Jolina Auguste is our Workshop Supervisor and the very first employee hired by REBUILD globally. Before the earthquake, she worked as a shop-owner, selling cosmetics, soaps and cooking supplies in a corner bodega. The earthquake destroyed her business, stealing her livelihood and only source of income. She worked in factories and performed odd jobs until she met Julie, and became the inspiration behind REBUILD globally.
Jolina responded to her shop collapse with optimism and an entrepreneurial spirit, as well as a profound dedication. In the midst of the confusion and chaos of post-earthquake Port-au-Prince, Jolina’s clarity gave our founder, Julie, a vision for our social enterprise. She insisted that Julie think beyond the handouts that defined the emergency response, and rather focus on employment efforts. Jolina is the founder of a community women’s group, and those women were the first sandal makers at REBUILD. When faced with a challenge, Jolina is the first to calmly propose a solution, and the first to laugh about it afterwards.
Jolina is emotionally invested in REBUILD as the Workshop Supervisor, but she is also financially invested as one of the shareholders in the business. When asked what REBUILD means to her, Jolina responds that everything in her life has changed – her paycheck has enabled her to buy her own land, build a home, and pay for her two daughters’ school fees. She has also received managerial training and business education. She says she is proud of what she does, because she contributes to making a beautiful product that shows people the beauty of Haiti.
On any given day, Jolina will be checking each sandal for loose threads and adding sizing tags, tracking the inventory in our local boutique, or working with the artisans through HR challenges. Jolina’s story is one of profound resurgence and growth, and she is truly the backbone of the workshop.
REBUILD globally’s Country Director, Sarah Sandsted, is in charge of all operations on the ground in Haiti. From navigating the Haitian legal system and managing the in-country budget to scouting out potential partners and ensuring the overall well-being and success of our staff in Haiti, you never know where you will find her on any given day.
Sarah discovered Haiti in 2006 on a short-term volunteer trip where she was recruited to work as a French interpreter. The inspiring week she spent there changed the course of her career forever. After spending several years in leadership positions at U.S- and Haiti-based nonprofits, she eventually found her way to REBUILD globally.
Sarah’s love for Haiti is matched only by her passion for social business as a means to ending global poverty. She is fluent in French and Haitian Kreyol, and has been on board as the Haiti Country Director for REBUILD globally since October, 2013, when she graduated with distinction from the University of Westminster in London with an MA in International Liaison and Communication.
Jean Robert Pluviose, our Production and Design Manager, is a brilliant and integral member of the REBUILD team. His creativity and precision are showcased in our beautiful tire sandals, and his calm disposition and open heart are the qualities that create the productive and encouraging atmosphere in our workshop.
Before REBUILD, Jean Robert was studying computer science at a local university while working at his neighborhood computer store. On January 12, 2010, the earthquake hit Port-au-Prince. It collapsed the store, taking his livelihood, along with the lives of many friends and colleagues. He found short-term, inconsistent and low-paying jobs supporting various NGOs, but faced long periods of unemployment while trying to rebuild his life.
Jean Robert appeared at the workshop in 2011 to help cut tires, and within one week he was hired as a full-time artisan. Now Jean Robert is our Production and Design Manager, and works with the artisans on quality control, skills training, creating new designs, as well as, managing incoming orders. He is currently training to take over several operational responsibilities, and is completely in charge of materials inventories and production.
Jean Robert says that working for REBUILD has changed his life. He has found a job where he can be creative, and where he is a huge part of the REBUILD family. Jean Robert’s salary has allowed him to take on the construction of a new house where he lives with his young cousin whom he hopes to adopt, and where he will be living with his future wife after their 2015 marriage. He pays his young cousin’s school, and has also paid his way through university – in June 2014, Jean Robert was one of seven graduates who earned their four-year Baccalaureate in Theology. Next, he will earn his PhD. He wants to help expand REBUILD to be a globally recognized company, which will help transform the lives of more people and contribute to his country.
About Haiti, Jean Robert says “We have beautiful beaches, beautiful historic sites….we have a beautiful life here,” and encourages everyone to visit. When asked what REBUILD meant to him, he explained that after the earthquake, he first saw REBUILD as a safe place to earn a wage, yet he has found a career that he is passionate about and allows him to contribute to his country. His drive to learn and his peaceful nature create the atmosphere where everyone works together and builds each other up; all while creating unique, beautiful sandals. Finally, Jean Robert serves as one of five shareholders of our sandal business in Haiti, the most unique and innovative part of our social business model.
