Notes from “From Aid to Trade”

From Aid to TradeFrom the back cover:

Why do poor countries remain poor?

Why, after receiving billions of dollars, do poor countries remain poor? Why are failing foreign aid models utilized over and over again? After the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake, authors Daniel Jean-Louis and Jacqueline Klamer observed first-hand the negative consequences of donations provided with the sincerest of good intentions donations that ultimately undermined local industries and wiped out jobs. Based on primary research and in-depth case studies, and personal experience, From Aid to Trade offers practical, achievable solutions to help Haiti and other developing countries grow more viable economies by:

– building on innovative businesses and existing market-based systems
– equipping NGOs and governments to work with local businesses
– recognizing that growing out of poverty requires entrepreneurial solutions that drive self-sustainable economic growth

Ambitious and optimistic, From Aid to Trade confronts the inadequacies of current foreign aid strategies and offers a clear means of economic and personal growth for individuals seeking a positive future for Haiti and other developing countries.

 

Notes and Highlights:

  • Many financial resources of NGOs  (Nongovermental Organizations) are used to bring in donated or subsidized imported goods, which are then distributed to the community of people they serve. This results in huge market distortions in Haiti. When donated or subsidized goods are distributed below market value, NGOs simply kill the incentives for the private business sector to invest to meet these needs.
  • Haiti, long regarded as a humanitarian project in the US’ backyard, suffers from a power dynamic that reinforces an American savior complex while ignoring the concrete efforts Haitians are making to raise themselves out of poverty. Haiti’s real problem is not the absence of an economic framework. Rather, it is the continued disregard of the one structure in the country capable of bringing about real, lasting, and sustainable growth: Haiti’s existing market-based system.
  • NGO’s have replaced the balanced transitions that should sustain Haiti’s market economy with unbalanced transactions and donations. NGO’s can realign to the growing market-based economy to ensure that private business become the means to generate resources and thereby facilitate transactions, not NGO distribution of resources to meet local needs.
  • If NGO’s don’t contract with business, but instead flood the market with similar or substitute products, businesses may never have the opportunity to innovate and compete.
  • In 1994, when President Clinton reduced the import tariff on rice from the US from 35% to 3%, US rice imports to Haiti skyrocketed from 87,000 tons in 1994 to 200,000 tons in 2000. At the time, President Clinton argued that the tariff reduction would help Haiti develop its industrial opportunities by importing food from the US instead of growing it in the Haitian agricultural sector, which was not mechanized and relied on human labor alone.Meanwhile, local production of rice in Haiti decreased from 110,000 tons in 1985 to 80,000 in 1995 (just a year following the tariff reduction. And ninety-three thousand farming families, representing 20%  of the population, lost their share of the market due to the cheap imports of US rice, and thousands of supplemental agricultural workers, local traders, and millers lost their jobs. Now 80% of all rice consumed in Haiti is imported.
  • 4 Methods for Supporting Business Growth:
    • Buy Locally: increase transactions by procuring what is needed locally. It is not Aid — it is partnership and trade. No “I’ll do it for you” but “Let me understand what you’re doing and walk beside you.”
    • Create Platforms for Connecting: Facilitate communication between the aid sector and the private business sector by creating platforms for connecting.
    • Advocate for Policy Change: Identify government policies that need to be addressed, the advocate for those changes. The value of creating jobs in Haiti should outweigh shorter-term considerations of price or an influx of items.
    • Invest in a Viable Business Opportunity: Pursue viable business opportunities, establishing and promoting ethical, sustainable for-profit enterprises that meet demand profitably and create jobs. Haitian businesses succeed when they: First, exceed customer expectations. Second, they meet the need of their employees. Third, the compete and adapt to the local market. And fourth, they meet social needs.
  • The Negative Impact of Alimentary Aid:
    In the wake of the 2010 earthquake, many aid organizations rushed to Haiti to provide hunger relief. But once the immediate crises was over, many failed to make the transition from aid to trade and development. As a result, not only did many children become dependent on aid to survive but many of their parent also fell into poverty and dependency. Yes, NGOs were feeding people. But they were also unwittingly feeding into the ongoing prevalence of poverty.
    Organizations like Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) who has brought in 47,019,096 meals to Haiti since the earthquake in 2010 (as of 2016) have been very generous toward Haiti which should be applauded, but it’s important to look deeper into the effects and outcomes of these kinds of initiatives.
