Help can be a vague word. This fall I visited Haiti for the first time as an intern for Thread. I went to help, and learned that the kind of help many Haitians want is in the form of opportunity. These creative problem solvers are bursting at the seams with innovations and ideas, and just need the opportunity to put them to use.
You can see in the picture below, all throughout the country streets are lined with vendors selling all kinds of goods and foods. Many of these items for sale are not new, but still have value. It occurred to me that in this way—by constantly reselling and reusing these items—Haitians have already established a whole network of recycling, perhaps without even realizing it. Most Haitians are already running their own business. Some just require a little direction to grow that opportunity.
That’s where we came in. Working with the Ramase Lajan program, a program founded by Executives Without Borders, we can provide Haitians with the opportunity to take their ideas and run with them. Ramase Lajan allows Haitians to run their own business, provide income generating opportunities in their neighborhood, and clean up the communities in which they live. Thread buys the plastic Ramase Lajan collects to turn into fabric. It’s a sustainable kind of help.
Along with taking diligent notes at each of our scheduled meetings, I also updated my journal during the entire trip. Today we visited the collection center in Ti Goave run by Gustave Chery. I was able to conduct an interview with Gustave who told us that he is glad to be a part of an organization that is making such a significant impact on his country. He expressed his admiration for the power of the individual and said that running a center is his way of contributing to the betterment of Haiti. It was powerful to hear first hand how opportunity and recycling are changing lives.
This is my favorite photo I took while in Haiti because it wraps up much of what I learned. This is a picture of a canal. Locals call it the “Styrofoam Canal”, but it used to be filled with plastic bottles as well so it actually represents a marked improvement. It shows that there’s still a lot of work to be done in Haiti, but a huge impact has already been made. The ambition of Haitians being concentrated into the recycling business and the Ramsae Lajan program made this achievement possible. It’s exciting to know that as the program grows to include other waste streams, the “Styrofoam Canal” will soon no longer exist. I am proud to have had the chance to be part of this program because it is one that really helps. The inspiration and drive to accomplish something great is already there, the ‘help’ that programs like Ramase Lajan can bring is simply providing a platform for that potential to become real, measurable change.