Psychologists suggest that our lives are comprised of a series of defining moments. Moments that shape our perspective, and provide lessons or patterns of behavior for the duration of our lives. What would your life look like if one of your “defining moment” was being forcefully deported from your home? Imagine for a moment: you are walking to work, and are stopped by armed immigration officers. They interrogate you, calling you names like “animal” and “little devil.” Imagine being forcefully thrown into the back of a truck, ripped from everything familiar, carted across the border into a new country with a 59% unemployment rate, dumped into an arid, desert-like displacement camp, and forced to start over. Imagine leaving behind your friends, your family, your children and your job, with little or no access to food, water, employment or income. How would a moment like this, and your subsequent need to piece your life back together, shape your perspective? A humanitarian crisis has been unfolding between the Dominican Republic and Haiti over the past year. Last summer, policy changes in the Dominican Republic allowed authorities to deport individuals of Haitian descent. As a result, thousands were plucked from their homes by the truck-load, and dropped at the border; forced to re-build their lives, primarily in tent cities: refugee camps that sprung up like cruel and ominous forests in barren border towns.
Creating dignified employment and hope for refugees
At REBUILD globally, we have witnessed how dignified, living-wage employment contributes to the positive transformation of lives – particularly for families recovering from disaster. The lives of those living in these encampments are strikingly similar to life in the tent-camps of post-earthquake Haiti. These people have been deprived of even the most basic elements for survival – plumbing, food, clothing, and reliable shelter, to name a few. Walking through the camps, the memories of post-earthquake Haiti came flooding back, like a resurrected nightmare. A year has passed since our first visit to the camp in Fonds Bayard. Since that time, REBUILD globally has secured funding from the United Nations to build a pop-up employment unit that will provide paid job training for 35 displaced asylum seekers, giving them the training necessary to hand craft deux mains sandal soles from up-cycled tires for production in our social impact factory in Port Au Prince. We identified that the time to act is now, and in the first week of training we have already witnessed a transformative change in the lives of those we hope to employ. Agony transforms to hope, all through the power of a paycheck.
New beginnings at the border
As Martin Luther King once said, “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late…. Procrastination is still the thief of time. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at the flood; it ebbs…” Yesterday, while sitting with one of the new trainees, Charles, a warm breeze came drifting through the courtyard in front of the pop-up employment unit. He took a long, well deserved drink of water after a hard days’ work, and wiped the beads of sweat from his brow. Shaking his head, with a thick Spanish accent he turned to me and said, “Mwen renmen travay sa ampil, Sarah.” (I love this work so much, Sarah). The honesty and unsolicited proclamation left me feeling full and overwhelmed with joyful emotion. Perhaps this was a new defining moment for Charles, creating a new perspective. It certainly was for me. Let us be hasty in our obedience to Dr. King’s prophetic words.
Let us not be thieves of time. Together we can wage a war on the things that keep poor people poor. Make an impact with your paycheck at www.rebuildglobally.org.
Written by Sarah Sandsted. Sarah serves as the Global Operations Director for REBUILD globally, and the Vice President of deux mains designs. Sarah discovered Haiti in 2006 on a short-term volunteer trip where she was recruited to work as French interpreter. Her first week in Haiti changed the course of her career forever, inspiring her to pursue a career in international development. After spending several years in leadership positions at U.S- and Haiti-based nonprofits, she eventually found her way to REBUILD globally and deux mains designs in October of 2013, where she first served as the Country Director, and now as the Global Operations Director. Sarah’s love for Haiti is matched only by her passion for social business and ethical fashion as a means to ending global poverty.