    All of the food used in these food packs is purchased outside of Haiti then shipped into the US to feed thousands of children in Haiti. The children surviving on the donated meals today will most certainly need a job in the next few years. In the short term, this programs helps many Haitian children survive, but is also undermines their futures by putting competitive pressure on Haiti’s producers instead of sustaining them.
    The application of foreign aid has consequences, for better or worse. Ultimately, if Haitian farmers had greater access to market opportunities, instead of being related by nonprofit distributors, they might have enough purchasing power to provide their children with the meals they’re currently getting elsewhere.
    When NGO’s provide imported food to vulnerable orphans, they help them. When NGO’s provide locally purchased food to vulnerable orphans, they help not only the orphans but also the local farmers, vendors, and transporters.
  • While foreign aid may be well-intentioned, we must examine the economic, social, and political motives of donor countries to understand why well-intentioned policies can have such disastrous effects.
  • The answer is not for NGO’s to quit. Rather, to embrace and strengthen Haiti’s economy by partnering with the private sector. Although Haiti’s fragile economy has been damaged by wrong-headed approaches, there still remain tremendous opportunities for NGO’s to redeem themselves through partnering with business and realigning with Haiti’s market-based economy.
    As the economy becomes more sustainable, the public and private sector should take the place of those organizations in meeting the population’s needs, and responsible nongovernmental organizations will be freed to help in other areas of the world.
  • Haitians must own Haiti’s development.
  • Economies cannot break even or progress when resource distributors—the government and NGO’s—have greater purchasing power than resource generators, and do not use that power in a way that aligns with the economy. Resources will run out if they are just distributed by NGOs and not created by local businesses. A real engagement with Haiti as a market-based system will empower its enterprises and entrepreneurs to play a lead role in the nations economic future.
  • A few ways to advocate for Haiti’s sustainable development and for the well-being of it’s people:
    • Advocate on behalf of Haiti’s “orphans”. An estimated 80% of “orphaned” children in Haiti have at least one living parent, but these parents simply can’t provide for their families because they are unemployed or underemployed. With unemployment hovering around a staggering 40%—not even including the underemployed or those seeking jobs in the formal sector—many parents are unable to ensure their children’s livelihoods. Jobs can radically change the lives of Haitian families.
    • Advocate for the local business sector. The dynamic of the local farmer who can’t compete with the alimentary-aid programs that distribute donated or subsidized imports occurs over and over again. These dynamics undermine the many entrepreneurs’ livelihoods and various industries in Haiti’s business sector. Advocate that NGO’s commit to local procurement from Haitian businesses, even if they might still distribute those good for free to those in need.
    • Advocate for trade as an essential element for economic growth and poverty reduction—and seek after trade policies that strengthen the Haitian economy and it’s opportunities in the global market.
    • Advocate for sustainable policies and procedures. Aid dumping undermines local purchasing, and did so in 2010. Most NGOs in Haiti pay no taxes on imports. They also face no restrictions on the quantities they distribute. Because of these policies, many nonprofits flooded Haiti’s economy with assistance but prevented local businesses from satisfying those same needs, those disrupting their essential client base.
    • Advocate for sustainability. Advocating can be as simple as communicating your concerns to the organizations and charities you respect. Write a latter to the organization that sponsors the child you sponsor. Encourage them to purchase locally, and share the issue through your social media network. Don’t cancel your support, but challenge NGOs to realign the support you’re providing with the local market-based economy.
  • Haiti’s economic resources have yet to be replenished through donation-based aid. Realigning aid to spur transactions is key to the economic survival and health of industry in the developing world.

Two Years Down

 

Bagay Ki Bon started two years ago as an attempt to help move people out of poverty by empowering them to be a part of their own solution. We actually got our start as a vocational school in the community. We were teaching people job and language skills. But as we were working with the people in the community, we began to understand that job skills wasn’t the biggest need. We found many people in the community who were skilled craftsmen and seamstresses who had great work ethic and drive, but were not working and earning a living because there was no opportunity.

