a week with producer groups in very rural haiti
I had the pleasure of going back to Haiti for the third Summer in a row to work with a small group in the middle of the plateau. The group we work with, called Nou Hope, is in the middle of nowhere. It is like going back 100 years - they have no electricity, no running water, and no internet. They live a very rural and simple life. With the exception of a few people who have internet connection and their cell phones, they are very disconnected from the outside world. We brought one 18 year old girl to see Port-Au-Prince for the first time - only a five hour drive away. Sometimes despite their rural poverty I wish I was in their shoes - life seems easier - less complicated...they understand what is important and know how to band together as a community and a family.
I find myself trying to bridge the gap between this group of people and people who purchase clothes in the US. It became very clear to me on this trip the huge learning curb on both ends. The people in this village of Nou Hope have not even seen Port-Au-Print much less Miami or New York or Chicago. It is hard for them to grasp the high end boutiques the clothing they are making is being sold in. On the other hand people in the States think the story is really great and want to help people in Haiti, but can not grasp why every medium is a little different or why the garments don't look the same as the factory produced clothes they are used to. Until you have slept in their dirt floor house or until they have shopped in the US there will always be this divide.
Over the past 3 years I have seen the quality greatly improve! I have seen them understand how to read a pattern - even if it is in my creole scribbles; I have seen their progress as a group. This last time I noticed something different - they really want to do the best they can do to get more orders. They are trying really hard to understand what us Americans want so they can be a success. Granted they do things like add darts because they are thinking, "why would anyone want such a baggy shirt?" But truthfully it is because they are trying really hard to be a success and just don't understand us.
As they continue to grow and improve we hope that you can grow with them. We are working really hard to improve their quality, and while we are not advocating for selling poorly made clothing there is a difference between handmade and factory made clothes. There is now more beauty in the imperfections. You are giving a women in rural Haiti a meaningful job so she can provide for her family. You are helping build a community.