501(c)3 Non-Profit | Empowering Haitian Families

Ti Mama

The ladies in our program call her Tata (short for Tatiana) but I call her Ti Mama. It means little mama. She is seventeen years old, mostly deaf, an orphan, and has just had her first baby, a baby boy. I first met Ti Mama when she was 7 months pregnant, in January. She came to me asking for help because she was homeless. ( Can you imagine? Really? Deaf, orphaned, homeless, pregnant, 17.. in Haiti). And then the earthquake struck. I didn’t see her and didn’t know what had happened to her until I came home at the end of March. Ti Mama greeted me upon arrival with a beaming smile and a brand new baby boy in arms.
She had worked out with Corrigan while I was gone that she would be accepted into our program for parents in poverty. That’s when the difficulty began. The women in our program are accepted on a two day trial basis. If they can roll a paper bead perfectly in two days time, they are allowed into the program. If they can’t, ( and we really help them to be able to) then we tell them that we don’t have a place for them in our particular artisan program. Sorry. Fortunately, 100% of the time so far, this has only served us in terms of quality control, and we have never had to turn someone away because they can’t do the work.
Except in the case of Ti Mama. She is terrible at rolling beads. Just terrible. I worked with her for a week, wasting a huge amount of paper and glue trying to get her to roll a bead. I felt terrible. Was I really going to have to let this poor girl go? I spent considerable time trying to think of other options for helping her without just giving a hand out. I decided to let her skip to jewelry making. She made three necklaces. They were terrible too. What was I going to do? I sat down with some of my Haitian friends and picked their brains for ideas, knowing that everyone should really be able to do something productive.. looking for what her niche might be. Finally, I decided to reign her in really tight. I gave her a spool of elastic for bracelets, a cup of paper beads and a cup of seed beads. I told her.. put one paper bead on, and one seed bead on, one paper bead on, one seed bead, paper, seed, paper seed. In the last two days she has made 35 beautiful bracelets. If I can sell them for $5 each, her gross earnings for two days will be $175.. five months wages in Haiti. Today she was beaming. I could tell the sense of accomplishment was giving her joy. I watch her with her baby and know what a good mom she is and is going to be and I pray for her continued success in our program! Go ti Mama!

  1. I just want to give you a huge hug for being patient and not giving up on her! It's got to be so frustrating but I love that you tried and worked through it to give this girl a chance at a decent life, especially for her baby!! Shelley, I just love your heart!!! I don't know you or Corrigan all that well but I just adore you two and you will always have a huge place in my heart! Thank you for sharing your experiences with us!!!! God bless you guys and all that you do!!

  2. My heart is full. I have been reading your blog for a few months and I am so blessed by your hearts. My friend Joanna Thiele loves you guys and recently I was gifted a necklace that your artisans have created. It's beautiful.
    I'm traveling to Haiti with a group next month and I would love to come by and give you a hug because I believe that God is using you to change lives. Your collaboration with your team and with Ti Mama has blessed the world. Thank you for sharing this story.

  3. Oh, many blessings to Ti Mama, you, and all the rest!
    Love you!

  4. lovely! The patience of God applied directly to her life.

  5. May God continue to Bless your efforts in Haiti..:)
    Where might we find pics of the beaded bracelets, and other jewelry made by these artisans?? Would love to help..Would like to buy the BEADS in bulk if possible..I saw one of your sites on http://www.etsy.com and bought some there…would love the bright -multicolored beads best!
    Any way to get some beading KITS to the families there and have them bead [combining my beads with their own?] for my business here? If so I would like the name/story of each artisan that created the beaded piece! What a GREAT experience for all!
    I can be reached @ elisafaith13@yahoo.com
    Blessings to all~

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