"But our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning and healing. Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion." - Thomas Merton (taken from Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson).
A job. A 9am-2pm, Monday through Thursday work schedule. A clean, cool space to work. Flexibility to bring children to work when there's no one to watch them. Paid a liveable wage. Holidays off. A paid lunch break. A job that invests in the overall well-being of the employees.
These are all things that should be obvious aspects of life - but in this life, jobs are hard to come by (even before covid!). Over 80% of Haitians are surviving off $3/day or less. "Orphans" are living in orphanages for years and years simply because their family doesn't make enough money to feed all the mouths. Corrupt governments and political instability have shook the nation for years on end. Babies are fed sugar water in hopes that they will survive because formula is too expensive. School costs anywhere from $100 a year to thousands of dollars a year, getting more expensive as the children grow older, causing many children to have to drop out at a young age.
This paints a bleak picture of Haiti but the reality is, these people are more resilient than imaginable. The people desperately want opportunities to provide for their children and families. They know and recognize that the children are the future and hope for the country but there is so much stacked against them. Opportunities are few and far between.
The Zel Haiti program employs a total of 11 people (9 seamstresses, 1 cleaning lady and a sewing machine technician). Those 11 people are financially responsible for a total of 50 children. Because of this program, that's 50 less children that are not in orphanages, but rather living in the loving arms of their family. Zel Haiti is so much more than just sewing scrubs or yoga bags. It's an investment in Haiti. It's not an investment in keeping orphanages open. It's not a "bandaid". It's investment in a long term solution.
No one knew 2020 would be a year like this. Zel Haiti had to create a budget for the year (like all businesses) and when we did that, we had absolutely no idea what the year would entail. We tried to anticipate bumps in the road but never imagined we'd be facing a global pandemic. We planned for a large fundraiser in May, which was cancelled like so many others. Like many of you, this year has thrown us for a loop and we are struggling to keep our heads above water. We've decided that our number one goal is to continue to find ways to make payroll. Through it all, payroll is what provided hope. It's what provided stability, when it seemed there was none. It's what provided food on the table when things got tight. It's what bought that piwouli (lollipop) when it felt like nothing else could go right. Payroll provides a hope to the employees of Zel Haiti when it feels like everything else around is crumbling down.
Vulnerability is hard. Admitting defeat is hard. Submitting to failures is hard. This year has been hard.
It's overwhelming to think that there isn't a single person who hasn't felt the "hardness" of this year. Not a single person untouched by this global pandemic.
The employees of Zel Haiti aren't afraid of hard work. They are often saying, "we need more to do!" and "when's the next order coming?". They aren't lazy. They don't want a handout. They DESIRE it - but work only comes when someone lòt bò (over there - in the US) places an order for scrubs or buys a yoga mat bag. Each order is prayed over. Each order is earned. Each order is celebrated. Each connection made provides hope. Each person who sends a message of interest, sparks joy. Each person who invests is a huge blessing.
If you are wondering how you can help, there are so many options. If you have medical contacts, send them our way. We want to work with clinics to provide scrubs for their staff at a discounted rate. If you have yoga contacts, send them our way. We want to team with yoga studios to market our products. If you are a medical person, buy scrubs from somewhere you believe in. Take advantages of sales. Partner with us. Help spread the word of a company who cares deeply about its clients and its employees. If none of these fit you, you can make a tax-deducible donation below to help keep us making our payroll goal each month. Becoming a monthly donor connects you with one of our Zel ladies and her family, receiving quarterly communication from them.
Lastly, we want to thank each of you for sticking through our vulnerable moments. Vulnerability is really tough. Running a business in a developing country is also really tough. We strive and dream to be a successful, self-sustaining business but it feels like we hit roadblock after roadblock (literally, in Haiti). The Zel employees are aware of every donor, every client, every supporter. Each one of you are celebrated and prayed for regularly. We are so glad you are a part of our family!