Last week I shared with you that I was about to embark in an adventure of a lifetime with a group of bloggers and the women behind the Heart of Haiti and Fair Winds Trading. I am now here, in the heart of the Republic of Haiti, and I can attest that even though the heart is suffering, it is fiercely pulsating.
We’ve now spent two full days here and the best word to describe them is intense. Intensity in the amount of devastation and chaos there is still in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Intensity in the rhythm of life. Intensity in the passion of the people. Intensity in the loss and the dire living conditions of those hundreds of thousands still living in camps and who can’t really foresee a change in their situation happening anytime soon. Intensity in the resilience of spirit that is palpable in every single person I’ve met.
The single most important thing I’ve realized in the two days I’ve been here is that Haiti doesn’t want to be forgotten and they don’t want to be a charity case. Everyone we’ve met – from artisans in their village studios to women washing clothes in buckets next to a tent they now call home – have requested only one thing from us: the chance to work. Not a single person has asked or begged for money, something I had assumed would be happening everywhere since it’s a common scene in Latin American countries.
But Haitians know better. Like one woman told us today at a tent camp we were visiting and taking donations to: “Teach us how to fish so we can fish everyday.”
And that is exactly what the inspiring Willa Shalit, the founder of Fair Winds Trading and the force behind the Heart of Haiti initiative, is doing in Haiti-teaching them how to fish. The fish in this case are beautiful pieces of art which are being created by artisans who already had it in their heritage, but are now learning how to truly make their craft sustainable. With the support of donors and partners such as Macy’s and the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, Willa Shalit and her passionate team are giving Haitians the opportunity they are asking for to take care of themselves through skills they already had and/or now have the willingness to learn.
In just two days I have been given the chance to learn so much about giving and what we call charity. I have seen first hand that real giving comes in the form of sustainable creation. I’ve learned that we all have something to give beyond what is in the back of our closets or in our bank account. Yes, money is always needed, but it’s important to know where that money is going and how it’s being used. I want to place that money where it will directly impact the local economy and not add to the corruption.
I saw today the real power you and I have to give just by the choices we make when we purchase a gift. I saw men sitting outside at noon in the middle of the road hammering away pieces of art created from oil containers. These hammered pieces were later cut out and polished inside a shack with no flooring or concrete walls to be sent out to be sold in places like Macy’s and Anthropologie. I now know the faces which will be feeding themselves and their families, as well as sending their kids to school, because they have work thanks to us deciding to buy these pieces. I finally truly understand.
I am just so grateful to have this opportunity right now to learn that even through the most severe and dramatic devastations, life goes on and we must join the spirit of Haitian life and continue to help them rebuild because the real work has only begun.
I have so much to share and will in the following weeks bring you all much more information and stories about the places we’ve been to and the people we’ve met and bonded with.
Thank you for allowing me to this share this with you.
Check out the slideshow for some pictures of what we’ve seen.