Earlier this month, we hired 15 new people at a recycling facility in Port-au-Prince. This employment was made possible from the program, Ramase Lajan, which is a result of a partnership between Thread, Haiti Recycling, Executives Without Borders , and Samaritan’s Purse.
These 15 jobs are a reflection of Thread’s commitment to investing in the future of recycling in Haiti and the immediate need for jobs. It is the outcome of global partners working together for a common goal. Ramase Lajan recently collected the 20 millionth bottle from the streets, canals, and homes of Haiti over the past 2 years; and we are dedicated to improving the quality and volume of our products made from those bottles. These 15 jobs, in addition to 50 individuals running and employed at collection centers, and 25 people already hired at the recycling campus in 2012 to expand plastics processing – brings total employment to 90 new Haitian jobs in 15 months.
These new jobs will help prepare the recycled plastic Thread exports each month to make into stuff people love. Someday, this material will travel locally to an elegant manufacturing facility in Port-au-Prince, made by Thread, made by Haitians, made in country. Minimizing our environmental footprint and maximizing social and economic impact.
Next week, I’m going to Haiti (with Threadheads Kelsey and Frank) to meet our 15 new employees. I will spend much of my time at our recycling facility working with our engineer and team on quality assurance and increased production, while Kelsey & Frank travel to every one of Ramase Lajan’s 24 collection centers to check in and survey the landscape for opportunities to improve and strengthen.
We will meet 15 members of 15 families that quite possibly didn’t have a sustainable income in March, and we’ll come back to Pittsburgh determined to work that much harder and that much smarter to support this growing family that deserves our absolute best.
10 million people live in Haiti. 80% of Haitians live below the poverty line. 15 is less than .00001% of the unemployed population. We didn’t change Haiti. We didn’t change Port-au-Prince. We haven’t even changed the health and sustainability of one neighborhood.
We did clean up the streets and establish a thriving economic engine in a place deemed impossible – and we’re just getting started.
In the US, if you lose your job, you apply for unemployment. Not in Haiti. If you’re injured, you file for worker’s compensation, short-term, or long-term disability. Not in Haiti. Older than 65 or below our poverty line? Medicare, Medicaid, and social security. Not in Haiti. If you’re willing to work hard, study, and earn an education, loans and financial aid, difficult as they may be at times, exist. Not in Haiti. We rely on our friends and family. If one person falls on hard times, possibly someone within your family or friends has not. This is not true in Haiti.
Even though support systems are hard to experience and frequently not enough to maintain what we’re used to, these possibilities of relief are simply not accessible to the average citizen in Haiti. Strange how this is true in a country globally known as ‘the republic of NGOs’ (that’s an entirely different blog post).
In Haiti, a family averages five people. If one member is employed, those five people eat. Children go to school. Mandatory school uniforms are purchased. Doctor appointments happen. Medicine becomes an option. Debt stops accumulating. Bills are paid. Homes are repaired. Dignity and stability is restored. That family begins to sustain on its own, not need a handout, and position itself to help others – because in Haiti ‘family’ is not at all limited to blood relation and ‘community’ is just as strong a word. If you have in Haiti, you give. Nothing has taught me this more directly than witnessing the work of Team Tassy, also founded by Ian, operating in Haiti. The picture at the top of this post is an aerial view of Port-au-Prince. I look at it knowing how many families live down there, full of potential, without an opportunity to realize it. It motivates me.
From the perspective of 10 million, 15 jobs is quite inconsequential. But, from the perspective of those 15, a new job is a new day. And that’s why we’re here. That’s worth whatever it takes to make it happen. Again. And again. And again.