Welcome our latest post for Global Moms in Action, where we honor and celebrate moms like you who are working hard to improve life for moms and babies around the world. We asked Leticia Barr, a mom and technology blogger in Washington, DC, a few questions about the great volunteer work she is doing to increase awareness and support for Haitian artists and entrepreneurs.
1. What’s the cause or issue you’re most passionate about?
For the past three years I’ve been traveling to Haiti to visit artists and highlight traditional handcrafts creation. The earthquake five years ago was yet another piece of Haiti’s incredibly sad history, but the country is more than tragedy – it has a rich and creative culture.
After the earthquake, the Artisan Business Network was formed to empower Haiti’s artisan culture to improve community wellbeing through the export of Haitian handcrafts. Five months later, Macy’s placed an order for 20,000 products that became the first products in their Heart of Haiti line.
Each piece has a story behind it and I share those stories of the artists and their work through my blog and social channels. These items were made by individuals living in tents who had not only survived an earthquake but were living among rubble and facing diseases like cholera.
2. What led you to working on this?
When the 2010 earthquake hit, we were bombarded with images of death and destruction but knew there was another side of the country that was missing from the news. I traveled to Haiti for the first time in 2012 and met so many wonderfully talented artists who were grateful to be working. Their infectious spirit and drive, despite living in a country still very much in shock, made me want to share their stories and their art and heighten awareness of consumers about how our purchasing power can be truly used to help individuals.
3. How have you taken action?
Through blog posts and social media, I’ve shown real world examples of how purposeful purchase of fair trade products and ethical fashion pieces can be life-changing for artists, and also rallied my community to get involved besides opening their wallets.
My community has rallied at various points to bring books, DVDs, toys, infant clothes, formula, and diapers to programs for new moms in Haiti. I’ve relied on my connections to technology companies such as Microsoft for laptops, software, and laptop cases to help me and a group of fellow bloggers train artists how to take high quality digital images, and use gMail and Facebook to share their story and promote their work.
One of the groups we’ve been working with since my first trip is OFEDA – a collective of 60 women who came together when the ravine where they had their tents flooded repeatedly during the country’s rainy months. Prior to the earthquake, they were business owners, but they had to focus on providing basic needs for their families to get back on their feet. The women moved their tents and families to a government-owned parcel of land that was their home for four and a half years. Last year, we ran a crowd funding campaign to benefit OFEDA to help them get supplies and an office space where they could create their crafts. We always take much-needed items like toiletries and sanitary napkins to OFEDA and this week when we visit, I’m bringing about 100 donated purses that will hold the items we’re giving them. Gathered from local friends and sent by others around the country, the gift of a purse is a source of pride for OFEDA ladies especially after carrying their belongings around in a months-old plastic bag.
My children were 6 and 8 when I first started going to Haiti. From the youngest ages, they’ve understood the need to help those who have less than we do and have been actively involved in gathering, sorting, and packing donations for past trips. Their desire to help comes from seeing pictures of the artists I visit and feeling a real connection to them because of the many pieces of Haitian artwork in our home and knowing that they’re works of art created by individuals.
When I returned from my first trip three years ago, my oldest, Emily, started asking when she could join me on a trip to Haiti. With each trip, she asked, “Mommy, is this the trip where I get to go too?”
Emily is now 11 and will join me this week for her first trip to Haiti. She’s already a dedicated change agent who advocates social causes and threw herself into fundraising for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation through the sale of ribbon barrettes that she hopes will lead to better treatment and a cure benefiting her best friend with the disease. I am excited for how this trip will impact her.
5. What are your hopes for the future on this issue?
My hope is that as we talk to our children and model the kinds of behaviors we expect from a new generation, we’re creating passionate kids who will become change agents to advocate for the causes they’re passionate about. As I see this happening in my own home, I realize that the small actions I do on a regular basis have a huge impact on my own children, who have inspired their friends.
Take Action Challenge
Check out Letitia’s guide to conscious shopping in Haiti, read stories from hers and other bloggers’ experiences at Bloggers 4 Haiti. You can follow Leticia and Emily’s current trip to Haiti this week on Twitter or Instagram or looking for the hashtag #Bloggers4Haiti.
All photos courtesy of Leticia Barr