Gratitude & Thanksgiving Memories - Haiti

By Shelley Jean
on November 27, 2019
Gratitude & Thanksgiving Memories - Haiti

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I can’t help but reminisce on the many Thanksgivings that were held in my dining room in Haiti over the years. A wonderful friend whose wife was sick with cancer made a huge pallet table for me that was about 16 feet long in exchange for jewelry he would give to his wife while she was going through chemo treatments. She died shortly after and so my pallet table became a sort of memorial to her and I think of her with gratitude and keep her memory alive with feasts at the table. Her memory became even more important when I was diagnosed with the same cancer she died from just a year later.

That table held our Thanksgiving feasts and we would usually get our giant turkey for free each year from the local supermarket who would honor its clients each year in this way. With four kids and many more mouths to feed, our grocery bill was always enormous and so we were very valued clients.

We always had to decide who we would invite to the table each year and inevitably the people who appreciated the stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie were the men in our community who had been deported for various crimes in the United States. They would come to the table, many of them who had been raised in the United States, and were more American than Haitian and they would look at the food and cry and remember the days. It was truly a moment of gratitude – sitting around my table of cancer memories with my four small children and a group of criminal exiles..... who couldn’t have been happier? I hope your Thanksgiving is also full of goodness, redemption and good memories!

Originally posted at:

What Happened to All the Money? (The Story of Aid in Haiti)

By Shelley Jean
on November 05, 2019
What Happened to All the Money? (The Story of Aid in Haiti)
Millions of dollars were donated in the months following the earthquake and since in Haiti. People were eager to help and hopeful that this boost and influx of charity would perhaps be the answer that Haiti has needed for so long. Things appeared to be getting better for a few years and then rumors

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Less jobs + Less tourism = More Suffering for Haiti

By Shelley Jean
on September 27, 2019
Less jobs + Less tourism = More Suffering for Haiti
The roads are blocked both ways with a dump truck full of sharp splintered rocks. I can’t get a picture as it is too dangerous. There are about 50 men outside yelling and throwing green glass bottles on the ground. Glass shards are spraying the side of the building. These people are angry.

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What I didn’t realize about signing kids up for sports

By Shelley Jean
on August 22, 2019
What I didn’t realize about signing kids up for sports

My two youngest kids from Haiti are participating in Pop Warner Football and Cheerleading. They love it. My son Jackson is eleven years old. He wears a size 11 shoe, is almost as tall as me, and weighs in at around 190, give or take a few. He was born to play football. I am pretty sure the NFL will be calling me any day and I’m banking on it for my retirement. My daughter, just six months younger is athletic, slender, bubbly and a perfect little cheerleader.

What I didn’t realize about signing them up for sports this fall was that I didn’t get to just drop them off and go on my merry way. My dreams of quiet evenings with the kids at practice turned out to be misguided.

I have duties apparently.

I found myself sitting in the concession stand booth last Thursday evening selling hotdogs and Gatorade. It’s a requirement for parents to participate and as I doled out bubble gum to five year olds I was wondering how I got myself into even more responsibility than I ever wanted. Did I mention that all four of my kids are going to four different schools and I still travel back and forth to Haiti to work with our artisans on a monthly basis? I feel like I am burning the candle at both ends!
What I learned through my time as concessionaire last Thursday is that the fee I paid to sign my kids up for sports is only a fraction of the budget to keep things running. The league relies on donations, parent support, volunteers for coaches and administrative work etc.. and it is no small task to keep things running on the shoestring budget that they manage to make work.

The concession stand is the main source of income.

You can imagine how my wheels started spinning. Every city in America has a little league, a soccer league, a football league, a dance team, a school, a cheer squad. And they all need money.

Every single one of them is fundraising right now.

This week I just happened to be taking pictures of our “Game Day” team bracelets that are made by our artisans in Haiti. They come in any color combination- yellow and black, blue and gold, green and silver and can be ordered in any quantities at discounted wholesale prices for resale.

I think of my own attempts at selling cookies, candies, calendars and more for fundraisers through my life and I wonder how much more meaningful it could be if that school or team fundraiser could literally be changing lives in the process. Win-Win! Your team gets the funding it needs and a mama in Haiti gets to put food on the table for her children. It seems like a no brainer.

But I am not the best salesperson.

My kids are the Merritt Island Mustangs. Their colors are black and yellow. I wonder how I can present this to the coaches and board members to see if they would allow us to sell our bracelets at the concessions stand. A hot dog, a Gatorade, 5 pieces of bubble gum and a bracelet to save a life. Imagine the impact if even 30 sports teams got behind it?

