Jaqueline looked at me with those puppy dog eyes. Please Shelley, I need help. I’m sleeping in my friends yard. I don’t have a tent or a tarp. The landlord kicked me out. Please.
My reply was firm. Jaqueline. You have been given a chance to work. You have been given the chance to change the course of your life. You don’t have to come begging anymore. You just have to work.
We figured out it would take about sixty necklace sales for her to be able to pay for rent on a house for a year. A YEAR. Jaqueline’s face went from puppy dog eyes to confident determined woman.
This is my goal for you my dear Jaqueline. That you wouldn’t need me anymore. That you would be able to stand on your own two feet and look at what you’ve accomplished and not have to ask me or any other white person, aid organization, or beorgious Haitian for a single handout again.
Jaqueline will do it. I know it.
With Christmas sales booming, my ladies (and men) are making more money than most of them have ever made in their lives. We had a talk the other day at work. I asked them how much money they made when they worked as housekeepers, cooks, nannies (for those who actually had had a job before- as most have not). 500HD per month. Divide that by 8. Just over $60 US per month. How in the world was that ever enough money? It wasn’t of course. And so they still lived their lives looking for handouts for food for their children, school, clothing, shelter.
This month marks a change. A few of our artisans broke the $1000 mark. Yes. You heard right. That is $1000 US . Unbelievable. I am still in shock. But to put it realistically, that is only 100 necklaces once all the supplies are paid for. 100 necklaces. Beautiful works of art are changing the course of these peoples lives.
So what are they doing with their money? We have implemented a beautiful new requirement. From now on, an artisan who wants to get paid must open a bank account. Now let me explain something here. It is not just everybody in Haiti who has a bank account. It is a milestone. A status symbol. A piece of dignity handed out on a silver dish. This week (assuming the political riots allow banks to be open) every single one of our 72 artisans are opening bank accounts!
There are going to be lines at the bank! Tellers will stare inquisitively as illiterate women from the province hand them $100 bills to put in their new accounts. What a day! I can’t wait to see all the proud faces as they face their first pay day with a trip to their savings accounts.
Many artisans are still struggling to put food on the table. They will be encouraged to save what they can until sales for them increase. Some artisans who are doing well will be required to save half of their earnings with the goal of a life changing purchase in mind- land, a house, starting a side business.
This is what we are about. Helping Haitians figure out how to do it themselves. Decreasing dependency. I read recently that much of the aid coming in is filling the pockets of those who already have money in Haiti. I can’t tell you how many brand new Landcruisers are on the roads and how many nice restaurants have opened up. While this does have a slight trickle down effect, it is a sad sight to see $100k in aid money go to pay for rent on a NGO’s one family house for the year. Some of this cannot be helped. And it is too complicated to offer pat judgements and complaints, but I do know that for every dollar that a poor Haitian earns from their own hard work, there is tremendous headway made in breaking the cycle of poverty and enslavement that has been on this country for generations.
I may have sounded harsh to Jaqueline.. after all, for now she is still homeless and sleeping outside her neighbor’s house. But 60 necklaces later and that woman is going to have a smile of confidence on her face as she sweeps the floor of her new apartment and arranges the table for guests. I never want to take that dignity away from her. Go Jaqueline!
If you would like to help these ladies earn their living by hosting a no obligation jewelry party.. please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to help us continue in our vision (yes, WE still ask for handouts), please see our website http://www.apparentproject.org/ for how you can help.