So with that in mind, we shifted our goals and became laser focused with what we were setting out to accomplish in that community. We were able to simplify all of our efforts down to one phrase. We exist to build Christ Centered economy in Haiti.

For two years now, we’ve been creating our bags and products (available in our shop) in our sewing center and importing them here to the US to sell. When a bag is purchased here, all of the money goes to either support them people creating the bags, to buy material locally in Haiti, or to support the orphanage on the same property. And this model has worked well. It’s created the jobs and economy we set out to impact, but you’ll notice, this model is completely dependent on US volunteers to sell the bags, and US money to sustain our work.

We understand that this is not a true sustainable model. So… we’ve undertaken our next big adventure.
Over the next one to two years, our goal is to transfer complete ownership of our sewing center over to our Haitian leadership team. We’ll work with them to create a marketing plan, hire a sales staff, and to get our bags into the Haitian marketplaces.

How you can make a difference? 

This is clearly no small undertaking. There’s a ton of work that needs to be done, there is a process that’s being developed, and training that is underway. It’s a similar process that tradesmen in the US set out on to learn the skills they need to run a company. We’re teaching hands on skills like balancing financial books, hiring and training workers, how to sell and market products. We’re visiting vendors and retailers to negotiate selling our merchandise. It’s a huge undertaking, but we understand it’s a valuable process.
As they’re learning how to run a business, a part of our plan is to subsidize their operation costs. For the first 4-6 months, we’re going to support them just as we have been doing for the last 2 years. We’ll be sending monthly support from our volunteer staffed events here. Our plan is to then decrease the amount of monthly support over the course of the two year period, we’ll slowly be sending less support as we build a market for our business on the ground in Haiti.
And this is where you come in.
As we undergo this process, we need monthly supporters who can help subsidize these costs with us. If just 20 people were to give $25/month we could completely offset the cost for the two year process. That’s just $300 for an entire year. $600 over the full 2 year period.
I’d like to ask you to consider being one of our monthly sponsors. As you consider giving, please keep in mind, that your funds are going directly to build Christ Centered Economy in Haiti. To give people a chance to be a part of their own solution. To allow people a means to healthcare and food for their family. And if that weren’t enough to inspire you to support, you’ll will periodically be receiving gifts to show our appreciation for your partnership.
Now if monthly support is not something you feel you can commit to, we have plenty of other ways you can join us in this. Buying our bags and products are a great way to support our work and keep the ministry going.
We’ve had people host in home parties to involve their community in our work.
If you haven’t yet been on a trip to the House of Blessing Orphanage and the sewing center, taking a trip down is a great next step. Not only will you see first hand the impact our efforts are having, you’ll have an opportunity to enter into this work with your own hands standing beside our staff and loving on our kids there (we have all of our trips for 2017 posted here).
There’s plenty of ways you can be involved and because there’s no benefit to me and I see the impact our efforts are having, I can unapologetically ask you to join us in this work. If you’re ready to jump in on this with us, we’ve made it easy to donate. Once you sign up here you’re account will automatically be debited monthly.
Thank you so much for your partnership and support. [Good Things] happen when we partner together.

A Grinding Halt

Imagine showing up for work this morning and being greeted by your employer telling you to go home. Not only could you not work today, or this week, but they were unsure when you would be able to come back to work.

That’s the reality at our sewing center in Calabasas right now. Last week the industrial generator fried the inverter that powers our Center and the work there. So for now, our seamstresses are out of work and will continue to be until we can find a solution.

The fix is really twofold… Immediately, we need to replace the inverter so that power can be turned back on at our center and the bunkhouses for where our U.S. teams stay. Then the next step is to replace the battery bank that holds a charge so we don’t have to constantly be running the generator.

The inverter will cost about $1700 to replace and the battery bank costs $250 per battery (there are a total of 10 batteries in the bank).  That’s around $4000 for everything.

So sure – that sounds like a large chunk of change, but we’ve never been lacking in anything we needed to move forward with what we felt God was doing with us. It just means we need to do some praying and working to figure this out together.

