Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti in the early morning on October 5th. This category 4 storm would leave widespread damage for Southern Haiti and at least 842 confirmed deaths. But, the untimeliness of Hurricane Matthew only added to the difficult state of the nation. Haitians strive to get ahead while many government systems are inefficient at best and completely broken at worst, failing their citizens long before any earthquake or natural disaster further complicates the situation. Yes, the response of aid and relief is great, as the world rushes in to help. But is the help even helping?
Mission Lazarus in Haiti doesn’t want to fix a problem temporarily, but develop a long-standing presence and trust within the community, raising up Haitians to help other Haitians. Yes, there is a lot of work to be done, and the changes can’t happen overnight. Through education, through opportunity creation, lasting change can be achieved. Our social enterprise programs seek to use business development to help this process along, creating sustainable income in employment deprived communities while generating revenue for ministry operations like our vocational schools.
Vocational training is a rare form of education. It brings value and self-worth to the students, as their learning environment challenges them to take their training into their own hands. The effort they put in directly impact the results they get from the program, essentially handing the student the authority to take control of their education, their prosperity, for themselves and for their families.
We have seen this program model work successfully in Honduras, preparing students and giving them a competitive edge in the job market post-graduation, selling products to cover the program costs and provide not only a fair wage, but a thriveable one. So why not bring it to Haiti? Why not help Haitians create opportunity for themselves? The desire is there. We see it evident in our first female leather student, Denise. She’s 25 and raising two beautiful children. She wanted an opportunity, any opportunity, and there was none to be found, until she heard of Mission Lazarus. Now she’s a skilled artisan, crafting beautiful leather products like Laptop Sleeves that come right from her hands to yours.
Our program in Haiti is unique. We have just 6 students in the program, and most have received some sort of prior training in sewing techniques. They are hungry for work, to learn more and to hone their craft. So, we sent our leather instructor from Honduras, Ernesto, down at the beginning of the 2016 year. He trained them in design specific products, like the Ana Julia Tote, offered insight into program development, and sourced most of our materials locally. By the time his month-long workshop was finished, the students could fully construct these bags on their own, allowing the program to continue as Ernesto returned to our students in Honduras.
These designs are state-side, ready for purchase, in The Haiti Collection. Each purchase creates a demand for these students, a demand for their craftsmanship, and this demand creates opportunity for work and continued learning. Haiti may have relief flooding its infrastructure, but relief does not translate to success or to betterment. It’s the temporary stepping stone, a hand out for the mean time. We believe Haitians deserve more than this. They deserve opportunity. In the words of co-founder Jarrod Brown, “This program puts the participants in charge of their lives rather than being at the mercy of aid.” That is the kind of opportunity we strive to provide with our vocational initiative.
The Haiti Collection carries products which reflects the programs’ state. Although our product line is smaller and limited, we have plans and prayer for growth, for a new and Haiti-exclusive product line, a full functioning training and production facility, Lord willing. You can find these products at a discount for a limited time only!! The Haiti Collection is 35% off to draw attention to Mission Lazarus Haiti’s vocational program, to its potential. Each sale made helps support this growth and brings opportunity to places in deep need. There’s a lot of learning left ahead for our students, and much potential for the future of this program. We hope you’ll consider a purchase to support our vocational school in Haiti, and when you get a compliment on your new leather bag, you too can share the story of economic impact, of the best thing your purchase can create- opportunity.