So here is what I need! I need help to spread the word! I am a sheepishly introverted phonaphobe and find sales to be so difficult. But maybe you aren’t?  Maybe you, my friend, are just the person who could walk up to your children’s coach or teacher or school principal and talk to them about this fundraiser idea that will make money and change lives at the same time.

We have the Beauty Changing Lives website set up to see our offerings. Or if this is piquing your interest, you could just email me.

We would be happy to make samples for your school or team and make sure that you can sell them for a great price and still make money. In this season of sports and school starting back up and fundraising, I hope and pray that it becomes yet another opportunity to see lives changed for the good in Haiti!


It Takes A Village

By Shelley Jean
on August 14, 2019
It Takes A Village

Our Company is Not Typical!

While many companies are thinking about efficiency and how to cut labor costs, our whole mission is to think about how to have a viable business while MAXIMIZING labor costs. You see, every dollar that is spent on labor means that a child is eating, a mother is paying for books for school, or a father can afford the rent payment. We have to operate within a sustainable framework for business, so can’t go overboard, but we do constantly think about which products Papillon makes that are creating the most good and doing the most in terms of jobs for the artisans it supports.

Yesterday was my birthday and as my family went around the room speaking words of blessing over me, my husband looked at me and said. “May Papillon employ thousands instead of hundreds in the coming year!”
Amen to that! It would be our dream to make an impact for so many more hurting people in the world.

So, How Do We Get There?

Jewelry is where it’s at!
When we are selling a bracelet or a necklace, a village of artisans are required to put out a beautiful product! (see example below to learn more about Papillon's process)

Here’s how it works

Each number below represents one person working, which also is equivalent to a family of up to ten people being provided for.

For a typical wholesale order of bracelets we would need to call in:

  • 4 Clay Makers (raw clay processing)
  • 12 Clay Bead Rollers
  • 6 Cereal Box Bead Rollers
  • 4 Bead Glazers
  • 3 Paper Bead Varnishers
  • 3 Kiln Loaders
  • 1 Kiln Unloader
  • 2 Bead Sorters
  • 4 Inventory Managers (distributing beads & jewelry components)
  • 6-20 Jewelry Makers (depending on order size)
  • 2 Taggers
  • 2 Packers
  • 2 Shipping & Logistics Managers

Whew! A batch of bracelets can employ upwards of 70 people at a time and feed up to 700 hungry bellies! 
No wonder we get so excited when our wholesale buyers put in an order for 500 wedding favor bracelets, or 1000 sports themed bracelets, or 200 fundraiser bracelets, or 40 jewelry sets for their retail store.

Our Artisans Work on Call

When we get a large purchase order from a company we work with, the phones start ringing and artisans scurry around in their homes to come to work that day. The joy is contagious! A day of work means the world. It literally puts food on the table for people living in the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Babies go to bed at night peacefully with their needs met.

Our business model might be a little upside down at times, but if you could see what we see when a hundred people or two hundred people get called in to work every day because the orders are flooding in, you might also be scratching your head thinking of how you can maximize your labor costs and build a business that is based on lives being saved and changed instead of solely focusing on profit margins!

How You Can Help

If you know of someone that wants to buy ethically made, fair-trade, wholesale jewelry! Give us a shout out! Talk about us on social media!  Maybe you have a child in sports or a school that is looking for a meaningful fundraiser! Tell the coaches about us, let your teachers know we are here!
Keep us in mind this coming season and our artisans will be standing by, waiting for that phone call elated to be hurrying off to work! - Fair Trade Wholesale (Shipping Origin: Florida, USA) - Wholesale Fair Trade Products (Shipping Origin: Haiti) - Online Retail Store

“Without labor, nothing prospers.” - Sophocles


By Shelley Jean
on July 27, 2019
When I first moved to Haiti, I had my heart and my head set on trying to create jobs for parents who were at risk for relinquishing their children. What I didn’t really know when I went down there in 2008, was how exactly I was going to accomplish that...

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Gucci Bags now made in Haiti

By Shelley Jean
on July 14, 2019
Gucci Bags now made in Haiti

I rode on the back of the motorcycle through the bumpy riverbed and headed north for more than thirty miles. I had been holding on for dear life to Maxime, my driver, as we road up the winding route towards Mirebalais, but at some point, we turned off the main road and I found myself in the riverbed. I had wanted to see the true countryside. And I had no idea how country I was about to get.

Cars are the best way to travel in Haiti, but often they are slow. The traffic is terrible, and motorcycles can often cut the time in half if you want to get somewhere quickly. Maxime was the only driver that I trusted to take me anywhere by motorcycle and the truck was not available. Earlier that morning I had been itching to get out of the city for once and see a part of Haiti I had never seen- the Artibonite.