In trusting that God has this figured out, this is what we’re asking…

  1. Consider making an immediate gift to get the power back on there. Remember, the immediate need is to get the inverter back up and running ($1700), but anything will help. You donate online via PayPal here.
  2. Join our 3k fun run team and send out some support letters to help us reach our goal. There’s plenty of info here. If you’re out of town, you can still run it virtually. Register for the race, raise support, and you still get a shirt!
  3. Share, share, share… We just need to get the word out to the right people. If you can’t give, maybe God will use someone you pass it on to to meet the need.
  4. Pray and trust with us.

…they will know we follow Jesus by the way we take care of one another (our love)…

Rock The Wall Crawl

Here’s a great opportunity for you to have a blast and help us raise some money for the work happening in Haiti.

On Saturday April 25, you’re invited to be a part of our “Rock The Wall Crawl”. This event will be a blast for the whole family. This is NOT your average race, so it doesn’t matter if you Run, Walk, or Crawl your way to the Finish Line, EVERYONE Can Do Something!

This will be a Fun, Family Friendly Event with something fun for EVERYONE including inflatables,rock climbing walls, face painting, food trucks, live music and more! Signing up is easy and there is no minimum donation required!

Here’s what you need to do.

 

 

 

All Participants will get to climb the rock walls and those who raise $100 or more for their cause will get to run the Gauntlet for FREE!  We’re excited to see what happens when we all come together to make a difference!

 

 

Steinbrenner High School5575 W Lutz Lake Fern Rd Lutz, FL  33558

The California Quilting Ladies and Superior Threads

A huge box showed up on my door step today. It’s the second of it’s kind.

The giant box was filled (completely filled and I’m talking a big box) with large spools of beautiful thread.

It started with an email one of our team members (who also happens to be my mom) fired off a couple months back. It was a general call to help and a quick overview of what we were trying to accomplish as a school and organization. The email was sent to a handful of organizations all over the US. There were a few that responded. Most with kind regards and some with a small samples of complementary fabric or threads.

But then there was this group of quilters in California who from the very first contact seemed to be as excited about the project as we were. So much so that they got their whole community of quilters and seamstresses involved. They have been a constant source of encouragement and support.

At the last meeting of theirs, they managed to raise over $300 just out of the pockets of the ladies who attended that evening.

One of the ladies had a connection to a wholesale thread company (Superior Threads) and offered to make a call to see if they could get some good prices on the purchase. She did such a good job relaying the vision and excitement that the people from Superior decided to match their donation and doubled her order!!! Which is why I now have $700 worth of thread sitting in front of my door.

Way to go – and thank you Santa Rosa Quilt Guild and Superior Threads for your generous hearts, your partnership, and your support!

Sewing Center

An unexpected adventure that was not a part of the initial plan for the school sprang up in my time there.

Some of our volunteer staff did some searching around for business or organizations in the States who would like to be a part of what we were doing here. One of the organizations we contacted was the Keep Me In Stitches stores in Tampa, FL. We were able to share our vision and the work we had already begun here in Haiti. They were immediately as excited as we were to jump in. So much so that they also contacted their members and suppliers. They along with one of their suppliers (Baby Lock) were able to donate 3 excellent sewing machines and catapult us to a whole new level of economic development.

Because we had the resources available to us, we met with several ladies from the community to talk about starting an operation that would create jobs and economy in our small corner of Haiti. We had some rather long planning sessions to dream and create some of our initial plans for the center.

Wislande, the young lady who grew up in the House of Blessings agreed to lead the team of seamstresses and artists in the community. Prior to Chris asking her to take on the role of director, she believed God had plans for her to be a leader and had been taking leadership classes in response. We decided to launch our efforts by creating handmade bags. The team produces around 5-7 bags a day.

There are so many good things happening as a result of our partnership together. So much so that we decided to allow those Good Things to define us – we decided to name our sewing center and organization “Bagay Ki Bon”, which in Creole means Good Things.

School of Blessings

Late June in Callabasse Haiti, on the same grounds of The House of Blessings, the doors were open for the first time to The School of Blessings. The School of Blessings is a vocational school in partnership with the House of Blessings. The goal at the school is to partner with people through business and education to break the cycle of poverty. Through our classes we aim to give people a tool that will not only help them mend their own lives but also give them a way to take an active role in the rebuilding of their community.

This school was born out of the desire to follow Jesus and relieve some of the burdens of our closest neighbors. It was created with the resolute belief that we could create something together that would change the trajectory of people just like you and me living in very different and often very difficult circumstances.

