It's hard to know where to start when telling this story. Even when telling it from my own perspective I struggle with starting even just the first sentence. How do you tell such a monumental story? Will I tell it right? Will my readers feel the passion on these pages like I do after experiencing it first hand? These thoughts race through my head as I have been preparing to start this blog since returning from Haiti with the Allmade group in March. So, here goes nothing...or maybe I should say.. here goes everything...
I was asked to come document what the Allmade group is doing in Haiti by my insanely talented uncle & aunt, Charlie & Aubrianne Veuleman, that oddly enough are close to my age. They own a local print shop here in Shreveport, Louisiana called Definition Industries, Inc & have been rockin' the print scene since they started their business. I remembered seeing their social media posts about their first trip to Haiti in December of 2016 and wondering what they were doing over there. I knew it had something to do with screen printing, or apparel, but had NO idea that my life would be disrupted just four months later. I would venture to Haiti myself to see first hand how this brand and it's founders are shaking the apparel industry as we know it. Like most people, I've never asked or wondered where the clothes I wear are made. Yea, we've all heard or read about sweat shops & child laborers in other countries, working around the clock with no breaks so we can have our pick of new "cool" graphic tees at our local big-chained retail store or shopping mall. BUT I guess I never allowed myself to consider that my new cute tee was made in this type of horrible environment. It just couldn't be, right? No way! Well, we need to think again. We need to ask the questions like "where is this shirt made?" , "what is this shirt made from?", "who made my shirt?". We can't afford to be ignorant in our comfort of the developed world. We just can't. I want to be a person that lives strongly to my personal convictions, a person that doesn't just care about our environment, but someone that actually DOES something about it. I don't want to blindly donate my old clothes to places with out knowing where those shirts are going, why they are going & what effect it has on the people receiving them. I don't want to be a person that is so afraid of the answers because then there maybe a call to action. I want to act! I want to educate myself! I want to be the black sheep disturbing the normal & creating a conversation that we all need to be having! Whew. Okay, I'll dial down a little bit. I tend to get very passionate and excited about things so I have to constantly tell myself (or my husband does) to mellow out and breathe sometimes. So what is it that Allmade is doing? Who are they? Allmade tells their purpose the best, so I'm going to insert this from their website at www.allmade.com so check them out to learn more!
Two billion t-shirts are made every year, using fibers like industrial cotton, which is often grown in regions with minimal regulations—directly exposing workers and the environment to deadly pesticides and herbicides that are outlawed in the U.S.
These materials are then transported across the globe using bunker fuel, a heavy oil residue so toxic most countries won’t let ships using it within 200 miles of shore.
They are then spun into yarn, knitted into fabric, and sewn into garments by workers, often in sweatshop conditions, for a wage that does not allow them to meet even their most basic needs. In countries like Haiti this translates to an increase in orphans, many of whom’s parents were forced to give them up because they couldn’t afford to care for them.
At Allmade, we’ve decided it’s time to make it better.
How awesome is that?? If you want more details on how these shirts are made, click here and read all about it. I never knew how much went into a t-shirt until this experience, and now that I do, I'll never look at apparel the same way. Allmade is providing a living wage for the Haitian people, providing the opportunity to learn, grow & proudly use their skill. They are providing the chance for them to go to school and send their children to school. They are keeping families together. They are giving hope, sustainability & a future. You see the economic orphan crisis in Haiti is alarming. Mothers & fathers are having to give up their children to orphanages because they can't afford to feed them, and that's the only way to ensure their survival and education. There is no public education system in Haiti. You want your kids to go to school? You have to pay for it. The average family size is 8 and the average daily wages earned for a family is 3 dollars. You heard me, 3 bucks. Let that sink in for a moment. Can you imagine being faced with having to give up your child that you want to raise? Most of these parents don't want to give up their children, they even come to the ophanages to visit and love on them. BUT, they don't leave with them. They don't have a safe place for their babies to rest their heads, they don't have food to feed their babies like they need to be fed & they don't have sustainable jobs to provide these basic needs. This HAS to change. We have to make it better.
When we arrived in Port Au Prince, I was told not to photograph at all while at the airport. There were men carrying automatic weapons and maybe they were hired guards, maybe they weren't, but it was hard to tell for any of us. There was no air conditioning inside the airport, so it was HOT. Being from Louisiana prepared me for that, so I managed pretty well. I guess what I'm trying to get at is, we weren't in Kansas anymore, well Louisiana, but you know what I mean. Joe Knitting, the CEO of The Global Orphan Project was there to pick us up when we landed & take us to meet with the rest of the group. Aubrianne, Jewel & I were the last of the group to arrive and the sun would be setting soon, so we needed to get going. Let's get back to Joe for a second. Have you ever met someone with a heart so big, a real STRONG conviction to change the world? Someone who welcomes you as family & treats you like his own son or daughter? Someone that will pray with you on a moments notice & some how know exactly what it is you need prayer for without being told? Someone who stops what they are doing if they see you sitting alone on a stairwell & comes to sit beside you, just to be there? Well, Joe is that man. His heart & compassion are compelling and inspiring, his stories sound straight out of something you only see in the movies & his love for the children & the families is unyielding. I'll share more of his stories a little later in this series, but this man would give up his life for this cause, for God's work, for the children. He has had such a profound impact on my life & I can't wait for the day to see & work along side him again. You must go check out The Global Orphan Project's ebook, Ruined for the Average: Finding God's Riches in Haiti, where the story of his first Haiti experience is told, I read it several days after returning from Haiti & it's, well, you'll have to check it out for yourself because I don't have the words to express what it does to your soul. I'll get too emotional if I keep writing about this, so I'll move on before I break my computer with a waterfall of tears.
We arrived at the Jumecourt Inn on the outskirts of Port Au Prince & I just fell in love with the place. The staff, the food, the roof, the eating hall. I loved it. It's also called the GO Guesthouse as they are partnered with the GO Project with 100% of the procedes going back to orphan care. Our first night there we ate delicious haitian food, talked about the busy agenda for the next day, took in the scenery & talked about Allmade and bringing the fire to the apparel industry. It's difficult for me to find a stopping point for this first blog post because there is so much content in my head from my experience. So now that you know a little more about Allmade & their mission, I'll leave you with some of the images from this first evening in Haiti. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed taking them.
These images were taken when we left the airport to head out to the Jumecourt Inn. All I wanted to do was photograph everything. Every building, every person, every motorcycle, every tap tap (I'll talk more about these as the series continues). I was in sensory overload between the colors, the smells, the trash, the roads, the extremely large amount of American clothes everywhere.... it was a lot. Especially for being my very first time out of the country. Oh, yea, I forgot to mention that. I've never been outside of the states & God decided Haiti would be the place. You see my heart has always been one for missions and foreign countries, different cultures & service, but until this I hadn't had the opportunity to just GO. Haiti has my heart forever.
Rooftop time once we arrived to Jumecourt. The hotel is right beside a children's home community & school that is partnered with The Orphan Project & Jumecourt. My favorite time was at night because all the children would start to sing and play music. We would all go on the rooftop and listen to them every night. It was a heavenly sound & I can't wait to hear it again.
Thank you for taking the time to read the introduction to this amazing story, I hope you'll join us as we bring the fire with this revolution.
To be continued......