Note: The Vi Bella staff is blogging from Haiti this week. Three members of our home office team have traveled to train our artisans here on some new skills. We hope you follow along and read the whole ViBella story here. If you are not familiar with our mission and vision, watch our video here.
Day Three: By Janelle Hultquist, Director of Ambassadors and Customer Care
Every day we drive, sometimes too fast, past everything surrounding me. My brain moves as fast as the banana trees in the fields as we speed by. I can’t keep up.
Stories of the people Julie Hulstein (Founder and CEO of Vi Bella Jewelry) know and have met are rattling around my brain as I watch people interact on the side of the road, as they try to sell what they are carrying in the basket on their heads to me through the window. There is pain in the dark, beautiful eyes that stare into mine; a pain I will never understand.
Glimpses of the most beautiful children I have ever seen. “Were they wearing shoes…pants?” Some children are on their way to school, proudly wearing their school uniforms.
My window view frames shacks that are “fenced” in with a make-shift fence of cacti. Is it always laundry day? There are articles of clothing strewn over these painful fences, drying. Clothes that were probably washed in the stream up the road where there are men, women, and children soaping up their bodies.
I am hit again with a gut wrenching conviction: “And you thought you NEEDED a larger bathroom with a cozy tub.”
My mind is taken back to the day before we left for Haiti. I am standing on my small, front porch watching as my dog plays in the grassy front yard after eating a full, proper meal. I mumbled a complaint to myself about wanting new gutters, a soffit, and a patio to relax on in the evenings. It hits me.
Life in Haiti is hard. It’s harder than I imagined.
I begin to cry. How can it be so easy for me to forget these women?
I have stared into these women’s faces and their children’s through pictures. I have packed suitcases to travel to them. I have inspected jewelry that arrived in my office dusty from this village. I have told stories to many people that I have heard from others who have met our artisans; as if I knew them myself.
I thought I knew this place.
When I started working at Vi Bella in September 2014 I was hired as the Production Manager for our Home Office in Iowa. I quickly learned that when our women need supplies we have to find them and someone willing to transport them right away. We pack them in a suitcase and ask around for a willing volunteer headed to Haiti on a trip. There is no mail system. Our artisans do not have the luxury of running to Wal-Mart, Hobby Lobby, or wherever in order to pick up a new pair of scissors. Scissors! And to think, in the States, we have an abundance of scissor styles to choose from – from plain ‘ole fabric scissors to the kind that make a cool edge when cut. And our women can’t even go quickly make the 5 minute drive to grab one, seemingly small, item.
Sweat stings my eyes and takes me back to reality. We have arrived to our Simonette, Haiti production center. Different tears swell in my eyes. Tears of joy. Vi Bella makes it possible for these women to earn a wage. Our sister non-profit provides scholarships for our Haitian Artisan’s children to go to school.
Friends, this is powerful. This is beautiful.
(If you have not read Amy’s post from the beginning of the week – read it HERE to understand some of the struggles our women go through to just get to work).