As we turned off into the riverbank, women and children were bathing naked and playing in the river, which only had pockets of water at this time of the year. The entire journey was several hours and by the time we made it to Verettes, the bug guts were thick in my hair and my teeth were gritty from the dust. The motorcycle stopped suddenly in the middle of town. I met an artisan earlier that month who had invited me to meet his family. He was from Verettes and his family, he told me were bag and basket weavers. He said he was from the town, but I was about to find out that he was actually from the mountains surrounding Verettes- several long miles up- a minor detail that had been left out when he invited me to meet his family. He shook his head no when I motioned at Maxime standing by with his motorcycle. We would not be riding any further. The road ahead was only good on foot or by donkey.

Poor Maxime didn’t know what he had gotten himself into. He reluctantly parked his motorcycle on the side of the road by a dirt trail in hopes that it would be intact when we got back. It was not uncommon to lose “parts” that someone else might be in need of. Some local merchants assured us they would keep an eye on it. We started the hike uphill optimistically. Donkeys and other travelers were on their way down the mountain and up. Each donkey was laden with large woven baskets that helped itsowner carry the much-needed supplies to and from the mountain homes high in the hills above. These baskets and bags were what I was after.

We were on foot for more than two hours. I had not prepared myself for this. We didn’t have food and had very little water. Maxime was not talking to me anymore. I joked with him in a feeble attempt at an apology and told him I would make it up to him. Three hours later and winded, we arrived at the top of a ridge on the mountain to a little mud hut. The hut was about 8 feet wide and 12 feet long.

A family home.

The family sat outside chatting and laughing. They had large branches that looked similar to palm, but I wasn’t sure exactly what kind of plant they were. Piles of these branches were all around them and they sat there happily weaving baskets.

The family greeted me warmly when they saw me. It was not every day that a pale skinned American hiked their trail anddropped in on them. The younger children hid behind their mothers afraid of my skin color. I must have looked like a ghost to them. I was offered water and rum. There seemed to be a steady supply of rum in that house, and the men obviously enjoyed their drink, but there was little else. The family slept on the dirt floor in the hut. A small basin was used for washing and a corner of the house had a small fire going. The kitchen. Theyhad to walk the several hour journey daily to get drinking and washing water. Food was scarce. I asked my friend what his family did for a living other than baskets. Nothing, he said. It is all that there was to do. His father and cousins grew corn on the hillside for sustenance but other than that, the baskets were all that they had for their meager livelihoods. They also had an uncle who lived in the states who would send a precious several hundred dollars twice a year and that money would keep them alive.

My eyebrows rose as I thought of their very existence being dependent on weaving mule bags and baskets to sell at the local markets for their daily bread. No wonder so many of the children running around naked, playing with sticks and old bicycle wheels were showing signs of malnutrition. What hope was there for these mountain people to get out of the dire poverty that I saw around me?

They were happy people, and seemed to enjoy most aspects of their lives, but the stress lines on their foreheads also reflected back the daily struggle for survival to me.

I spent the day learning about how the baskets were made and how many they could sell in a month given their current markets. I knew I could do something to help.

I didn’t want to give them a false sense of hope, so I left that day with no promises or offers to buy, but my heart had been stirred. It would take very little on my part to double their sales and alleviate some of the stress of the daily struggle for them.

The next week I sent word that I wanted to order 100 small bags. I gave them the dimensions that I wanted. They were much smaller than the kind that they typically made for the donkeys, but I wanted to have a bag that a woman in America could carry around and find useful in her day-to-day life. We sold those 100 bags.

I ordered another round. Today we are doing a promotional on our website. If a person spends $45, they get a woven bag for free. My mind drifts to those very real and precious people sitting on a mountain side in the dirty with piles of branches around them hoping for a brighter future. The bags are raw and real and have the power to change lives, feed children, and send girls and boys to school. I will sell out this month, God willing,and then I will order some more. Maybe a wholesale buyer will want to order them in bulk? Who knows what that could do for this little community?

To me, this is the truth of buying and selling fair-trade. With very little effort, our purchases directly impact the lives of the poor. It’s a tan woven bag that doesn’t jump out as a fashion statement. It doesn’t appear to have any real value and it might not be a topic of conversation at a dinner party. But to me, this bag is of more worth than a Gucci bag. It is a symbol of empowerment, work ethic, building bridges and hope. It truly can change the world for that one family I spent the day with.

My ride back to Port Au Prince as the dusk settled was peaceful. I was dirty and exhausted from the ride and the hike. Maxime was still sore at me for what I got him into, but my heart was happy that I had found a small treasure up in the mountains above Verettes. Their treasure is now my treasure. A bag that I throw my water bottle, wallet, and keys into as I run an errand is much more than meets the eye. It is now hands-down my favorite bag. My Gucci Bag. I hope it will soon be yours too.