Annie Dickson is REBUILD globally’s Workforce Development Manager, though that title fails to describe her many duties, which include managing our inventory, skills training, writing blog posts, and analyzing workshop expenses and improvements. Ultimately, she has polished and refined our production process.
Initially headed on a career path in the education field, she decided international work was for her during a semester studying in Dakar, Senegal, where she also learned French. In 2012, Annie returned to her alma mater, Rhode Island College, to complete a certification in International Non-Government Organizations Studies following her B.A. in Anthropology and Political Science.
After working with campaigns and nonprofits ranging from support for victims of domestic violence to education and microfinance, she first came to Haiti in August 2013 as an intern with grassroots community development organization Haiti Communitere. Because of that internship, Annie was introduced to REBUILD globally, and began working with us in October of 2013.
Brunel Zamor is our Haiti Liaison Officer. His natural talent for diplomacy, coupled with his intimate and authentic understanding of Haitian culture, allows REBUILD to operate with legitimacy and respect in the Haitian community.
Three years before the earthquake, Brunel was working with a University-organized internship while studying accounting. Unfortunately, the January 2010 earthquake destroyed his office building, and the company never recovered. Due to his phenomenal English language skills, Brunel connected with a group of disaster volunteers and was elected principal of their newly-established English institution for adults, English in Mind (EIM). This is where he met REBUILD’s CEO and Founder, Julie Colombino.
Brunel began his career at REBUILD taking over the English class for the artisans that Julie had started at the request of the team. Yet his amicable nature and work ethic both indicated strong potential for management. Due to his background and knowledge of accounting, Brunel was quickly promoted, and was tasked with serving as REBUILD’s accountant. After a few years in this role, the leadership at REBUILD recognized his developing talents in negotiation, language, liaison and diplomacy. As of September, 2014, Brunel was promoted to Haiti Liaison Officer.
In December of 2013, Brunel married the love of his life, Rosalene, with whom he welcomed his first child, Anne Christine. When asked what employment with REBUILD globally has done to impact his life, Brunel’s answer is simple: “Without a steady job, I would not have been able to start a family. Because of my job, I have been able to accomplish my goals of being a good husband and father. I have always dreamed of having a family, and a steady income has allowed me to do so.”
Brunel is an invaluable member of the team who takes on every challenge with grace, determination and patience. We rely on him for cultural guidance and expertise while depending on his humor and quick-wit to lighten even the most challenging situations. Brunel currently serves as one of five shareholders in our sandal business in Haiti.
Yvette Guerrier is one of the first artisans who began working at REBUILD in August of 2010. She has been a full-time member of the crew since the beginning, and it’s impossible to imagine the workshop without Yvette’s wicked humor but also her calm, friendly presence. Her sense of style and confidence always brightens up the workshop.
Before the earthquake, Yvette owned her own shop selling rice, beans and cooking ingredients. Combined with her husband’s salary, they made enough to get by, but they were often low on funds by the end of the month. Yvette says she succeeded in supporting her family at that time only because of her hard work, much of it overtime.
After the earthquake, Yvette’s shop and home completely collapsed. She was forced to live in a tent and began searching for work. Always one to find opportunities to help, she volunteered at an orphanage with Jolina’s women’s group when they both met Julie, and was part of the first group of artisans that began REBUILD.
Yvette says her situation has completely changed from four years ago – she now rents her own home and pays for her children to continue their education. She says she no longer has to worry about money because of her salary, which allows her to support her teenage children. Yvette is also a first-time grandmother with a three-month old granddaughter.
Yvette says her favorite part of working at REBUILD is that she can present a pair of sandals and say “I made those – and I’m proud of my work.” When asked what she would say if she saw someone wearing REBUILD sandals, she would explain how proud she is that the sales are supporting REBUILD’s community. Yvette is interested in sales, and wants to begin training and working towards a sales position while continuing her artisan work.
Betty Prosper is the youngest member of the REBUILD globally team. At just 22 year of age, she is our Head Seamstress with a wide range of talents and attention to detail. As a graduate of the REBUILD globally Apprenticeship Program and recent high school grad, she spent the last few years dedicating herself to extra hours of schooling, tutoring and additional courses. She is perhaps our quietest team member, with a seemingly serious disposition, but her quick sense of humor and occasional boisterous laughter brightens the workshop. And do not be fooled by her quite disposition, Betty is fluent in English!
Betty was a teenager when the earthquake hit, and was forced to leave Port-au-Prince for six months because her family had nowhere to live. After coming back to the city center, Betty worked teaching macramé and other artisanal handcrafting skills in a summer school program. In January 2012, she began volunteering with the artisan students at REBUILD and became part of the Apprenticeship Program. Very early on, her skills as a seamstress became apparent. Within one month of working at REBUILD, she became our Head Seamstress.
