It’s Always Hard to Come Back to Haiti

Haiti Papillon Marketplace

It’s always hard to come back. Partially because I feel so much like my home is still in Haiti and my life straddles two worlds as I make that decision to put my family’s current needs first (as I should) above being physically present in Haiti all the time with the work that is so dear to me. And secondly because the extreme dissonance between two countries is never easy to make sense of.

I jumped in the truck to get to the airport an hour ahead of schedule because we knew the traffic would be bad. Not just bad, but the kind of bad where you can walk faster than you can drive. At 0.5 miles per hour, we inched up the road and over the bridge back into Port Au Prince where both the on-coming traffic as well as the traffic we were currently stuck in each attempted to spread out over the two lane bridge with three lanes of traffic each. A tug of war on the bridge ensues as police men on foot in the hot sun try to make the cars stay in their own lanes so as to prevent a complete stalemate in this head to head combat to get to the other side.

In this chaotic setting about a half mile from where the artisans work, I glance over on the sidewalk and see a dead man sprawled out with a sheet loosely draped over his head. His legs look like rigor mortis has set in. I wince and imagine that he is someone’s loved one. Maybe a brother or a father.  My driver, who was recently deported back to Haiti from America, glances over at me and says, “I have seen that way more times that I ever wanted in this country.”

 

Life carries on.

Death lurks around every corner- almost as present as life. The setting is harsh and real and raw. It is how much of the world lives and we, in our prosperous bubble and sanitized lenses have no idea how they do it. An artisan is diagnosed with cancer. A ceramicist’s daughter is sick. Another has a tumor. While there are many things that I can’t change in this world, the needless deaths of mothers who are my friends is not one of the fates I am prepared to accept. And that is where you have stepped in so powerfully. We continue to receive and have received abundant generosity from you, our friends. You, who may not have met these people, have cared so deeply for them and for their children. It has been a holy and humbling experience to witness the continued abundance that you pour out over our little artisan guild and the people that God has brought to our gates. We feel privileged to do what we can to be a protective hedge around them, knowing we can’t change so much about Haiti, but we can change things just enough to sometimes allow a child not to become an orphan. It is in this setting, just up the road from the traffic and sad reminders of death that a little Oasis of hope is showing signs of life and new opportunity. We have worked so hard to make it beautiful. I believe that a beautiful work environment sets the stage for what you want to happen there. And beauty is what we are after. In all senses. What I didn’t expect was for it to happen so quickly. The creativity is stunning. And unexpected. How and why is it that in the midst of an economic slump like never before, devastating poverty, no sales, and a contagious virus stacked on top of the normal challenges of Haiti,  that artisans are coming out with the most beautiful pieces I have ever seen? The metal artisans have blown me away. The vibrant colors! It is as if life is being birthed through their artwork. The jewelry makers are designing more unique and unusual pieces all by hand. The potters are making bowls and tea sets and new shapes of mugs and planters. What happened in the last three months? A pause-inspired creativity.

And that Creativity is inspiring hope.

So, while I continue to travel back and forth to Haiti and do all I can to market and bring our artisans products into the spotlight, I have to say that they are making my job pretty easy right now. Out of the dusty streets comes beauty, out of ashes comes new life.

Papillon Marketplace Haiti photo

People ask us what we need all the time.... Two simple things.

We need your continued generosity as you have done so well. You have been so kind in your giving, your prayers, your encouragement and so much more. We thank you and we admit that we need you to continue. Papillonempowerment.org is the place you can find out more about our needs. We need sales. (As that is what gets our artisans the dignity, they deserve for the work they do.) It’s never been easier with all the awesome things they are making! Please do think about becoming an intentional and missional salesperson. You can do so by going to papillonwholesale.com and creating an account for yourself. We love it when people take advantage of the wholesale discounts in order to fundraise, sell at events, sell in their stores, sell at flea markets, sell in their schools and ladies’ groups. So many opportunities to change the world and meet your own needs as well. It doesn’t take much to reach out and provide a lifeline of opportunity to some of the world’s most vulnerable. From death to life. From despair to hope. Changing the course of a son and daughter’s life so that their mother can raise them, and they don’t ever have to be called orphans. That is what we are after. Thank you again for all you do and will do for people who are so precious in this world.

With Gratitude,

Shelley Jean

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