It is not uncommon in Mizak, Haiti to see a woman leading her donkey, laden with mangos or other goods going to market. Once she gets down the mountain, she will spread a blanket on the ground and try to sell. She has one thing on her mind—sell enough to buy rice and beans for her family to eat that night. She worries that she might not sell enough and all she will have for them are the mangos she brought to market. If she were to think about the future, she would wonder if she will have enough to pay for school fees and uniforms for her children but survival is her focus right now.
But in reality, she is one of the luckier ones. She has a tree that gave her mangos. She has a donkey to help carry them. When we met Navive, she was not so fortunate.
When Haitian Artisans for Peace International, HAPI, started in 2007, the goal was to provide economic access for women like Navive. Widowed at a relatively young age with seven children to care for, she found herself kicked off the land where they had lived because her husband’s family no longer claimed her. She had nowhere to turn and was desperate. When she joined a group of 30 to hear the plan, it was obvious most of the women had embroidery skills and they enjoyed working together. But what would developing a new business look like?
Almost seven years later, after listening, mentoring and offering access, amazing strides have been made in their community. HAPI has not only provided jobs for women but the village’s first accessible clinic has been established where health care workers are trained to work in community homes. A children’s program called Peace Pals inspires character building and vision for a brighter future. And a beautiful two store community building has been built where artisans can work and sell their products, classes can be taught and satellite internet is available so all of them can have access to a world only imagined at one time.
Women in Mizak, Haiti have seen major shifts in their day-to-day lives but one of the gifts they appreciate the most, is the gift of dignity and respect. They are proud to be able to support their families and we are proud of them!