Sure – we could give a gift or make a donation, and that could possible relieve an immediate need. Certainly, in times of emergency a bandaid to stop the bleeding is a necessary and good. But as we look to change the future and set people free from spiritual, mental and physical poverty, the leadership at the School of Blessings were compelled ask what can be done to give the best chance of sustainable positive change. That’s where this project was born.

WE’RE ABOUT CREATING ECONOMY.

More than two thirds of Haitians lack formal employment, and more than 50% of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day. Without employment, those living in poverty have little chance to better themselves. Yet, not only are there jobs available in Haiti, there is actually a shortage of skilled labor.

To get started, we worked to identify the two biggest job skills in demand in Haiti. We quickly identified English and sewing as our first two courses. The demand for English in Haiti, especially in the capital of Port-au-Prince, is overwhelming. Knowing English greatly improves the chances of finding long-term, meaningful employment, which is important everywhere, but especially in Haiti. Learning English opens doors for people in developing countries. It opens the door to books in English and a vast wealth of educational material, it opens the door to relationships and international business.

Likewise, by teaching a trade skill like sewing, we’re able to give Haitians more than the opportunity to earn money, we give them the pride that comes with the ability to become financially self-reliant and the confidence to overcome the tremendous obstacles many people around the world face.

THE FIRST SEMESTER

English class groupThe English classes went remarkably well. There were a few lesson we learned about how to administrate and register students. Each student is responsible to pay their own way to the classes and the money from those registrations goes to pay the cost of the teachers salaries.

We finished the English classes strong and graduated 11 students with a basic understanding of the English language. Many of those students are continuing in our 201 class beginning in late August.

The sewing classes began with 8 students broken up into 2 classes, using the 4 treadle machines purchase through the generous donations of our sponsors. Through out the first semester we not only kept every student, we actually managed to squeezed in a couple more girls. We were over capacity and still have a long waiting list of people wanting to take the class next session.

Learning to SewAs the sewing class went on, since all of our students were young ladies, we moved away from traditional vocational training and began to model it more like a summer elective for the younger girls in the area. There are a couple young ladies who have shown a lot of potential and could do quite well as a seamstress, but for the first session we moved away from job training and toward a model that looks more like a school of arts.

Through the courses (and moving forward) we began to use both the sewing and English classes as a means to not only teach skills in the textbook, but also as a means to teach things like critical thinking and other job related skills (things like time management, problem solving, and integrity). Discipleship and mentoring is at the center of it all of all we do in the school.

Another beautiful day…

The school is moving along amazingly well. The sewing center is ramped up and is going full steam ahead. The three ladies are fully trained at this point and are cranking out bags like crazy. They were producing 5 a day, but yesterday set a record and produced 12-15 bags!  A group from Texas was in earlier in the week and bought all the iPad bags they had made, one of the large bags, and several of the medium sized bags that have beautifully braided straps.

Wislande, the young lady who is teaching English and overseeing the school and sewing center is going amazingly well. Prior to Chris asking her to take on the role of director here, she had been taking leadership classes – felt God was leading her to do that. She is funny and smart and a very good seamstress herself. Her English is excellent and all the students aspire to speak English as well as she does.

Just coincidentally (I think not) a photographer who was supposed to come several months ago but got his trip postponed, showed up yesterday and has spent a few days photographing the school and the sewing center.

Unfortunately, Chris had the Chikungunya virus and was really sick with a high fever, rash, terrible ache in joints, and just generally miserable. The good news is that, while you feel like you’re going to die, you don’t. It takes about 2 days to fully run its course and this is the first full day. Please keep him in your prayers.

The weather has been unbelievable. We did laundry today (by hand!) and it was actually chilly out on the back porch where we were working! It was a bit overcast and very breezy and just gorgeous. It’s been such a wonderful challenge adjusting to working on Haitian time. There is no reason to rush. We are so goal oriented typically, and usually the faster and more efficiently we get our task done, the better. This morning my task was laundry. But there was no reason too rush, because that was my task.

It’s just so thrilling to watch the ladies take such JOY in coming to work. They start every day with a worship song and time of prayer. The kids in the sewing and English classes do the same. It certainly sets the tone for a day’s work.

