At the Fonds Bayard camp, an hour drive from Port-au-Prince and ten minutes from the border of the Dominican Republic, a group of middle-aged Haitians are surrounded by the sounds of children playing hand-slapping games among a communal familiarity of activity. Over 30 children comfortably approach the company of strangers on July 26, 2016 – visitors from REBUILD globally. I’m making a special trip accompanying this group to first-handedly see the launch of this border workshop.
The displacement camp looks all but stabilized, a humanitarian plan in progress. It’s striking that there are hardly any teenagers around. Are the camp teenagers working during the summer or taking classes? I wonder what accounts for their absence. In a country with 54% living in abject poverty, and where political instability complicates further investments, the former seems unlikely. Youth are more likely to be unskilled in Haiti’s contracting economy, racked with a 40.6% unemployment rate, alongside of the underemployed working-age population. It’s probable that Haitian teenagers are scraping by on a subsistence wage, managing to live on low-skilled labor. Educational values may be important but don’t supersede the more immediate threat of lacking an income.
A glimpse into the realities of living in a refugee camp. Fonds Bayard, July 2016
The scarcity of living-wage employment in the country is harshly felt at Fonds Bayard, where newly arrived migrants struggle to find work. The remoteness of the camp and the barren terrain makes food security an added concern. Under these challenging circumstances, REBUILD globally, in partnership with the United Nations’ MINUSTAH has implemented a jobs initiative program for 35 carefully selected camp inhabitants that are asylum seekers; a combination of newly arrived refugees and displaced persons. Participants are trained by current employees of deux mains designs in an autonomous process that teaches them the steps in refashioning used tires and creating soles of handcrafted sandals.
REBUILD globally has entrusted previously trained employees such as Madame Ste Rose, who is an appointed manager and community liaison; she’s a key figure that is pictured in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. At the end of three-month period, trained employees of REBUILD globally will have completed orders and produced the soles of 6,000 pairs of sandals for its private entity deux mains designs . The goal of this nonprofit/for-profit hybrid model is to secure long-term employment for the majority of the employees, and this is clearly a driving force in its thriving operations.
CEO and Founder Julie Colombino with Madame Ste. Rose and a representative from MINUSTAH during the ribbon cutting ceremony at Fonds Bayard
Founder of deux mains designs and REBUILD globally, Julie Colombino has an ambitious business plan to successfully train employees for effective leadership roles, which includes transitioning them into shareholders and managers of the enterprise. Jolina Auguste is an impressive example of this professional pipeline; contributing her work ethic and hard-earned skills exercised since the inception of deux mains designs to its current establishment. It wasn’t that long ago when Ms. Auguste lived in a tent, similar to the displaced Haitians at Fonds Bayard, but she has passionately worked her way up to being a shareholder of REBUILD globally. And now, in her current leadership role with this workshop, Jolina is supporting Madame Ste. Rose and carrying out innovative efforts such as a pop-up unit that will help spread gainful employment.
Global Operations Director for REBUILD globally, Sarah Sandsted explained that the production plan includes traveling to the Fonds Bayard camp, two to three times per week to reinforce learning and practices. Six staff members of deux mains designs take the lead on training and they share their expertise with the employees. MINUSTAH has no direct role in the training but depending on this program’s success, they may continue the partnership by furthering the development phase by including other border camps.
The local leadership team in front of the shipping container that has been converted into REBUILD globally’s new training facility.
Established shortly after the devastating 2010 Haitian earthquake, REBUILD globally’s workshop has the potential to upturn the economic instability that caused many of these inhabitants to become regular migrants in the first place. In part, destabilization is a massive problem that the current anocratic state of Haiti is far from resolving. In the midst of unreliable institutions, REBUILD globally is a welcome change for this community.
REBUILD globally and deux mains designs are looking after their employees through educational training and a system of financial support that incorporates a Haitian concept of savings such as “sòl.” Consider supporting the endeavor by purchasing a product from their online store.
Julie Colombino is founder of REBUILD Globally and deux mains designs; she was President of the United Nations Association, Orlando Chapter from 2007-2009. Questions about REBUILD Globally and press should contact Isabel Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Javiera Alarcon, the author, is the Development Director on the Young Professionals Board of the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA). Follow her on twitter @Javiera_Alarcon.