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.
Join us for a fun evening, and 100% of your support will go to our programs in Haiti! Listen to the 11-member band, Morpheus, perform hits from some of music’s greatest classic rock bands–Blood, Sweat & Tears, Steppenwolf, Santana, Chicago, The Eagles, The Doors and more!
Friday, May 3rd, 2019 at 7:30 PM, Doors open at 7PM
West Medicine Lake Community Club, 1705 Forestview Lane N, Plymouth, MN 55441
Admission is a suggested donation of $20 per person. Use this ticket link to make your tax-deductible donation through GiveMN.
Refreshments will be available; wine/beer for a $5 cash donation at the event. Bring your friends!
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.
We were recently contacted by a local relief group that is working in Venezuela to help bring financial relief to mothers and children by providing hospitalized children with nutritious food and mothers with diapers. They purchased 200 reusable diapers that our Haitian seamstresses had constructed, providing not only an income for Haitians, but also a needed product for Venezuelan moms. The route that these diapers took signifies the interconnectedness that we all share as women in the world.
Flannel material woven in China in factories staffed by mostly women
Material purchased in the US and cut into diaper pieces by women volunteers
Material shipped to Haiti in suitcases carried as extra baggage by mission volunteers
Diapers sewn by Haitian seamstresses who are paid a living wage
Completed diapers return to US via mission volunteer suitcases
Diapers are delivered to Venezuelan contact in US
Diapers finally make their way to moms in Venezuela
Days for Girls, the organization that has provided us with the concept of the reusable menstrual pad kits as well as organizational help, is celebrating its 10th anniversary. As part of the celebration, they have committed to distributing 100,000 kits worldwide during the month of October. Our seamstresses at Helping Haiti Work have added the construction of an additional 150 kits to their daily workload so that we can participate in the celebration. The first 50 kits were distributed last week by the midwives of Mama Baby Haiti. Another 100 kits will be distributed next week when the midwives travel to maternity clinics in the surrounding communities. We have been amazed at the outpouring of support that we are receiving – both from our volunteers here in the US pre-cutting the kits and the mission teams that commit to fundraising in order to purchase and distribute the kits in Haiti. Working together we are able to achieve much more than separately.
We have recently trained Fritznel, our in-country coordinator of activities, in the Ambassador of Men’s Health curriculum. He was asked to provide this education to a group of middle school boys in Port au Prince at the Healing Haiti site. Using diagrams and models, he taught these boys about their own bodies and how best to care for themselves and also about women and their menstrual cycles. The education was well received by both the young men and their parents. In the future, this education will be offered in addition to our Ambassador of Women’s Health Program.
At one of our local Days for Girls sewing events, a volunteer started sorting the scrap fabric that is left after cutting the cotton shields on the dye cut machine. She took the material home, cut it into 4 inch squares and created a baby quilt. On a whim, we brought the quilt to Haiti and asked our seamstresses if they thought there would be a market for this product. They were very enthusiastic and asked for as many scraps of fabric as we could supply. Since then they have created 30 baby blankets that have been sold to Healing Haiti, a NGO located in Port au Prince. Because our orders for the menstrual pad kits is not steady, this is a product that the seamstresses are able to create and fill a need locally. We have been impressed with their artistic skills in matching and coordinating colors to create a beautiful product.