The peanut butter blog led to more conversations, phone calls, and action than I could ever have imagined. It has also, unfortunately, given Shelley and I reputations as people who care deeply about peanut butter. I think the point was that we cared deeply about Haitians, but since peanut butter is a key ingredient in Reese’s Cups, I guess I don’t mind the affiliation too much. I was very pleased to hear that some churches took the blog to heart enough that they were led to reevaluate some of their short term missions strategies and policies. I was also glad that many people took seriously my recommendation (on facebook) to read “When Helping Hurts”.
Also, as a result of the peanut butter blog, I received a kind letter from somebody at Feed My Starving Children regarding the efforts they make to not upset local economies and to create jobs in the nations they serve. I sincerely applaud all these efforts, and the mere fact that this organization takes seriously the Biblical and ethical mandate to serve and care for the hungry. Too few people are doing so. Still, I would deeply urge solidarity with the poor (that means living near the people you serve and speaking their language, sharing their hurts, celebrating their victories, etc.) over a delivery model of missions & aid. The dehumanizing poverty charades that are often performed by charity recipients trying to secure unsustainable aid can’t easily endure under the arch of relationships and friendships that characterize a localized mission of solidarity. Visits, surveys, and interviews through hired translators will never give you the perspective gained by sharing life with the people you serve, and when the cultures are as disparate as those found in the U.S. and Haiti, there is more lost in translation (and shipping) than gained in assumptions about what the needs really are and how to help them. I still feel thoroughly that I am a learner in this culture, that I make mistakes, misjudgments, and misunderstandings daily, despite the fact that I’ve poured a lot into knowing Haitians well and living with them. I can’t imagine doing this based on the appearance of things rather than an intimate knowledge of people.
I would also kick the dead horse that food is the most basic element of any economy, and if you upset that element by importing food bought from other farmers, you are harming the base economy of a nation: Even if you think you are freeing up their money for other enterprise, they’re still dependent at the end of the day if your free food is eliminating their capacity to feed themselves… especially in this era of fuel crisis and inflation. I would also repeat that shipping stuff that is already here to purchase, no matter your intentions, is a waste of money. Let me pull my foot out of Mr. Ed’s carcass and move on, lest my reputation as Peanut Butter Nazi sticks (to the roof of your mouth?)
A lot has happened in our lives since the last blog. Each of the following stories deserves a full report, and I wish we would have had time to write these blogs as these things happened… but we really don’t have time. That’s why we’re putting it to the vote. Which of these following Apparent Project stories do you want to hear? Read the descriptions and vote for your favorite below:
1. Presidential, Presidential, Presidential, Presidential! (visit!): Former President Bill Clinton visited the Apparent Project house and then a couple weeks later Shelley attended the Clinton Global Intitiative meeting in New York and met a bunch of beautiful and famous people who are interested in helping Haiti.
2. Dirty Deeds: We received death threats (for money) for three weeks which led Shelley to a long and deeply human phone conversation with her prospective killer… then led us briefly into hiding and ultimately led to the arrest of one of our nearest and dearest artisans… who now sits in the National Penitentary…
3. Twisted Cyster: Our great new intern, Sophie Wiseman-Floyd arrived, began training people in super cool recycled glass/wire wrap jewelry, then suddenly fell ill because of a ruptured abdominal cyst, spent some time in a couple Haitian hospitals, and then went to the states to recover and is now back with us.
4. Tragic Death and Dominoes:
Makencia, a jewelry maker who has lived in our artisans’ house and gave birth to two beautiful baby girls (whom Shelley named), lost one of these precious twins to a respiratory illness in her tent in Clerville. Shelley and I, while grieving with Makencia and Serlo (papa) also got a window into how Haitians cope (or don’t) with loss.
5. Business is Beautiful: Christmas artisan sales have been great, more people are discovering the fun an easy way to help Haitians through hosting jewelry parties, and retail venues in Hati and abroad continue to open up, with potential contracts in the works with Macy’s and The Bay, as well as our continued work with Donna Karan. Jewelry designer Chan Luu came by to look at our beads as well.
6. Apparently Viral: This has been a period of a lot of media exposure for the Apparent Project. It started when the Apparent Project story was alluded to by Donna Karan on CNN’s Piers Morgan show. Since then we can barely keep up with the media coverage. Shelley and the Apparent Project artisans were given thorough mention in the December issue of Vogue magazine (read the article starting at pg. 122), Maria Bello recently launched some Apparent Jewelry, Haiti’s president posted a picture of Shelley on his facebook page, Haiti’s largest newspaper, Le Nouvelist, honored Shelley on the front page, Magic Haiti, Haiti’s best travel magazine (given to everybody who steps off a plane from the U.S.), posted a picture of Shelley in an article about artisan work, and is pursuing another interview, crosswalk.com interviewed Corrigan about the closure of a local orphanage, and we were given mention in some other great blogs and websites as well:
Creative Call Cambodia
7. The Whambulance: We somehow manage to employ 180 people, serve as the only ambulance for most of our community, run food and supplies for our operations and get our children to school in a beat up 1999 Forerunner that has now lost its wheels more times than we can count on one hand. Insert pity here.
8. Insert Clay Pun Here: On thanksgiving day this year, our first ever ceramics kiln was built from local materials with the assistance of Scotty Dillman and Sarah Jane Gray from the Grunewald Guild, a wonderful arts initiative from Leavenworth, Washington.
We are super excited for this ongoing partnership and for the production of local beads from local, non-imported materials, and the wide world of ceramics that is opening up to our artisans. This is going to mean many more jobs for many more Haitians! We hope to have production begin in Cite Soleil in February, bringing much-needed jobs to families at risk in Haiti’s most notorious slum. The beads, by the way, are BEAUTIFUL!