We’re very thankful for this precious time – to be with family – to revisit old friends at House of Blessings – and to see with our own eyes the school and sewing center.

A Big Update

I haven’t updated in a couple days and thought I should sit down and fill you all in about where we are. At this stage of the game, things change so quickly. I couldn’t have dreamed we’d be where we are now even 3 or 4 days ago.

The school continues to grow and evolve. We are working and listening as God is guiding and speaking. The school side of things continues to move along. The English students are doing very well. They are beginning to speak and get comfortable. Wislande (our Haitian English teacher) is away this week taking an exam, so I have stepped in to teach in her absence. She’s doing an awesome job and her students are ready to have her back…

The sewing class has really picked up steam. We lost quite a few in the English class through the first week, however for the sewing class, we’ve kept everyone, and actually squeezed in a couple more girls. We’re over capacity and have a long waiting list of people wanting to take the class next session.

The sewing class has moved away from vocational training and has become more of a summer elective for the younger girls in the area. There are a couple young ladies who have shown a lot of potential and could do quite well as a seamstress, but we’ve moved away from job training and are moving towards a model that looks more like a school of arts. And at the center of it all, discipleship and mentoring is at the heart of all we do.

An exciting part that we had not originally planed for is we’re working on a sewing center for a handful of the already gifted seamstresses in the area. Tania and I met yesterday with several ladies from the community and Esther Martinez (one of our US experts in all things sewing and production) to talk about starting an operation that would create jobs and economy in this area of Haiti. We had some long planning sessions today to dream and create some of our initial designs – still very much in process but we’ve got some pretty exciting and unique things in the works.

We have some excellent leadership potential with some of the older kids in the House of Blessings who currently have not been given the chance or empowered to lead. The plan is to continue to invest heavily in a couple of the young adults from the House to lead and equip others, and to empower this growing community of artists to create and market some of these unique goods they create.

This is all still wet cement and continues to evolve and change, but there’s an excitement in the air and a sense of momentum that is refreshing. I’m not completely naive to the difficulties ahead but along for the ride and focused on listening, asking questions, and being obedient.

Stories.

I forget so often that everyone has a story. With every life a story is being written. I get so caught up living mine that I forget that everyone else is living their own. Everyone has a plot line with twists and surprises – romance, comedy, tragedy, drama…

My time at the orphanage has been really different this trip. I’ve had the luxury of boredom on this trip (not something that you usually get on your average 5 day mission trip). In my down time I’ve been able to have some great conversations with some of the kids and staff here. It’s hard to have quality time without quantity. It’s been nice to stand beside the kids and wash dishes or to just sit on the couch and talk.

I’ve had the opportunity to hear so many stories. I wish I could write them all down. So many beautiful, heartbreaking, wonderful, hilarious tales. I’ve laughed and cried many times just listening this past week.

The stories here are especially complex. I’ve heard tales, even just today, of extreme bravery and heroism in the midst of catastrophe; stories of the tragedy of losing parents to sickness and decease; stories of hilarious plot twists… I will never forget some of the stories I heard over the past couple weeks.

And you know what’s crazy…? I almost missed them all. I almost walked away, didn’t make the time, or didn’t ask the vulnerable question. And I would missed out. I mean really missed out.

I’m good at living out and talking about my story. I’m not so good at asking the right questions and really listening to other’s stories. And because I don’t care enough to ask or spend the time investing, I miss out. I’m sure there have been so many moments lost to distractions or rushing to get things crossed of a list.

But there is so much to be gained by the experiences and reflections of others. My hope for you and I is that we make the time to both discover the stories being written around us and that we find a way to make them a little sweeter.

Beach day – and – Chikungunya is the worst!

Just a quick update. School was canceled today as the House & School of Blessings were closed. We took all the kids to the beach. Very beautiful! Awesome time to relax and get away.

On another note – Chikungunya fever here and is every bit as relentless as you may have heard. It’s infecting so many of our staff, students, and kids in the orphanage. The good of it is it doesn’t last long. But it’s pretty miserable when you’re infected. Doing the best I can to stay uninfected.

Pray big prayers for our work here and the sick here in Haiti. They need your prayers.