Jolina is REBUILD globally’s shop supervisor and one of the very first members of the REBUILD Globally team. Since her beginning in 2010, she has taken on the role of supervisor and also functions as the mother of the group. She takes great pride in her work and is invested in the well-being of her team of artisans.
Before the earthquake, Jolina and her husband both had jobs and rented a home for themselves and their two children. Jolina’s husband worked as a driver and she worked at a textile factory, which she describes as a very difficult place to work doing the same back breaking work each day. She quit that job to start her own business selling cosmetics, soap, perfume and other small things at a downtown boutique, which was at least a better quality of life. Even so, her income was unpredictable; her husband would have repair costs for the car he drove, and school fees are difficult to save for.
After the earthquake everything changed – she lost her entire shop. Everything had crumbled and there was no money or opportunity to recover. Still Jolina responded with grace and generosity as a member of a local women’s group and volunteered at an orphanage their association had founded. It was in that orphanage, where Jolina met our founder Julie Colombino. From that moment, Jolina became a permanent part of REBUILD.
Jolina is completely invested in REBUILD. Since starting in 2010 Jolina has purchased land, built a home, and adopted two children. When asked what REBUILD meant to her, Jolina responded that everything has changed, that she has received training and education in business and she is able to pay school fees and provide for her family. She, like everyone in the shop, finds it difficult to quantify what REBUILD means for them, because for most it is the difference between trying to survive and living. Jolina’s story is truly that of profound resurgence and growth.
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.
John Robert is a brilliant member of the REBUILD team. He is patient and wise, and, simply put, an extraordinarily hard worker. Working for REBUILD Globally, he has obtained the resources he needs to provide for himself and to also continue his education.
Before REBUILD, John Robert studied computer science in university while working at a local computer store. There he developed his skills as a teacher, as he provided training in various computer skills – however, he then realized he did not want to pursue a career in computer science.
Then in 2010 he too was dramatically affected by the earthquake. His place of work collapsed – he has never since heard from his colleagues, nor does he know if any of them survived. He found small jobs supporting many NGOs that came to Port au Prince, which, while essential for his survival, was hardly consistent. John Robert faced long periods of unemployment until he found REBUILD.
John Robert appeared at the workshop one day to cut tires – arguably the least desirable step of making a sandal. He was so impressive, within one week he was hired as a full-time artisan. Now John Robert is our Product Design Manager. He works with the other artisans in quality control, training, and implementing new ideas. Not only does he work full-time for REBUILD, in the evenings John Robert graduated university where he studied theology. Because of his work at REBUILD, John Robert is able to afford to continuously learn methods for shoe and sandal making.
When asked what REBUILD meant to him, he explained that after the earthquake when he was looking for a long-term job, he saw REBUILD as a place to earn a living until he could find his niche. He has discovered a profession that he had not imagined for himself, and now works with great pride and joy.
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.
Every business or organization needs an accountant, and at REBUILD we are lucky to have Brunel who is formally our accountant, but supports the work of REBUILD in ways far beyond his job description. Brunel brings his playful demeanor and fierce commitment to our workspace.
Before the earthquake, Brunel found a good job through a University organized internship while he was studying accounting. After three years, the January 2010 earthquake destroyed his building, and the company never recovered. Brunel was at university that day, and was never able to return to the same workplace. Due to his phenomenal English language skills, he then became president of a local English institution for adults called English in Mind (EIM). His also currently their principal. EIM was supported by a resource connection and networking organization called Haiti Communitaire, which is where REBUILD Globally made its first home. This is where he met REBUILD’s CEO, Julie Colombino.
After meeting Julie, he started helping REBUILD with translation and teaching English to their artisans. Shortly, he was hired as our accountant and has been with us ever since. Aside from accounting, he also oversees operations while the international staff is away and manages REBUILD’s supply chains by keeping relationships with the vendors.
Anyone who spends anytime with Brunel knows that he loves REBUILD, and REBUILD loves Brunel. When asked what REBUILD meant to him he was unable to pinpoint just one aspect. He described REBUILD as a family, with Julie as the boss but better described as a mother.
As a result of his hard work, Brunel is able to give back to the community – he supports several children in their education by supporting their families’ financial vulnerabilities and providing tutoring. This year Brunel is getting married and will continue to work towards completing his law degree.
Brunel is so many things to so many people. He brings, comedy, compassion, hard-work and commitment to our team. He exudes the character that makes REBUILD what it is today.