Betty is constantly looking for ways to expand her skills, including participating in several beading courses. She enjoys working with new materials and patterns, and is an integral part in refining new designs. One day Betty wants to become a Manager to keep REBUILD growing, particularly because “every time a person buys the sandals, they help us reach our dream.” Every pair of sandals sold has been sewn in part by Betty!
Minouche Alcin has been with REBUILD globally since its inception. Minouche, part of Workshop Supervisor Jolina’s community women’s group, met our founder Julie through the same orphanage encounter that introduced Jolina to REBUILD. Minouche immediately showed talent at handcrafting, and has since become one of our most refined sandal makers. She is the first person to offer to stay late to finish an order, or come in on a day off to introduce the workshop to a customer, or spend extra time with the manager to learn a new pattern.
Minouche originally owned her own shop selling rice, beans and other cooking supplies, and was able to support herself and her daughter while renting an apartment. Her shop completely collapsed in the earthquake, and her apartment had become so damaged it was uninhabitable, so Minouche’s immediate concern was safe housing and sustainable financial support for herself and her daughter.
Because of her employment with REBUILD, Minouche now owns land and is building a house (next door to Jolina), and is sending her nine year old daughter, Washenska, to school. She has laid the foundation for her home, and as she saves money, she will be able to finish the building. In January of 2014, Minouche gave birth to her second daughter, whom she named July (pronounced as Julie).
Minouche says that when she comes to work, it doesn’t feel like a job – it feels like a family. She says everyone is “smiling and laughing, no one has any problems with each other…at work, everyone gets along.” It is this sense of community and friendship that Minouche treasures, and she wants others to be a part of what she has experienced. After her shop collapsed, she thought she would never find work, and she wants to inspire others to create success stories as well.
Jesselie Jean is a mother of two who has just reached her 4-year anniversary with REBUILD globally. Jesselie’s bright personality and optimism, along with a spark of sarcasm, bring a level of fun to the workshop – her laugh is contagious and she laughs often. Her dream is to one day be able to adopt more children; she has already adopted a 10-year-old girl, a new sibling to her two-year-old son.
Jesselie is part of Jolina’s women’s group, and volunteered her time at the local orphanage. Her former job at a bank ended when it collapsed in the earthquake. She was without work for 8 months. For those 8 months, she lived with her mother and took administrative courses, but says she felt discouraged, and was ashamed to not have a job. She wanted to get married and start a family, but not without being able to support herself independently. Hired as soon as REBUILD opened, Jesselie is now a senior sandal maker and one of the most productive and energetic craftswoman, as well as an integral part of training new employees.
Although she rents an apartment with her husband currently, she has bought her own land and hopes to start her own orphanage or childcare facility – she says that, just as Julie and REBUILD have supported her, she wants to support others, especially children, and wants all REBUILD customers to know that they are helping all of us accomplish that goal.
If you ever buy a pair of Jesselie sandals (hyperlink to the Jesselies) she wants you to know that she is very proud of her work. She says that while she loves everything about her job, her favorite part is creating the Jesselie model.
Anne Fertil, affectionately known as Mami Anne, has a smile that would brighten anyone’s day. She greets her colleagues happily every morning, usually with hugs. While she contributes to the entire sandal-making process, she primarily works as a seamstress. Mami Anne has been working with REBUILD for almost three years, and her salary has enabled her to take care of her many nieces, nephews, and neighbor’s children – a number that can, at times, be more than twelve.
Before joining REBUILD, Mami Anne sold several different products, ranging from soap to cookies to toothbrushes, yet the income was inconsistent. Mami Anne initially joined the team as part of a livelihoods grant from the United Nations to support REBUILD’s development program.
We asked Anne what it has meant to her to work with REBUILD. She described it as transformational. Mami Anne is a cancer survivor and her salary covered the cost of her surgery after her diagnosis. Today she is healthy, cancer-free and doing well. Even when we ask Mami Anne how her own life has changed, personally, she will always talk about what she is able to do for others. Her job has empowered her to provide for herself and her family, and has brought to us, a valued member of our REBUILD family.
Omel Saint Preux is one of the most inspiring members of the REBUILD globally family. Omel’s determination and dedication make him an integral part of our team, and he is also a very kind and sweet young man. Omel is willing to do any task, from searching for tires to sanding the finished product. He resides on the REBUILD globally property provide an overnight security presence; however, his story and why he lives at REBUILD shows his strength and perseverance.
