Haiti is a country known for its statistics: 7 out of 10 Haitians live on less than $2 USD per day, Cité Soleil (largest slum in Port-au-Prince) is the most dangerous neighborhood in the Western Hemisphere, and more than 100,000 people died in the 2010 earthquake. Haiti has been plagued by poverty, corruption, and violence, and unfortunately, will continue to face these problems in the near future. BUT, Haiti should be known as a country full of potential and a country making progress.
NGO and UN vehicles are prominent in the streets and these organizations serve their purpose, but the future of Haiti starts with successful businesses. My internship this summer with the Clinton Foundation and Caribbean Craft aims to show how an artisan goods wholesaler can thrive in Haiti and scale to full-country operations. Caribbean Craft already employs close to 500 Haitians and estimates that for each Haitian it employs, the lives of 8 others are positively affected. With items already sold in prominent stores such as West Elm, Anthropologie, Restoration Hardware, and Crate and Barrel, Caribbean Craft has a strong foothold in the US market and is ready to expand.
Haiti is a country rich with artisanal history with villages in each region specializing in a local craft. So far, I have visited the metal workers of Croix-des-Bouquets, the stone carvers of Léogâne, the vine weavers of La Vallée-de-Jacmel, and the grass weavers of Bainet. Each village presents its own challenges for becoming a part of Caribbean Craft, but the skill, artistry, and enthusiasm for the craft is plentiful.
I urge you to look past the statistics and the bad press Haiti receives. Haiti is an exciting country waiting to be explored, and in just 3 weeks time, I have seen the immense beauty that Haiti offers: mountains that create majestic landscapes, hidden waterfalls, skillful artisans that learn their family craft, and a vibrant culture of bright colors, good music, and even better food. I look forward to what the next 7 weeks will bring!
— Jonathan Cook