Yvette is a very strong, self-confident women who is quick to smile and laugh, has a wicked sense of humor and is also a very dedicated employee. Before the earthquake, Yvette owned her own shop selling rice, food supplies and cooking ingredients. She supported her family with her sales from the shop and her husband’s salary, but it was still difficult for them financially and she was often low on funds by the end of the month. Yvette says she succeeded in supporting her family then, only because she’s a hard worker. She has four children with her husband, two boys and two girls – her eldest is 26 years old, and her youngest is 18 years old.
After the earthquake, both her shop and her home completely collapsed. She was forced to live in a tent and began looking for work. She was working with Jolina at an orphanage when they both met Julie, and has been working here at REBUILD with them since its inception. Yvette says her situation has completely changed from three 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, but that her favorite part of working at REBUILD is that she can look at 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 joked “I would say, ‘what are you doing wearing my sandals? Those are Yvette’s!’” but would then explain how proud she is that there is a model named after her, and that the sales are supporting REBUILD’s efforts. Yvette wants to begin working towards a sales position as well as continuing her artisan work – she says that if REBUILD opens another shop (and that there should one day be several!), she would like sales. With her strong personality and background, as well as her outgoing and humorous nature, Yvette would succeed in any endeavor; but we are glad that her long-term goals would keep her involved as part of our team.
Betty is the youngest member of the REBUILD globally team. She is 21 years old, and just graduated the equivalency of her senior year of high school, called Philo, in July. She is perhaps our quietest member as well, but when she speaks, you can see immediately how intelligent and well-spoken she is – she has shown incredibly responsibility and maturity. At the age of only 21, she is our Head Seamstress.
Betty is also a graduate of our Apprenticeship Program, which means she dedicated several extra hours every week to tutoring and learning artisan skills along with her normal school hours. Students who graduate the Apprenticeship Program are hired after; however, Betty was also working for REBUILD while taking part in the Apprenticeship Program and finishing high school.
She was a teenager when the earthquake hit, and had to leave Port au Prince for six months because her family had nowhere to live. After coming back to Port au Prince, Betty worked teaching macramé in a summer school program. In January 2012, she accompanied a friend who worked at REBUILD and began volunteering. Very early on, her skills as a seamstress became apparent. Within one month of working at REBUILD, she became our Head Seamstress. One day Betty wants to get into Management 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 is one of the most genuinely kind and warm-hearted women we’ve met. She has been here at REBUILD since its inception from being friends with Jolina – when looking for work after the earthquake, Minouche met our founder Julie through her friendship with Jolina, and has been with us ever since. Minouche has an eight year old daughter, and is expecting her second child in December 2013.
Minouche originally owned her own shop. She sold rice, beans and other cooking supplies, and was able to support herself and her daughter while renting an apartment. However, her shop completely collapsed in the earthquake, and it would have been impossible to start over – her apartment had also been damaged, so Minouche had to find a way to support herself and her daughter, as soon as possible.
Now, because of her work and dedication to REBUILD, she has been part of our team for three years. With her wages, she has now bought land and is building a house, and is sending her daughter Washenska, who is now eight years old, to school. She has laid the foundation for her home, and when she saves more, she will be able to finish the building.
Apart from the tangible benefits of working at a living wage, Minouche says she has also benefitted emotionally. She 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. If she ever saw someone wearing REBUILD sandals, she says she would tell them they’ve helped and supported so many women, and if they continue to support REBUILD, we will be able to help more people. After her shop collapsed, she thought she would never find work, but she did at REBUILD, and she wants others to create success stories too.
Jesslie is a 29-year old mother of two who has just reached her 3-year anniversary with REBUILD globally. Jesslie’s bright personality and optimism bring a certain level of fun to the workshop. Her laugh is contagious and she laughs often, and she also has an incredibly generous spirit. Her dream is to one day be able to support an orphanage; she has already adopted a 10-year-old girl, and gave birth to her first child with her husband of two years, Paul Andy, one year ago.
Jesslie was part of a women’s group working with an orphanage when she was out of work after the earthquake. The bank she worked at before had collapsed, and she was without work for 8 months even though she tried taking administrative courses. She was living with her mother in an apartment, but after the earthquake could not sleep inside because they were afraid the building was not strong anymore – they slept in a tent outside. Those eight months after the earthquake, Jesslie says she felt discouraged, and was not proud of not having a job. She wanted to get married and start a family, but without being able to support herself, she couldn’t.
Jesslie met Jolina through the women’s group she worked with, and thus met Julie. Jesslie immediately showed a strong work ethic, and that, coupled with her optimism and happy demeanor, makes her a valuable member of our group. Because of her job at REBUILD, Jesslie was able to adopt and send her daughter to school. She is also married now and has another child, and they are renting a house.