Mother's Day

By Shelley Jean
on May 12, 2019
Mother's Day

I got on the phone with my mother last night from Haiti.  She and I have both been a part of working in Haiti with a heart for orphan prevention for the past ten years. Some people may wonder what fuels us. Who knows how much of our own stories and hidden memories play into what compels us, but I have to think that my own infancy might have something to do with it.

My mother had been diagnosed with kidney cancer in the early 1950s as a preschooler. She had undergone surgery to remove her kidney, and that coupled with radiation treatment had saved her life. To this day her body shows the scars and the subtle disfigurement in her rib cage from that radiation. It was a miracle that she lived. Fast forward twenty years later and my mother was a young wife and mother of two babies- a 16-month-old boy and a baby girl. Me. My father was in the military and my mother was overseas in Germany alone and grieving the untimely death of her own father. On one particular day she felt something was off in her abdomen. She made an appointment with the doctor to try to get some help, figuring she just needed some post-partum exercises to help her body recover from having her baby.  The results were not what she expected. Cancer. Again.

The other kidney- the only one she had left with was being ravaged by the unexpected tumor. She looked at her two babies and her husband, a young Captain in the Air Force, and she prayed that she could live. She so wanted to be alive to raise her kids.

She was nursing me at the time as I was only a few months old. The battle to save her life went into full swing. I obviously don’t remember all of the details, but the story, as she tells it, is that she had to stop nursing me very suddenly and she had a group of caregivers lined up to take care of my brother and me  for the next few weeks and months as she was fighting for her life.

By the time we all got back together, and her life was again miraculously spared, she noticed something different.  My personality had changed. The sweet singing baby that she had known was gone and in that place was an angry infant who wouldn’t look her in the eye. I wasn’t the same. The strong attachment that we had enjoyed had been severed.

She knew nothing about Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) at the time. My mom just knew what she observed in me and pondered it as she was raising me. Time and consistency do much to heal the broken pieces and my mom, being a good mother, was able to gradually restore those bonds and bring me back to an attached state. But there were still glimmers of that hurt in me throughout my whole childhood that she would notice.

Now imagine if I had never been reunited with my mother. Imagine if I had been left in a room with a nanny and twenty cribs and no one to hold me and comfort me. Imagine the gaping wounds that would become so much deeper and ultimately irreversible. Imagine how much therapy would be needed to bring me back to a place of mental health and stability. Imagine if there was no therapy: Just years and years of being alone and on my own, having my basic needs of food and shelter met, but not having a mother’s love.

The first time I came to Haiti, this is what I saw. I saw orphans. I saw hundreds of them in buildings with no mother. They were emotionally left to fend for themselves and it was in this time that I learned about RAD and how much the severing of bonds with a mother at a young age can leave one unable to form proper healthy attachments later in life.

Something in the deepest and most vulnerable places in me saw myself in these babies and children. When I realized that every single child (apart from one) in the orphanage I was visiting had a living mother, my heart was set on fire. I didn’t want these children to grow up separated from the mothers. Realizing that it was simply the lack of a job that had landed these kids in an orphanage lit that fire in me to work on behalf of poor mothers who wanted to be able to raise their children. Like my mother, so many of them are just praying for a chance to live and raise their kids.

Forty years after her second fight with kidney cancer, my mother and I both work in Haiti on behalf of these women. Our fight is to give every one the same opportunity that she was so fortunate to have. Every day she thanks God that she got to stay alive to raise her two children and every day we pray that our work will give others that same hope.

For more information on how we do this please check out the links below.

And from the bottom of our hearts, writing from Haiti, I wish you and yours a very Happy Mother’s Day! is providing a quality education to our artisan’s kids in Haiti. My mother, Marilyn Monaghan runs this operation. is providing quality jobs for parents in Haiti to be able to raise their children with dignity. Your purchases make the difference.

We wish and work for every loving mother to be able to raise the children that they were given!

Making An Impact - Shopping Online

By Shelley Jean
on April 11, 2019
Making An Impact - Shopping Online
The internet has made it so easy to connect buyers to fair trade artisan groups like Papillon Marketplace. The measurable impact of shopping online for handmade jewelry, home decor, and gifts made by artisans in Haiti is nothing short of amazing!

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Children grow up fast when they have to...

By Shelley Jean
on March 05, 2019
Children grow up fast when they have to...
Today marks exactly nine years since the first day she entered my life. As we celebrate Women’s History Month in March, I want to personally salute Shirley and the so many women like her working for Papillon that are changing their own story right in front of our eyes. They are my heroes.

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