possible. Houses are being built, kids are going to school... the future is improving for so many of our artisans.” She adds, “There is no denying it, but working in Haiti is very difficult. It has some of the highest fuel, land, food, and water costs in the world. Additionally, dealing with a quite corrupt bureaucracy makes living and working here very challenging from time to time. However, the difference we see in the lives of the two hundred plus artisans who work in our shop make it more than worthwhile!”

Haitian Creations is another social enterprise who believes in building relationships to empower women artisans through the production of handcrafted handbags and fabric beads. Senior Designer Chandler Hamilton explains,  “Our organization actually started as a very small sewing school 5 years ago. Over the years, the school grew, and Haitian Creations naturally evolved as a way to employ the ladies while they were learning how to sew. What started as  sewing lessons for eight women, developed into a full artisan production center employing over 60 workers. The school now offers two sewing courses, along with literacy, craft, and cooking classes. Haitian Creations was founded with a vision of working  to keep families together in order to to give women education and employment so that giving up their children for economic reasons is no longer a root issue. Today all profits from our sales not only support job development, but also fund our women's education center. Walking into our workshop feels like walking into a home; our artisans are like a nuclear family. It is also important to us that our products represent the beautiful artistic items being made here. Haiti has had enough businesses in the 'charity' and 'pity' market, our goal is to represent a different side of this amazing country.”

Last but not least, Peace Quilts is a non-profit, humanitarian organization, with a mission to help relieve poverty in Haiti by establishing and supporting independent women’s quilting cooperatives. They currently work with approximately one hundred women who are organized into six independent groups. They place emphasis on channeling the formidable sewing skills of Haitian women into the creation of unique works of quilted art. Peace Quilts provides training, materials, supplies, marketing assistance, and educational opportunities for all of their employees. Each peace quilt is unique and tells a story. After the earthquake, quilting had become a powerful therapeutic tool for coping with the disaster. PeaceQuilts US Program Coordinator Carolyn Stober states, “Although they were initially too traumatized to work indoors, despite the fact that the buildings had been inspected and certified as sound, they worked outside, and soon created an astonishing body of story quilts which reflected their individual experiences during and after the earthquake.  With the help of PeaceQuilts’ quilting coordinator, who was a clinical psychotherapist working with veterans in the US, the women were eventually able to work indoors again. Their plucky determination and resourcefulness equipped them to not only survive, but thrive, as they created new and better designs. While the attention of the world became focused on the plight of the survivors, new opportunities to showcase and market their work opened up, and this expanded networking offered the women greater support, education and other resources.” Peace Quilts not only creates quilts, but also a variety of home decorating accessories – pillow covers, bed scarves, throws – along with uniquely designed women’s handbags, and cool, funky handcrafted jewelry, which often utilizes the leftover scrap pieces of cotton fabric.  

All three  of these important enterprises are members of Haiti's Artisan Business Network.

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