One day she hopes to own land and start her own orphanage or childcare facility – she says that, just as Julie and REBUILD have supported her, she wants to support others. If you ever buy a pair of Jesslie sandals (the Jesslie sandals have the flower attached, which completely fits with Jesslie’s personality), she wants you to know that she is very proud of her work, and encourages you to continue supporting everyone here. She says that while she loves everything about her job, her favorite part is making the Jesslie model.
Anne is full of life and brings her joyful personality into the shop. Affectionately known as Mami Anne, she is energetic and greets everyone happily every morning. Her job with REBUILD has enabled her to take care of the many children she cares for from her family to those in the area, she reports that it is sometimes more than twelve.
Before joining REBUILD, Mami Anne sold several different products from a booth on the street in an attempt to earn money and provide for her family. Anne came to REBUILD as a seamstress, a valued skill within REBUILD’s team. Mami Anne initially joined the team as part of a United Nations-funded livelihoods program. Upon the completion of that program REBUILD understood her value and brought her back to work four months later. The joy and energy she brings to our shop make it a happier work environment.
We asked Anne what it has meant to her to work with REBUILD. She described it as transformational. The demands to provide for her extended family were large, and her salary even contributed to the cost of her surgery after she was diagnosed with cancer. Today she is healthy and doing well. Mami Anne always points to all the ways she is able to provide for her family as I asked for the different ways her life as changed over the past year. Her job at REBUILD has empowered her to provide for her herself and her family, but also brought to us a critical member of our family.
Cassandra is one of our youngest artisans, and is definitely the most outgoing. She is always quick to laugh, and she brings joy and conversation to the workshop. Having Cassandra as an artisan in the workshop really makes a difference; it is lighter and brighter when she is here.
Cassandra was working in a restaurant before the earthquake, which felled both her home and her place of work. She was living in a shelter in a camp with her baby daughter, and financially was unable to support her family. However, she is a strong and enthusiastic young women – she became connected with Julie through a friend, and showed immense dedication to the program by first volunteering for three full months. After those three months, REBUILD hired her full time at a livable wage.
Now, Cassandra says her life has completely changed. She says the her job at REBUILD “is more than a job, it is where I grow and learn.” Cassandra’s salary has made it possible for her to pay for her daughter, now 4 years old, to go to school. She also helps her mother and sister financially, and provides a safe place to stay for friends in need because she now rents her own home.
Cassandra’s favorite task in the workshop is working with the leather. She enjoys the sandal fabrication but would one day like to train as a manager. However her real love for REBUILD is because of the family and community she has found here. Cassandra says “the group is a family, even though we don’t have the same last name…we are still here for each other. We support each other when we are in need.” When she was sick, the other women on the REBUILD team went to her house to keep her company and make her feel more comfortable. The REBUILD team has truly created a strong bond.
However, Cassandra has other ideas as well – she hopes that, because REBUILD is an organization that creates jobs, customers will continue to support our efforts because they are not just helping the artisans, they help the artisans’ families and friends. She hopes that there will be other shops in Haiti one day. Cassandra’s long-term dreams and goal include law school, opening an orphanage, and encouraging safe and healthy environmental practices. Because she is such a smart, hard-working woman, and she clearly has the well-being of not only the Haitian people but Haiti as an environment, she will absolutely succeed in anything she puts her mind to. Cassandra says that even though she wants to explore other areas, such as law or supporting children, she wants to always be involved in REBUILD’s work.
Omel is one of the most impressive and inspiring members of the REBUILD globally family. One of the hardest workers we’ve ever met, Omel’s determination and dedication make him one of out most valuable artisans; and, he is a very kind and sweet young man. Omel actually resides on the REBUILD globally property to help keep the area beautiful and clean; however, his story and why he lives at REBUILD show his strength and perseverance.
Tragically, Omel’s parents passed away when he was a teenager. Omel and his brother Donald have supported each other since, but there were more often periods of unemployment, and certainly no longevity within their jobs. To make matters even more difficult, Omel’s birth certificate had been lost in the earthquake, and birth certificate renewals in Haiti require a substantial fee, possibly bribes, and several documents proving residency. Omel, not being able to fulfill those requirements, until 5 months ago had been living in fear of arrest for being caught without a birth certificate, and he had a few close calls.
However, because of his salary at REBUILD, Omel was able to renew his birth certificate and now has much more freedom of mobility. He says he has enough money to support himself and be comfortable, and that when he was offered the job here, “God opened a door.” He had been trying to support himself and his brother for over ten years, and finally is able to do so.
