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 Unfortunately, most of the orders placed by mission groups have been retracted as the groups have had to cancel their trips.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!