Omel’s birth certificate had been lost in the earthquake, and birth certificate renewals in Haiti require a substantial fee and several documents proving residency. Omel, not being able to fulfill those requirements, had been living in fear of arrest for being caught without a birth certificate until the spring of 2013, when he was able to buy his own certificate renewal with his wages. He says he now has enough money to support himself and his siblings, and that when he was offered the job, “God opened a door.”
In addition to his work here at REBUILD, Omel is in our Apprenticeship Program. Omel has a long-term job that pays a living wage, resides in a safe environment, and is 26 years old – and yet, he is determined to earn his high school diploma. Omel successfully balances a full time job, school, weekly tutoring sessions, and four hours of extra courses on Saturdays.
Omel has overcome so many obstacles in his life, and is hugely important to the success of REBUILD, not just for his willingness to help in any task, but also for his calm, sweet nature that encourage a peaceful working environment for the others. When not working or studying, Omel can be found leading a local church group in nightly hymns or taking care of our workshop security dog.
Donald Saint Preux is Omel’s younger brother. Donald’s living situations had been very precarious since the death of their parents, and never permanent. He had taken several odd jobs, such as security, gardening, and construction, but those positions had never developed into a career. Donald’s work situations were less than fair, and he says at some of those position he worked to trade for food and a place to sleep – but was never actually paid.
Donald was living in Cite Soleil when, through a mutual friend he met Julie. Julie saw his potential and agreed to financially support his schooling. For a few years, Donald was employed part-time, went to school, and began making beads and bracelets that he brought to Julie each Saturday. This led to the inception of the Apprenticeship Program, which Donald was a student in for two years.
When Donald’s housing situation became dangerous, he and his brother Omel began residing on the workshop property as overnight security. Because he has safe housing and a stable salary, Donald has been able to start his own garden, has been raising goats, and has been taking welding classes as an intern.
Very warm-hearted, Donald asks almost every day about the teams’ families,¬ and the US-based team. He is a smart and cheerful young man. Always the first to volunteer to work with the tires (a process which involves lifting tires into and out of the truck, cleaning them, cutting out the sidewalls, and sanding), he is full of energy and spirit. He is also very precise in his work, and almost every sandal has been sanded to a clean finish by Donald.
Andremene Jean was hired in July 2012 and has become an efficient and skilled sandal maker. She loves making sandals for a living, because she loves seeing that at the end of the day she has created something beautiful.
Andremene used to earn a living doing laundry, and owned a home on a small plot of land. After her home collapsed in the earthquake, she may have been able to rebuild – however, the company in the neighboring space expanded onto her property and she had no way of disputing as the paperwork was lost in the earthquake. Therefore, she lost her home and her land, and had to rely on the help of a local pastor.
Andremene no longer needs her pastor’s support – because of her position at REBUILD, her salary has more than tripled from her days washing clothes. She supports her four children who are still in school, and even supports her mother who now lives with her as well. We are also celebrating that Andremene has now purchased a new home!
When asked about why she loves working at REBUILD, she says REBUILD has helped “every single need.” When asked about her favorite part of working at REBUILD, her response was not about a tripled salary, but about creating a product that is beautiful. Andremene explains that while she is now able to fully support herself and her family, she is thankful for the opportunity to be creative and productive, and because she has found a community here.
Suze Deline is the newest member of the REBUILD globally team. She joined us over the summer of 2013 as an intern, through a partnership with Entrepreneurs du Monde (Entrepreneurs of the World) — an organization that supports job training and capacity building, and also places the participants as interns within host organizations. Over the past year, Suze has shown amazing talent, skill, and capacity to learn.
Before the earthquake, Suze was living in multi-unit apartment building, and travelling often to the Dominican Republic. There, she would buy products ranging from eggs and produce to sandals and clothing, which she would then sell in Port-au-Prince. While this supported her enough to keep her apartment and support her daughter (Smiy, who is now nine years old), it was unstable – sometimes the customs agents would not let her cross back in to Haiti with the produce, or she would buy more than she could sell. While she had also had some jobs training as a hairstylist, neither of those positions were consistently lucrative.
She became involved with Entrepreneurs du Monde to increase her skills and make a trade for herself. After her three-month internship, Suze was hired as a full-time member of our staff, and quickly became part of the REBUILD family. She is currently working directly with our Production and Design Manager to refine the newest style for Summer 2015.
Suze had said that even if REBUILD did not hire her to work full-time after her internship, she would have stayed as a volunteer because she loves the organization and her coworkers. Suze is thoughtful, intelligent and dedicated, and has proven to be a talented sandal maker.