In addition to his work here at REBUILD, Omel is also one of our apprentices. This is unbelievably impressive, because Omel has multiple reasons that many would say mean he does not need to continue his studies – he has a long-term job that pays a living wage, resides in a safe environment, he is 26 years old – and he not only is working on graduating high school, he is doing so as part of our Apprenticeship Program. This means that Omel juggles, successfully, a full time job, school, weekly tutoring session and four hours of courses on Saturdays.
Omel has overcome so many obstacles in his life, and everyone in the REBUILD team is confident that he will succeed in anything he decides to do. Omel’s favorite part about working at REBUILD is the design, fabrication, and idea-sharing in the sandal-making process. Omel is truly an artist, and he has shown such dedication to not only his work but his education – REBUILD is lucky to have Omel as one of our artisans.
Donald is a bright young man from Jeremie, Haiti. He grew up as one of twelve children – nine brothers, including Omel who is another artisan at RG, and two sisters. Donald’s living situations had always been precarious, and never permanent. He had taken several odd jobs, such as security, gardening, and construction, but had never turned any of those positions into full-time or trade work. Having first worked for a contractor, who paid and supported him, later Donald began working for and living with the construction manager of several projects he’d worked on. Donald’s pay was usually sent directly to his family – Donald says he “never touched money,” meaning that although he was fed and had a place to sleep, he still was not actually earning a living.
Donald was living with this manager in Cite Soleil when, through a mutual friend at the resource center Haiti Communitere, where REBUILD globally began its first workspace, 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.
While he was making a living and going to school, he was still in no way financially stable, and his housing situation was becoming difficult – not only was he still living in Cite Soleil, the manager he lived with stopped paying him and was not treating him well. Julie needed someone at the RG workshop full time as a security measure, so she asked Donald if he would be willing to move to a room on the property. Donald accepted, and has been working here full time ever since! He was offered a construction job with his original boss, but he declined in order to stay here at RG – and we’re so happy he did!
Donald is a smart and cheerful young man. He is always quick to tell and receive a joke, has a wicked sense of humor, and also happens to have one of the most physically stressful jobs of stamping out the tire soles for our sandals and sanding them to a perfect finish. Donald is also recently taking on a part-time job training to learn welding, something he has been interested in. He is a hard worker and a kind person, and we are happy to have him.
Andremane was hired in July 2012 and has seen proven to be incredibly valuable, not just because of her skill but due to her lively personality and sense of humor. She has seven children and ten grandchildren, and therefore is a source of caring and nurturing for everyone in the workshop. She loves making sandals for a living, because she loves seeing that at the end of the day she has created something beautiful.
Andremane used to do laundry for a living, and even owned a small plot of land with a home. After her home collapsed in the earthquake, she may have been able to rebuild – however, the school next door expanded onto her property and she had no way of disputing. Therefore, she lost her home and her land, and had to rely on the help of a local pastor to keep her children in school.
The pastor is no longer supporting children in school. However, Andremane does not need him to – because of her position at REBUILD, Andremane’s salary has more than tripled from her days washing clothes. She owns land again that she plans to build on, supports her four children that are still in school, and even supports her mother who now lives with her as well. When asked about why she loves working at REBUILD, she says REBUILD has helped “every single need.”
Because of her work at REBUILD she has been able to support herself and her family. One aspect of Andremane’s personality that is so impressive is her optimism – 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. Andremande explains that while she is now able to fully support herself and her family, she is thankful for her job being creative and productive because she has found a community here.
Suze is the newest member of the RG team. She joined us last year as an intern, through a partnership with Entrepreneurs du Monde. Entrepreneurs du Monde (Entrepreneurs of the World) is an organization that supports job skill creation and capacity building, which also places the participants with host organizations and financially supports the internship experience. Suze was placed with us in September, and has shown amazing skill and capacity to learn.
Before the earthquake, Suze was living in a St. Martin apartment building with 33 other women, and travelling very often to Malpas in the Dominican Republic. There, she would buy all sorts of goods, ranging from eggs and produce to sandals and clothing, which she would then sell in a booth. While this supported her enough to keep her apartment and support her daughter (Smiy, who is now eight 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 very lucrative.
She became involved with Entrepreneurs du Monde to increase her skills and made a trade for herself. She quickly became part of the RG family, and has become an important member of our team. Her internship ended in December, and RG has decided to hire Suze part-time – she is currently in training to become one of our seamstresses. We knew we needed another seamstress to increase productivity within the workshop, and we knew Suze would be an incredible addition to our team.
Suze had said that even if RG did not hire her to work, she would have stayed as a volunteer because she loves the organization and the people here. She enjoys her job and it supports her and her daughter. Suze is a very quiet and introverted person, but when she talks and laughs it is contagious. She is thoughtful, intelligent and dedicated, and is also on her way to becoming a very talented seamstress.