The smiling faces of our Haitian seamstresses and their drivers are because they have secured the gasoline to fill the tanks of their motos and be able to make it home to their families. This gas cost $25 per gallon and was difficult to locate. Haiti is currently suffering the effects of unpaid fuel bills by the governmental elite and the subsequent lack of gas shipments to the country. Due to the solar panels that were installed earlier this summer and materials that arrived by container shipment in February, they are able to continue sewing components of the reusable menstrual pad kits. Unfortunately, most of the orders placed by mission groups have been retracted as the groups have had to cancel their trips. At last count, we needed to refund groups for orders that involved just over 800 kits. At $9 a kit, that is $7200 of lost revenue.
A crew of nine American women, led by Elly Schreder, traveled to Haiti 2 weeks ago to meet with the seamstresses and share food and community while teaching them how to construct surgical hats for sale in the community. The women were hosted by a local Rotarian who gave a lesson in business practices. Two distributions of kits, in addition to reproductive health education, were accomplished as 100 girls received their kits. Given the lack of gasoline and prominence of protests, much was accomplished and the Haitian seamstresses were hopeful that their good luck would continue as they work to support their families.
Unfortunately, the gasoline price has continued to rise and most public transportation has been shuttered. The streets are bare of cars and motos while food scarcity is becoming a growing concern. Currency has been devalued by half while the cost of living has increased by 25%. The math does not work for even the most elite. When a pregnant women is finally able to get to a hospital after an obstructed labor they are often turned away as the hospitals are unable to locate gasoline to run their generators and power the operating rooms.
Those of us who support the citizens of Haiti from afar are left helpless to view news stories and frustrated by our ability to help. At HHW, we have reassured our seamstresses that they will continue to be paid for their work even if we are not able to sell the menstrual pad kits at this time. Luckily, the sewing centers are within walking distance of their homes and the sewing machines powered by solar panels. By the end of this unrest, we may have enough menstrual pad kits for the entire country of Haiti!
Days for Girls recently sponsored a Refugee Project to distribute reusable menstrual kits in Afghanistan, Lebanon, South Sudan and Somalia. Our Plymouth DFG chapter was able to contribute 25 kits to the effort that have not already made their way to Haiti. While the need in Haiti remains enormous, we recognize that there are other parts of the world where women and girls can face even greater challenges as they navigate life in a refugee camp away from all that they have previously known. After a world-wide donation drive of only 3 months, over 33,000 kits will be distributed with the help of World Vision.
Helping Haiti Work is the grateful recipient of funds thru a second mile offering at Messiah Methodist church in Plymouth, MN. They have been faithful supporters of our mission to help others so they can help themselves and live their motto of “being the hands and feet of Jesus”. Thank you for creating this lovely video to share our story.
Our new industrial grade sewing machines arrived via container this winter and were installed in the recently renovated space in Limbe. Unfortunately, the machines could not be adequately powered by the generator and the rising cost as well as sparse supply of gasoline necessitated a new plan. A trip to the Dominican Republic was made to purchase solar panels and a Haitian electrician installed them on the third story roof of the building. Once the machines were functioning, a lesson was given to all the seamstresses in how to operate the new machines. New projects for construction include mens/boys boxers and surgical caps.
This article exemplifies how women in Haiti share the same struggles with other women in resource poor countries. HHW is trying to change menstrual hygiene practices thru education and making cloth menstrual pad kits available for young women.
After a month long delay, due to the riots and political unrest in Haiti, our container made it out of port and the supplies were unloaded and organized in the newly finished sewing center in Cap Haitian. Ellen Schroeder and Kris Dirks assisted the Haitians in putting up shelves and then loading the shelves with enough material to construct 3000 menstrual pad kits. The dye-cut machine that is used to cut the material was used as soon as it was put together as all the Haitians wanted to see how it worked. New orders are starting to increase again as Haiti is making a tentative return to normal.
Lyndy Zabel, Director of Community Development for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church recently included this topic in his monthly newsletter.
Most people I know want to help those who are less fortunate. But with so many options, the question becomes “how?” Most organizations claim to be good causes. But it is good to think about what, where, why, and to whom we give. More specifically, how do we give to people without actually hurting them or ourselves? Here’s three things to consider:
First, we can never go wrong giving urgent and temporary emergency aid to reduce immediate suffering from natural or human-made crisis, such as survivors of floods, hurricanes, etc. Likewise with the truly vulnerable, such as the severely disabled, young orphans, the starving, sick, and the mentally ill homeless population.
Secondly, after giving emergency aid, we should seek to support causes that help people help themselves. The receivers all have resources, knowledge, skills, time, and abilities just like us. Do our gifts acknowledge and compliment them? Do they help others build up from the assets they already possess? An example of this kind of gift would be giving a student scholarship to a girl in an impoverished country.
Thirdly, material poverty alleviation usually involves empowering people to EARN sufficient material things through their own labor. Examples of this kind of gift are vocational training or micro-loans.
These are the teaching points that Helping Haiti Work attempts to follow. We provide the materials for Haitian seamstresses to construct a needed product (reusable menstrual pad kits), utilize the cultural knowledge of our seamstresses to educate young women about reproductive health and provide women with small business loans so that they can grow their business and better support their families.
Menstrual Health Equality is becoming a buzzword in world health. If you want a better idea of what this means, view the Oscar winning film “Period. End of Sentence” The full length 30 minute film is on Netflix. This is what HHW is trying to accomplish with our sewing program that pays Haitian women to construct reusable menstrual pad kits that are distributed to the areas in which they live and work.
2019 is year 5 of our organization and brings changes to both our microfinance loans as well as to our sewing program.
Ellen Schreder, a partner in our sewing centers, has worked diligently over the past few years to acquire a Rotary loan to upgrade the spaces where our seamstresses work. Each space, both in Ranquitte and Limbe, are being outfitted with solar panels to power the sewing machines, new tables and chairs and industrial grade sewing machines that will require less maintenance. We are also establishing a space in Cap Haitian that can serve as a distribution and teaching center.
Inflation has become an ever increasing problem in Haiti with devaluation of the goude in comparison to the American dollar. Many stores that sell foodstuffs are closing as they are unable to afford inventory. As most of our microfinance loan recipients buy items in bulk and then resell them in the local market, this has affected them dramatically. We have seen a marked reduction in the repayment rate and have had to write off many loans. We are planning on initiating new loans in a new community and are researching what amount of money is the equivalent of our initial $200 loans. Although this will decrease the total number of loans that we are able to fund, we are optimistic that the recipients will be more successful in their businesses.