A friend of mine from college, Nicole, recently traveled to Haiti. Her trip to Haiti was phenomenal. After she returned home I had the honor of hearing about a few of her experiences there. Seeing her pictures and hearing her stories have just made Haiti feel all the more personal to me.
While she was in Haiti, Nicole discovered and then shared her love of Tchaka Bags and I'm thrilled to say we are now carrying them in store!!!
I'm so excited to present to you Nicole's experience and our new items at the same time in her words.
I recently had the amazing opportunity to spend 10 days in Haiti with a group called the Haiti Plunge. They are an organization based in North Adams, MA, that has been working in a cooperative of mountain villages in Haiti since the mid 1980's. One of the things our team did while there was a driving tour of Port-au-Prince. It was unreal. The only way I can think to describe Port-au-Prince is this.
Imagine an apocalyptic movie set that a Hollywood producer has used several times for different movies, and then when they were done filming, people moved in. That's Port-au-Prince. Garbage everywhere. Crumbled buildings. Piles of rubble.
Tent upon tent upon tent with people living in parks, along the road, everywhere.
Dogs and pigs foraging along the streets. Vendors set up along the sides of the road selling a variety of items. The air smelled like diesel fumes, sulfur, meat, manure, urine, sometimes separate and sometimes all mixed together. It was scary and horribly sad. What shocked me was that the people with our team that had been to Haiti shortly after the January 2010 earthquake were commenting on how much better the city looked. I could not imagine that it had looked worse than this. Unreal.
While in Port-au-Prince, we took some time to visit Despagne, a man who used to work as a driver for the Haiti Plunge. He literally knows every road in Haiti. It was great to meet him and his family. Especially his wife Polene.
Polene runs a small business sewing purses and various bags to sell. We got to see her shop - a room with a cement floor, 4-5 antique looking sewing machines, and boxes of supplies and projects. This is where she and her employees work. She then took us to a room in their house where she had all of her items on display. Her bags are amazing!
They are all so different - different from anything I had ever seen and each one different from the next. Very funky, colorful, bright. I had a really difficult time deciding on what to buy! I love what she does for a variety of reasons. First of all, I sew. Looking at her bags and how well made they are, I am amazed at the time and effort that must go into each one. Secondly, she is taking what would be garbage and turning it into something of value. I love that and I pray that will happen throughout Haiti as a nation. And lastly, I love supporting women that are making an impact in their family and their community, and I was able to see how she is doing both of these things.
I was so excited to find out that Polene's products will now be offered at Delicate Fortress Creations and I hope that you love them as much as I do.
I fell in love with Haiti while I was there. I can't wait to go back again, and am already planning my next trip. I am excited to have the opportunity to continue to support the positive work going on in Haiti through the Haiti Plunge. And I think it's wonderful that others can get involved in rebuilding Haiti by supporting Polene as she creates a better future for her family and her community.
Isn't that awesome!? Check our our brand new Tchaka Bags in store here and see why they are just so awesome! And give a shout out to Nicole for sharing her experience with us!